Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 12 September 1803

From James Madison

Monday Sepr. 12. 1803

Dear Sir

I recd. last night the inclosed letter from Yrujo. Mr. Wagner informs me that a copy was sent directly to you by the same mail, but as a further security for your receivg the communication without delay, I take advantage of the present oppy. for forwarding the original. It is a curious circumstance that near three months after the sale of Louisiana, the French Ambasr. should have given the assurance stated. Still it was not to be expected that Spain would have undertaken to enter such a caveat. If it could be supposed the result of a secret understanding with France or even with G.B. the incident would take a very serious aspect; but as collusion on the subject with either is highly improbable, the step seems most readily explained, by supposing it the offspring of a wish in Spain to make a merit or obtain a price for her consent, and to contest with more advantage the extension of Louisiana1 to the limits she must be aware that we have in view. As Mr. Pinckney will doubtless have recd. the notice now communicated here, and have transmitted it to Paris, we may presume that our Minister there will have called on the French Govt. to prevent any obstruction to the fulfillment of the Treaty on its part. It will notwithstanding be proper to transmit the communication of Yrujo to both. It is to be considered also whether any, & what reply to Yrujo, and what intimations to Pichon, may be proper in the mean time. Perhaps, as the return to Washington is drawing so nigh it may be as well to wait for that oppy. of communicating with the latter; and for the same reason as well as in expectation of soon learning more on the subject, to postpone the observations due to the note of the former. Your instructions will decide those points. Whatever may be the views of Spain, there will be no difficulty, if she stands alone, and above all if she opposes the views of France, in going thro’ with our own purposes.

I inclose also a letter & papers from Forbes, increasing the file of wrongs to be brought into our remonstrance to the British Govt. on the subject of impressments.

Yrs. with respectful attachment

James Madison

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the U. States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the State Department at Orange on 12 Sep. and “Spanish claim to Louisiana” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Carlos Martínez de Irujo to Madison, 4 Sep.; see Jacob Wagner to TJ, [9] Sep. (2) John Murray Forbes to Madison, 13 June (see below).

wagner had informed Madison on 9 Sep. that he sent a copy of Irujo’s letter directly to TJ “lest the President might not receive it with the greatest celerity” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:390-1).

near three months after the sale: Madison apparently misread the date 22 July 1802 in Irujo’s letter as 22 July 1803 (same, 403n).

Writing from Hamburg and enclosing copies of several documents, forbes reported the seizure of an American sailor by a British press gang. After complaints to the British chargé d’affaires failed to bring the man’s release, Forbes determined to make a formal protest to the government of Hamburg. He refused to alter his course of action even though a British consular official informed him that the British government would bring pressure to bear against him in the United States if he issued the protest (same, 5:96-8).

1Abbreviated in MS.

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