Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 23 April 1810

From James Madison

Washington Apl. 23. 1810

Dear Sir

Yours of the 16th has been recd. It is not improbable that there will be an early occasion to send for public purposes, a ship to G.B. & France; & that Norfolk will be the port of Departure. I recommend therefore that your plow be lodged there as soon as may be, with the proper instructions to your Agent. It may not be amiss to include in them a discretion to forward the plow to any other port, if he shd learn in time, that another is substituted for Norfolk. Congs remain in the unhinged state which has latterly marked their proceedings; with the exception only, that a majority in the H. of R. have stuck together so far as to pass a Bill providing for a conditional repeal by either of the Belligts of their Edicts; laying in the mean time, an addition of 50 perCt to the present duties on imports from G.B. & F. What the Senate will do with the Bill is rendered utterly uncertain by the policy which seems to prevail in that Branch. Our last authentic information from G.B. is of the 28. Feby & from France of the 2d of Feby. The information in both cases, has an aspect rather promising; but far from being definite; and subsequent accts thro’ the ordinary channels,1 do not favor a reliance on general professions or appearances. Bonaparte, does not seem to have yet attended to the distinction between the external & internal character of his Decrees; and to be bending his augmented faculties for annihilating British Commerce with the Contt with which our corrupt traders have confounded the Amn flag. And it will be a hard matter for Wellesley, shd he be well disposed, to drag his AntiAmerican Colleagues into a change of policy; supported as they will be by the speeches & proceedings of Congs. From those the inference will be that one party prefers submission of our Trade to British regulation, and the other confesses the impossibility2 of resisting it. Without a change of Ministry, of which there is some prospect, it wd be imprudent to count on any radical change of policy. For the moment, I understand that the Merchts will not avail themselves of the unshackled trade they have been contending for; a voluntary Embargo being produced by the certainty of a glutted Market, in England, and the apprehension of Brit: Blockades, and French confiscations. The experiment about to be made will probably open too late the eyes of the people, to the expediency & efficacy of the means which they have suffered to be taken out of the hands of the Govt and to be incapacitated for future use. The Merinos are not yet heard of. Be assured of my constant & affe respects.

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Apr. 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

“An Act concerning the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France” became law on 1 May 1810. The statute, which became known as Macon’s Bill No. 2, prohibited British or French warships from entering American harbors or territorial waters. It placed no restrictions on trading vessels, but authorized the president to prevent the importation of goods from either Britain or France if the other nation revoked its edicts against neutral commerce before 3 Mar. 1811. The proposed 50 percent addition to existing import duties was removed from the final version of the bill (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers. description ends , 11th Cong., 2d sess., 1915, 2051 [18 Apr., 1 May 1810]; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States . . . 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:605–6).

1Madison here canceled what appears to be “suggest a.”

2Abbreviated as “impossibily.”

Index Entries

  • Berlin and Milan decrees; application of search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Macon’s Bill No.2 search
  • France; and U.S. search
  • France; attempted conveyance of plow to search
  • France; Berlin and Milan decrees search
  • Great Britain; market in search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and Macon’s Bill No.2 search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; and Macon’s Bill No.2 search
  • Madison, James; and conveyance of plow to France search
  • Madison, James; and foreign affairs search
  • Madison, James; and merino sheep search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; Continental System of search
  • plows.; TJ’s moldboard search
  • United States; and France search
  • Wellesley, Richard Wellesley, Marquess; British foreign minister search