Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 19 April 1809

To James Madison

Monticello Apr. 19. 09.

Dear Sir

I have to acknolege your favor of the 9th and to thank you for the political information it contained. reading the newspapers but little & that little but as the romance of the day, a word of truth now & then comes like the drop of water on the tongue of Dives. if the British ministry are changing their policy towards us, it is because their nation, or rather the city of London which is the nation to them, is1 shaken, as usual, by the late reverses in Spain. I have for some time been persuaded that the government of England was systematically decided to claim a dominion of the sea by conquest, & to levy contributions on all nations, by their licenses to navigate, in order to maintain that dominion to which their own resources are inadequate. the mobs of their cities are unprincipled enough to2 support this policy in prosperous times, but change with the tide of fortune, & the ministers, to keep their places, change with them. I wish mr Oakley may not embarras you with his conditions of revoking the orders of council. enough of the non importation law should be reserved 1. to pinch them into a relinquishment of impressments, & 2. to support those manufacturing establishments which their orders, & our interests, forced us to make.

I suppose the conquest of Spain will soon force a delicate question on you as to the Floridas & Cuba which will offer themselves to you. Napoleon will certainly give his consent without difficulty to our recieving the Floridas, & with some difficulty possibly Cuba. and tho’ he will disregard the obligation whenever he thinks he can break it with success, yet it has a great effect on the opinion of our people & the world to have the3 moral right on our side of his agreement as well as that of the people of those countries.

Mr Hackley’s affair is really unfortunate. he has been driven into this arrangement by his distresses which are great. he is a perfectly honest man, as is well known here where he was born; but unaccustomed to political subjects he has not seen it in that view. but a respect for the innocence of his views cannot authorize the sanction of government to such an example. if Jarvis continues to wish to go to Rio Janeiro, Lisbon would become vacant, & would suit Hackley. ought the lying, malicious, & impudent conduct of Meade to force him on the government for Cadiz? I know that the present Secretary of State has not seen his conduct in that light, or he would have removed him as Navy agent: but such has been his conduct in truth; and I have no doubt he will bring forward the transaction between Hackley & Yznardi, in new appeals to the public through the newspapers. rather than he should obtain what he has so little merited, I would suggest mr Jefferson as a competitor, altho’ I do not know that he has ever thought of a Consulship, nor would I suggest him, if Yznardi remains in the way. but as to all this do what circumstances will best permit; I shall be satisfied that whatever you do will be right.

I now inclose you the statement which I promised, with Le Maire’s note of the articles within his department. if they were not found to be what he has stated, be so good as to make the necessary corrections, & whatever the amount is may be paid, entirely at your own convenience into the bank of the US. in diminution of my note.

Dinsmore & Neilson set out yesterday4 for Montpelier. if mrs Madison has any thing there which interests her in the gardening way, she cannot confide it better than to Nielson. he is a gardener by nature, & extremely attached to it. be so good as to assure her of my most friendly respects, and to accept the same for yourself.

Th: Jefferson

 cents D 
392. bushels of coal @ .25 98.
100. bottles of Madeira 100.
 36. do Noyau 36.
expences filling the ice-house 77. 205
a horse 200.
 months months D
John Freeman. 76½ out of 132 @ 400.  231. 81
743. 015

the deed for John is inclosed.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of first page: “The President of the US.” PoC (DLC: TJ Papers, 187:33266, 33268); endorsed by TJ.

TJ’s biblical reference to the thirst of dives in hell is in Luke 16.19–31. Charles oakley, the newly appointed secretary to the British legation, arrived in Washington on 7 Apr. 1809 bearing the conditions under which the British would revoke the Orders in Council (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison, 1941–61, 6 vols. description ends , 5:43–5, 87). TJ had suggested earlier that Richard S. Hackley might become consul at Cádiz after Josef Yznardy but that Richard Worsam meade would not be seriously considered for the post (TJ to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 2 Feb. 1808 [MHi]). George jefferson did not receive a consulship at this time. Étienne Lemaire’s inventory of the articles within his department at the President’s House is described in Thomas Claxton to TJ, 10 Mar. 1809, and note. noyau is brandy flavored with the kernels of certain fruits (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Word interlined in place of “was.”

2TJ here canceled “join.”

3Word interlined.

4Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Bible; Luke referenced by TJ search
  • Brazil; U.S. consul at search
  • Cádiz; U.S. consul at search
  • Cádiz; U.S. naval agent at search
  • coal; at President’s House search
  • Cuba; possible acquisition by U.S. search
  • Dinsmore, James; works at Montpellier (Madison family estate) search
  • Florida; acquisition of by U.S. search
  • Freeman, John (dining room servant); and indenture with TJ search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • Hackley, Richard Shippey; dispute over vice-consulship at Cádiz search
  • household articles; coal search
  • icehouses; at President’s House search
  • Jarvis, William; and consulship at Rio de Janeiro search
  • Jarvis, William; consul at Lisbon search
  • Jefferson, George (TJ’s cousin); as consul at Cádiz search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; British government search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Lemaire, Etienne; and kitchen inventory of President’s House search
  • Madison, Dolley Payne Todd (James Madison’s wife); TJ refers gardener to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letters to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); purchases items from TJ search
  • Meade, Richard Worsam; U.S. naval agent at Cádiz search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); work at search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and U.S. search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Neilson (Nelson), John; and work at Montpellier (Madison family estate) search
  • Non-Intercourse Act (1809); TJ on search
  • Oakley, Charles; secretary of British legation to U.S. search
  • President’s House; inventory of search
  • Smith, Robert; secretary of state search
  • Spain; status of Florida and Cuba search
  • United States; and Napoleon search
  • wine; Madeira search
  • wine; Noyau search
  • Yznardy, Josef; dispute over vice-consulship at Cádiz search