Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 22 July 1818

From James Monroe

washington July 22. 1818

Dear Sir

I expected long before this to have had the pleasure of seeing you in Albemarle, but the necessity of being here, on the receit of Genl Jackson’s report, of his operations in Florida, & in the expectation of the return of our commissrs from Buenos Ayres, whom I wishd to meet, detaind me in Loudoun till lately, when on the occurrence of both events I returnd to the city.

The occurrence at Pensacola, has been full of difficulty, but without incurring the charge of committing a breach of the Constitution, or of giving to Spain just cause of war, we have endeavour’d to turn it to the best account of our country, & credit of the commanding General. We shall tell the Spanish minister, that the posts will be deliverd up, but that their attack, was owing to the misconduct of the Spanish officers, whose punishment wod be demanded of his govt, and that his govt must keep a strong force in Florida, to enable it to comply with the stipulation of the treaty of 1795, which would be rigorously enacted. The proof of misconduct in the Spanish officers, in stimulating the Indians to make war, furnishing them with munitions of war to carry it on &ca, is very strong. It has appear’d to be altogether improper, to hold the posts, as that would amount to a decided act of hostility, and might be considerd an usurpation of the power of Congress. To go to the other extreme has appeard to be equally improper,1 that is, to bring Genl Jackson to trial, for disobedience of orders, as he acted on facts which were unknown to the govt when his orders were given, many of which indeed occurr’d afterwards; & as his trial, unless he should ask it himself, would be the tryumph of Spain, & confirm her in the disposition not to cede Florida.

I lately transmitted to Mr Madison a copy of a paper, written at Moscow, by order of the Emperor, as the basis of his instructions to his ministers at the allied courts, relative to the differences between Spain & her Colonies, & likewise a copy of a letter which I have written to Generl Jackson, on the subject [men]tiond above, for your joint information. Those papers, will give you full information, on both subjects. I shall leave this to day or tomorrow for Loudoun, whence I shall proceed without delay with my family for Albemarle, where I hope to find you in good health.

with great respect & esteem your friend & servant

James Monroe

RC (DLC); edge chipped; endorsed by TJ as received 30 July 1818 and so recorded in SJL.

The spanish minister was Luis de Onís.

The copy of a paper, written at moscow, by order of the emperor, was a 17 Nov. 1817 “Russian Memorial on the Negotiation relative to the Question of Rio de la Plata, and, in general, on the Pacification of the Colonies; for communication to the interested Courts and to the Cabinets of the Mediating Powers.” It laid out the plan of Emperor Alexander I for negotiations between the monarchs in Madrid and Rio de Janeiro that could return the Rio de la Plata to Spanish control and restore the allegiance of other Latin American colonies to their European rulers (Tr in MHi: Adams Papers, in French, filed with George W. Erving to John Quincy Adams, 26 Feb. 1818; English translation in William R. Manning, ed., Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States Concerning the Independence of the Latin-American Nations [1925], 3:1853–9). Monroe enclosed the document to James Madison on 18 May 1818, and Madison responded three days later (Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:287–8, 289–90).

The letter which i have written to generl jackson, dated Washington, 19 July 1818, gave Monroe’s reaction to Andrew Jackson’s explanation of his military activities in Pensacola, presented the government’s official position, and explained its future course of action (Jackson, Papers, 4:224–8).

On this date Monroe advised Madison that “I send you a copy of my letter to Genl Jackson, which will unfold to you, our views on the whole subject. I wish you to shew this paper, & the Russian document to Mr Jefferson, in confidence, when you see him” (RC in DLC: Madison Papers; printed in Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:309).

1Remainder written in a different ink.

Index Entries

  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; as peace mediator search
  • Congress, U.S.; and foreign affairs search
  • Constitution, U.S.; breach of search
  • Highland (J. Monroe’s Albemarle Co. estate); J. Monroe plans to visit search
  • Jackson, Andrew; Pensacola seized by search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • Monroe, James; letters from search
  • Monroe, James; plans to visit Loudoun Co. search
  • Monroe, James; presidency of search
  • Monroe, James; visits Loudon Co. search
  • Onís y González Vara López y Gómez, Luis de; minister plenipotentiary of Spain search
  • Pensacola, W. Fla.; seized by A. Jackson search
  • San Lorenzo, Treaty of (1795) search
  • South America; republics in search
  • South America; U.S. commission to search
  • Spain; and U.S. search
  • Spain; colonies of search
  • United Provinces of South America; independence of search
  • United Provinces of South America; U.S. commissioners to search
  • United States; and Spain search