Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 18 March 1811

From James Madison

Washington Mar. 18. 1811

Dear Sir

I have recd yours inclosing two letters improperly addressed to you.

A sketch in manuscript was brought by yesterday’s Mail from N. York, saying that a vessel just arrived, stated that the Prince Regent had appointed his Cabinet; that Lord Holland was prime Minister, Grenville Secretary of State, Moira Commander in Chief &c and that a new Parliament was to be called. Whether these details be correct or not, it is highly probable that some material change in the general policy of the Government, in relation to this Country as well as in other respects, will result from the change of the Men in power. Nor is it improbable that a repeal of the Orders in Council, will be accompanied by a removal in some form or other, of the other condition required by the Act of May last. Still the attachment to maritime usurpations on public law, and the jealousy of our growing commerce, are sources from which serious difficulties must continue to flow, unless controuled by the distress of the Nation, or by a magnanimity not to be expected even from the personification of Fox in Lord Holland. Grenville is known to be very high in his notions of British rights on the ocean, but he has never contended for more, on the subject of blockades, than that cruising1 squadrons, creating a manifest danger in entering particular ports, was equivalent to a stationary force, having the same effect. His principle however tho’ construable into an important restriction of the modern practice, may be expanded so as to cover this abuse. It is, as you remark difficult to understand the meaning of Bonaparte towards us. There is little doubt, that his want of money, and his ignorance of commerce, have had a material influence. He has also distrusted the stability & efficacy of our pledge to renew the non-intercourse agst G. B. and has wished to execute his in a manner that would keep pace only with the execution of ours; and at the same time leave no interval for the operation of the British orders, without a counteroperation in either his or our measures. In all this, his folly is obvious. Distrust on one side produces & authorizes it on the other; and must defeat every arrangement between parties at a distance from each other or which is to have a future or a continued execution. On the whole our prospects are far from being very flattering; yet a better chance seems to exist than, with the exception of the adjustment with Erskine, has presented itself, for closing the scene of rivalship in plundering & insulting us, & turning it into a competition for our commerce & friendship.

In the midst of other perplexities,2 foreign & internal, a source has been opened very near me, and where co-operation agst 3 them was to have been rightfully expected, from personal obligations, as well as public duty. I find also that the appointment of Warden is4 to draw forth the keenest resentments of Armstrong. I have no doubt however that the ground on which we stand is sufficiently firm to support us with the Nation, agst individual efforts of any sort or from any quarter.

Be assured always of my highest esteem and sincerest attachment

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; mistakenly endorsed by TJ as received 2 Mar. 1811 but recorded in SJL as received on 20 Mar. 1811.

Henry Richard Vassall Fox, 3d Baron holland, was raised in part by his uncle, Charles James Fox, who had been foreign secretary in 1806. Holland was named neither to that post nor as prime minister. In 1811 Francis Rawdon Hastings, 2d Earl of moira, declined appointments proffered by the prince regent (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ). Macon’s Bill No. 2 became law on 1 may 1810.

1Manuscript: “crusing.”

2Manuscript: “preplexities.”

3Preceding two words interlined in place of what appears to be “our observations of.”

4Reworked from “has.”

Index Entries

  • Armstrong, John; and D. B. Warden search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Macon’s Bill No.2 search
  • Erskine, David M.; agreement with U.S. search
  • Fox, Charles James; British politician search
  • George, Prince Regent (later George IV, king of Great Britain); as Prince of Wales search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • Grenville, William Wyndam Grenville, 1st Baron; British politician search
  • Holland, Henry Richard Vassall Fox, 3d Baron 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 D. B. Warden search
  • Madison, James; and Macon’s Bill No.2 search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on British government search
  • Moira, Francis Rawdon Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings and 2d Earl of search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; J. Madison on search
  • Warden, David Bailie; and consular nomination search
  • Warden, David Bailie; and J. Armstrong search