James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Recipient="Armstrong, John"
sorted by: date (ascending)

From James Madison to John Armstrong and James Bowdoin, 26 May 1806

To John Armstrong and James Bowdoin

Department of State May 26. 1806

Gentlemen,

On the supposition that by the time this reaches you the negotiations prescribed in my letter of March 13 will have taken their final turn and that this may not be a favorable one it is thought proper by the president that in such a state of things you should endeavour to bring about an arrangement providing first that the status quo taking for the date the transfer of possession of Louisiana to the United States shall be established with respect to the territories in controversy on both sides of the Mississippi so as that neither party shall strengthen or advance its military force or positions or make any other innovations dissatisfactory to the other party. Secondly that the navigation of the rivers Mobile and others running from the territories of the United States1 thro those in the possession of Spain shall be fre[e]ly enjoyed.2 Citizens of the United States in like manner as that of the Mississippi is enjoyed by the subjects of Spain now inhabiting the territory adjoining a part of that river 3rdly that the convention of August 1802 be allowed by Spain to go into effect.

If a continuance of peace be a sincere object with Spain it cannot be difficult to place in a convincing light the importance of these measures and if they be attained they will without any dishonorable concessions afford time for further consideration and discussion and for that increase of the relative3 power of the United States for which time alone4 is wanted.

The status quo is so familiar and so reasonable an expedient for such occasions that it may be presumed that if war be not the object no objection will be made to it.

Our use of the Mobile and other rivers in the like situation is manifestly essential to the interest and tranquility of the people living on the waters of them Nor can the use of them be denied without violating the principles on which the use of the Mississippi was originally stipulated by Spain to the United States and on which the navigation of rivers under analogous circumstances has been claimed and enjoyed by other nations. Among a variety of examples the Scheldt is an important and well known one. For the footing on which the Spanish inhabitants enjoy the use of the Mississippi I refer you to the documents on that subject hereto annexed.5

Should the status quo and the use of the rivers be acceded to it will be very material that immediate orders for the purpose be dispatched to the proper Spanish officers in that quarter the documents herewith sent will exhibit a crisis there which remonstrates powerfully against delay.

With respect to the convention of 1802 the ratification of it by Spain is due to her own self respect as well as to the justice claimed by our citizens. You will be aware of the care which is to be taken that in accepting the ratification no relinquishment be made or implied of the claims future to that date. On the contrary it may justly be expected that Spain will not make a suspension of questions concerning boundaries and the French spoliations a pretext for not superadding to the convention of 1802 provision for all claims falling within the principles of indemnification therein recognized.

Should Spain be willing to make a satisfactory provision for these latter claims either by an additional article or a separate convention On conditions that her main objection to the ratification of the convention of 1802 be removed you are authorized to admit such a recital on that subject as will reserve to Spain a right to contest the principle as well as the mode of arbitrating the claims originating from the wrongs committed by foreign cruizers without however impairing the right of the United States to advance and support all such claims uninfluenced by the convention of 1802. I have the honor to remain with great respect & Consideration, Gentlemen, your most Obt Sert

James Madison

RC (MHi: Winthrop Family Papers); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, IM, vol. 6); letterbook copy (MeB: James Bowdoin Letterbooks). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by JM; docketed by Armstrong and Bowdoin. Italicized words in RC are those encoded by a State Department clerk in a code also used by John Quincy Adams at St. Petersburg and by Jacob Lewis at Saint-Domingue, and decoded interlinearly. Decoding here is by the editors from a partially reconstructed key.

1This phrase was omitted in the decoding.

2The word “by” was apparently omitted here.

3“Relative” was omitted in the decoding.

4“Alone” was omitted in the decoding.

5Enclosures not found. Filed with the second letterbook copy under title “Letters & Documents accompanying the dispatch preceding of Date the 26 May 1806” are copies of the following: William C. C. Claiborne to JM, 9 Dec. 1805 (2 pp.; PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (11 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 10:639–40); Claiborne to Vicente Folch, 31 Oct. 1805 (2 pp.; ibid., 485 n. 1); Folch to Claiborne, 28 Nov. 1805 (4 pp.; ibid., 640 n. 1); Claiborne to Folch, 9 Dec. 1805 (3 pp.; ibid.); Claiborne to William Brown, 7 Dec. 1805 (2 pp.; ibid., 641 n. 2); Brown to Claiborne, 7 Dec. 1805 (1 p.; ibid.); Moses Porter to Henry Dearborn, 8 Feb. 1806 (3 pp.; extract printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:798). Also included are letters from John Libbey to Porter, 25 Jan. 1805 [1806] and 6 Feb. 1806 (3 pp.): The first stated that the distance from Natchitoches to Bayou Pierre was “about thirty five miles” and that the settlement there consisted of about twenty families scattered over forty miles; the second informed Porter that an Indian chief had just told Libbey that on 4 Feb. he had been near a Spanish outpost and a lieutenant informed the residents there that the king of Spain claimed and would maintain all land west of the Red River, and that the local guard would soon be reinforced by forty men from Nacogdoches. Additionally, there are letters from Porter to Sebastian Rodriguez, commandant at Nacogdoches, 25 Jan. 1805 (1 p.), stating that he had been ordered to request that Rodriguez put a stop to acts of violence committed by Spanish subjects east of the Sabine River, that any Spanish troops now there be withdrawn and forbidden to post or patrol east of the river, and noting that “a refusal to comply … may sensibly affect our different nations”; Porter to Edward D. Turner, 1 Feb. 1806 (1 p.; printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:798–99), Turner to Porter, 6 Feb. 1806 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 799), Joseph Maria González’s 6 Feb. 1806 agreement to withdraw his troops from the east side of the Sabine as soon as possible (1 p.; printed ibid., 799); Robert Williams to JM, 26 Nov. 1805 (PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (11 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 10:596), enclosing James Caller, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Charles Baldwin’s petition to Williams (2 pp.; undated), stating that the citizens of Washington County, Mississippi Territory, had long suffered patiently under insults offered them by the Spanish, which they hoped would be redressed by the central government; that they now considered themselves abandoned by the government; that the Spanish had imprisoned U.S. citizens and tried to set the Indians on them; that the Spanish had levied duties of twelve and a half percent on all cargoes coming and going along the Mobile River in violation of the agreement regarding U.S. travel on the Mississippi River in the Treaty of San Lorenzo, and had confiscated American ships and cargoes; being abandoned by the central government, the petitioners still retained their natural rights, which they would exercise in “a few days” by raising “the hand of vengeance,” and could not “be answerable for its consequences.” They asked Williams to inform the central government of their “distressing situation.” Also included are letters from Carlos Martínez de Yrujo to JM, 13 Oct. 1804 (PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (11 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 8:164–66); and a 3 Jan. 1806 letter (1 p.; unsigned, unaddressed, in Spanish) protesting violence committed by U.S. citizens in Spanish territory and stating that Spanish troops merely patrolled Spanish territory.

Index Entries