Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 8 August 1811

To Archibald Stuart

Monticello Aug. 8. 11.

Dear Sir

I ask the favor of you to purchase for me as much fresh timothy seed as the inclosed bill will pay for, pack & forward, and that you will have the goodness to direct it to be lodged at mr Leitch’s store in Charlottesville by the waggoner who brings it. you see how bold your indulgencies make me in intruding on your kindness.

I do not know that the government means to make known what has passed between them & Foster before the meeting of Congress; but in the mean time individuals, who are in the way, think they have a right to fish it out, and in this way the sum of it has become known. Great Britain has certainly come forward and declared to our government by an official paper that the conduct of France towards her during this war has obliged her to take possession of the ocean, and to determine that no commerce shall be carried on with the nations connected with France. that however she is disposed to relax in this determination so far as to permit the commerce which may be carried on thro the British ports. I have, for 3 or 4. years been confident, that knowing that her own resources were not adequate to the maintenance of her present navy, she meant with it to claim the conquest of the ocean, and to permit no nation to navigate it, but on paiment of a tribute for the maintenance of the fleet necessary to secure that dominion. a thousand circumstances brought together left me without a doubt that that policy directed all her conduct, altho’ not avowed. this is the first time she has thrown off the mask. the answer & conduct of the government have been what they ought to have been, & Congress is called1 a little earlier, to be ready to act on the reciept of the reply, for which time has been given. God bless you

from yours affectionately

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViHi: Stuart Papers); addressed: “The honble Judge Stewart Staunton Virga”; franking signature clipped; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 11 Aug. PoC (DLC).

The inclosed bill was for $10 (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1268).

On 3 July 1811 Augustus John foster, the new British minister plenipotentiary, declared to Secretary of State James Monroe that Napoleon’s Continental System, as a “violation of the established law of civilized nations in war, would have justified Great Britain in retaliating upon the enemy by a similar interdiction of all commerce with France and with such other countries as might co-operate with France in her system of commercial hostility against Great Britain. The object of Great Britain was not, however, the destruction of trade, but its preservation, under such regulations as might be compatible with her own security, at the same time that she extended an indulgence to foreign commerce which strict principles would have entitled her to withhold. The retaliation of Great Britain was not, therefore, urged to the full extent of her right; our prohibition of French trade was not absolute, but modified; and in return for the absolute prohibition of all trade with Great Britain, we prohibited not all commerce with France, but all such commerce with France as should not be carried on through Great Britain. It was evident that this system must prove prejudicial to neutral nations: this calamity was foreseen and deeply regretted. But the injury to the neutral nation arose from the aggression of France, which had compelled Great Britain, in her own defence, to resort to adequate retaliatory measures of war” (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:435).

On 24 July President James Madison ordered Congress to convene on 4 Nov. 1811, about a month earlier than the date originally set, to consider “great and weighty matters … receive such communications as may then be made to them, and to consult and determine on such measures as in their wisdom may be deemed meet for the welfare of the United States” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 3:392–3; New-York Herald, 30 Nov. 1811).

1Manuscript: “is called is called.”

Index Entries

  • Congress, U.S.; convenes early search
  • Foster, Augustus John; British minister to U.S. search
  • France; and Great Britain search
  • Great Britain; and France search
  • Great Britain; TJ on war with search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; British government search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Leitch, James; agent for TJ search
  • Madison, James; convenes Congress early search
  • Monroe, James; as secretary of state search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; Continental System of search
  • seeds; timothy search
  • Stuart, Archibald; and timothy seed for TJ search
  • Stuart, Archibald; letters to search