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Edward Coles to Dolley Madison, 10 June 1811 (Abstract)

§ Edward Coles to Dolley Madison

10 June 1811, New York. Observes that it is impossible to comply with his promise to write on everything that interests him. “As you expressed some curiosity to know how the Smiths &c would treat me, I requested Payne, who told me he was about to write, to inform you that I was treated quite civilly by them all, but that their displeasure with the President and yourself was very apparent.”1 Mentions having “waited on Mr. & Mrs. R. Smith” who “received us very civilly.” “After conversing some short time we rose to take leave, when Mrs. Smith asked me if I had been to see Gen. Smiths family, on my answering in the negative, she said she would go with me to shew me the way. We met with the same kind of reception at Gen. Smith. Our visits were the next day returned. We dined & were twice invited to take tea at Gen. Smiths. None of them made any enquiries after you, or the President, except Mrs. Gen. S., who ask[ed] after your health. I was quite diverted at the caution & sameness of the enquiries of Gen., and Mr. & Mrs. R. Smith. ‘I hope you left our friends well in Washington’ said they. The Smiths are said not directly to vent their spleen, but to spur on their relations & friends, many of whom are extremely abusive of the President & Col. Monroe. As a proof of which, it is only necessary to tell the President that those abusive & scurrilous pieces signed Timolean, that made their appearance some time since in the Whig,2 are now publicly known (indeed he boasts of being the author), to be from the pen of George Stevenson, the son-in-Law of P. Carr, & the nephew of the Smiths who lives in the counting room of Gen. Smith. I believe I have said too much about this little clan, whose vanity or weakness is such, as to make them believe that they can make & unmak⟨e⟩ any administration; but you will excuse me for having written so much when I tell you that you are somewhat a favourite with them, for on meeting in the St. Dr. Leib, who is one of their leaders in Phia., he made no other enquiry but after your health.”

Congratulates her on the safe arrival of her brother, John. In a postscript mentions that while he was in Philadelphia some friends of B. C. Wilcocks requested that he recommend Wilcocks as consul for Canton.3 “I promised to name him to the President as a person anxious to obtain the above appointment. I have no doubt but what he has furnished letters of recommendation,4 but in order to comply with my promise, I wish you to name this to the President.”

RC (NN). 4 pp.

1In acknowledging Coles’s letter on 15 June 1811, Dolley Madison wrote that “Payne gave me the little account you directed, & I exult in my heart at the full indemnification we have for all their Malice, in Colo. Monroe’s talents & virtue” (owned by Mr. and Mrs. George B. Cutts, Brookline, Mass., 1958).

2Essays under the pseudonym of Timoleon, the fourth century B.C. liberator of Greek Sicily from Carthage, appeared occasionally throughout 1810 and 1811 in the Baltimore Whig. The most recent of these had been published on 9 Apr. 1811 in the form of some remarks on the “late change in the department of state.” By way of introduction, Timoleon described how JM, as secretary of state, had written diplomatic instructions for James Monroe during the latter’s tenure as American minister in London in order to advance President Jefferson’s goal of negotiating an Anglo-American convention to “secure our neutral rights.” Monroe had violated those instructions by making “forbidden concessions” to Great Britain, yet, Timoleon complained, he was now restored to the good graces of the administration “without having atoned for a single error.”

This development led Timoleon into reflections on the baneful influence of Gallatin over administration policy in general and Maryland state politics in particular. Treasury tactics, as revealed in the attack on the house of Smith and Buchanan after the failure of Degen and Purviance in Leghorn and also in the more recent attacks on the Clintonians by the “Martling Men” in New York City, were then denounced by Timoleon for their tendency to divide the Republican party and thus facilitate the return of the Federalists to power. Further to this purpose, Timoleon claimed that after September 1810 Gallatin had embarked on schemes to “brighten the tarnished reputation of Mr. Monroe,” and that in February 1811 he had communicated to several members of Congress his intention to see Robert Smith ousted from the cabinet. Even Timoleon himself had learned of the plot, but “never having been personally intimate with either of the Smiths, [he] did not apprize them of it.” He did, however, criticize JM for having “neither firmness nor ingenuousness … to acquaint Mr. Smith with his intentions directly” in seeking to replace him in the State Department.

3JM nominated Benjamin Chew Wilcocks to be consul at Canton on 31 Dec. 1812 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:313).

4See Jared Ingersoll to JM, 4 June 1811; William Jones to [JM?], 4 June 1811; Benjamin C. Wilcocks to JM, 5 June 1811; Benjamin Rush to James Monroe, 5 June 1811 (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17, filed under “Wilcocks”).

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