Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 3 April 1812

From James Madison

Washington April 3. 1812

Dear Sir

I have recd your favor of the 26th and have made to the members of the Cabinet the communication you suggest with respect to your printed memoir on the Batture. I learn from the Department of State that some books were recd for you, and duly forwarded. What they were was not ascertained or remembered. If they do not on their arrival correspond with your expectation, let me know, & further enquiry will be made. Mean time there is in my possession, a very large packet, addressed to you, which is probably a Continuation of Humbolts draughts, or other Maps. It was accompanied by no letter to me, and being unfit for the mail, waits for the patronage of some trusty traveller, bound in the Stage towards Monticello. A late arrival from G.B. brings dates subsequent to the maturity of the Prince Regent’s Authority. It appears that Percival, &c. are to retain their places, and that they prefer war with us, to a repeal of their orders in Council. We have nothing left therefore, but to make ready for it. As a step to it an embargo for 60 days was recommended to Congs on wednesday and agreed to in the H. of Reps. by about 70 to 40. The Bill was before the Senate yesterday, who adjourned about 4 or 5 OClock without a decision. Whether this result was produced by the rule which arms a single member with a veto agst a decision in one day on a bill, or foretells a rejection of the Bill I have not yet heard. The temper of that body is known to be equivocal. Such a measure, even for a limited and short time, is always liable to adverse as well as favorable considerations; and its operation at this moment, will add fuel to party discontent, and interested clamor. But it is a rational & provident measure, and will be relished by a greater portion,1 of the Nation, than an omission of it. If it could have been taken sooner and for a period of 3 or 4 months, it might have enlisted an alarm of the B. Cabinet, for their Peninsular System, on the side of Concessions to us; and wd have shaken2 their obstinacy, if to be shaken at all; the successes on that Theatre, being evidently their hold on the P. Regt and the hold of both on the vanity & prejudices of the nation. Whether if adopted for 60 days, it may beget apprehensions of a protraction, & thence lead to admissible3 overtures, before the sword is stained4 with blood, can not be foreknown with certainty. Such an effect is not to be counted upon. You will observe, that Liverpool was Secy for the Foreign Dept ad interim, & that Castlereah is the definitive successor of Wellesley. The resignation of this last, who has recd no other appt is a little mysterious. There is some reason for believing that he is at variance with Perceval; or that he distrusts the stability of the existing Cabinet, and courts an alliance with the Grenville party, as likely to overset it. If none of that party desert their colours, the calculation can not be a very bad one; especially in case of war with the U.S: in addition to the distress of Br trade & manufactures, and the inflammation in Ireland; to say nothing of possible reverses in Spain & Portugal, which alone would5 cut up the Percival ascendancy by the roots. From France we hear nothing. The delay of the Hornet is inexplicable, but on the reproachful supposition, that the F. Govt is waiting for the final turn of things at London, before it takes its course, which justice alone ought to prescribe, towards us. If this be found to be its game, it will impair the value of concessions if made, and give to a refusal of them, consequences it may little dream of.

Be assured of my constant and sincerest attachment

James Madison

I understand the Embargo will pass the Senate to day; and possibly with an extension of the period to 75. or 90 days

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Apr. 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

On 2 Apr. 1812 the Washington National Intelligencer reported receipt of “English papers down to the latter end of February” that announced the end of restrictions on the prince regent’s authority as well as the composition of the ministry. The embargo for 60 days won approval in the United States House of Representatives on 3 Apr. 1812, with the Senate voting the same day to increase its duration to 90 days. Madison signed the final version containing the longer embargo on 4 Apr. 1812 (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 , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 1587–98; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 5:94, 95 [3, 4 Apr. 1812]; 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 , 2:700–1).

1Word interlined in place of what appears to be “partition.”

2Word interlined in place of what appears to be “deserted.”

3Word interlined.

4Word interlined in place of “implant.”

5Reworked from “will.” Madison here canceled “withdraw the.”

Index Entries

  • Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount; as foreign secretary search
  • Embargo Act (1812); passage of search
  • France; and Great Britain search
  • George, Prince Regent (later George IV, king of Great Britain); as Prince of Wales search
  • Great Britain; and France search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Great Britain; military operations of in Spain and Portugal search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • Grenville, William Wyndam Grenville, 1st Baron; supporters of search
  • Hornet, USS (sloop) search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and Embargo Act of1812 search
  • Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander, Baron von; sends books to TJ search
  • Ireland; agitation in search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; The Proceedings of the Government of the United States, in maintaining the Public Right to the Beach of the Missisipi, Adjacent to New-Orleans, against the Intrusion of Edward Livingston search
  • Liverpool, Robert Jenkinson, 2d Earl of; as British foreign secretary search
  • Madison, James; and Embargo of1812 search
  • Madison, James; and preparations for war search
  • Madison, James; and TJ’s batture pamphlet search
  • Madison, James; forwards books to TJ search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on British government search
  • Perceval, Spencer; British prime minister search
  • Portugal; relations with Great Britain search
  • Senate, U.S.; and Embargo of1812 search
  • Spain; relations with Great Britain search
  • State Department, U.S.; receives books for TJ search
  • The Proceedings of the Government of the United States, in maintaining the Public Right to the Beach of the Missisipi, Adjacent to New-Orleans, against the Intrusion of Edward Livingston (Thomas Jefferson); sent to J. Madison and his cabinet search
  • Wellesley, Richard Wellesley, Marquess; British foreign minister search