Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 7 February 1820

From James Monroe

Washington Feby 7. 1820

Dear Sir

I send you by this days mail, the documents of greatest interest, which have been presented to Congress during the present Session. on our concerns with Spain we have nothing new, & little reason to expect a minister here from that country, during the Session, mr Vivas, said to have been appointed some months ago, being under quarantine, within a few leagues of Madrid, in consequence of passing on his way thither, through some town infected with disease. The Missouri question, absorbs, by its importance, & the excitment it has produc’d, every other, & there is little prospect, from present appearances of its being soon settled. The object of those, who brought it forward, was undoubtedly to acquire power, & the expedient well adapted to the end, as it enlisted in their service, the best feelings, of all that portion of our union, in which slavery does not exist, & who are unacquainted with the condition of their southern brethern. The same men, in some instances, who were parties to the project in 1786. for closing the mouth of the Mississippi, for 25. years, may be consider’d as the authors of this. The dismemberment of the Union by the Allegheny mountain, was then believd to be their object; and altho’ a new arrangment of power, is more particularly sought, on this occasion, yet it is believd, that the anticipation, of even that result, would not deter its author[s] from the pursuit of it. I am satisfied that the bond of union, is too strong for them, and that the better their views are understood, throughout the whole union, the more certain will be their defeat in every part. It requires, however, great moderation, firmness, & wisdom, on the part of those opposed to the restriction, to secure a just result. These great & good qualities, will I trust, not be wanting.

Your letters in favor of the gentlemen, m[en]tiond in them, were receivd with the best disposition, to promote your wishes, but it is impossible for me to say what can be done in any instance. Wherever territory is to be sold, within a State, the Senators oppose, the appointment of the officers entrusted with it, of persons from other States, an opposition which is now extended even to Indian agencies. The number of applicants too, for every office, is so great, & the pressure from the quarter interested, so earnest, that, it is difficult in any case to be resisted. with my best wishes for your health & welfare I am sincerely your friend

James Monroe

RC (DLC); edge trimmed and chipped; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Feb. 1820, but recorded in SJL as received a day earlier.

The enclosed documents of greatest interest may have been those regarding United States relations with Spain that Monroe submitted with his annual message to Congress on 7 Dec. 1819 (Message from the President of the United States, to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the First Session of the Sixteenth Congress [Washington, 1819]). On 5 Feb. 1820 Monroe also sent James Madison “the principal documents which have been printed since the commencement of the Session” (Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:2–3, 6–7).

As secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation, John Jay negotiated a treaty in 1786 with Diego de Gardoqui, the Spanish chargé d’affaires to the United States, under which the lower portion of the Mississippi River and its mouth would have been closed to American commerce for twenty-five or thirty years. Monroe, then serving in the Confederation Congress, opposed this concession as a threat to the Union and detrimental to southern interests. Congress stopped responding to Jay’s request for negotiating instructions in the spring of 1787, and the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty was never ratified. The 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo eventually secured American navigation rights on the Mississippi (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 8:296–7; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Elizabeth M. Nuxoll and others, eds., The Selected Papers of John Jay [2010– ], 4:364–8, 372–3, 383; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:318–22).

Index Entries

  • Gardoqui y Arriquibar, Diego María de; negotiates treaty search
  • Jay, John; negotiates treaty search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • Mississippi River; U.S. rights to search
  • Missouri question; J. Monroe on search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • Monroe, James; and Missouri question search
  • Monroe, James; and U.S. foreign relations search
  • Monroe, James; letters from search
  • Monroe, James; presidential messages of search
  • San Lorenzo, Treaty of (1795) search
  • Spain; and U.S. search
  • Vives, Francisco Dionisio; minister plenipotentiary of Spain search