Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 15 November 1820

From James Monroe

Washington Novr 15. 1820

Dear Sir

You will receive herewith a copy of the message, in which I have endeavour’d without looking at the old governments of Europe, to place our own, in such prominent circumstances, as seem’d to require attention from me, at this time, in such a light, as to shew a striking contrast between them. The amount of the debt paid off since the war, is, I presume, greater, than has been generally supposed, and the actual state of the treasury much better.

Soon after I left Albemarle, I made a visit here from Loudoun. Mr Correa had been here, seen Mr Adams, & gone to the neighbourhood of Phila, to remain till he could enter the city, secure against the fever of the season. Mr Adams told me that he had shewn great moderation, in conferring on the subject of his note, demanding the institution of a board for the liquidation of claims, for property taken from Portughuese subjects, by Artigan privateers, charging two of our judges with having disgrac’d their commissions &c. I saw at once that his tone had been changed, by his communications with you, having made his demand under excitment, & without a knowledge of the subject. He had promised Mr Adams to send him a comm[u]nication in the spirit of his former note, as soon as he enterd Phila. I waited some time for it, but none arriving, and fearing that his demand might be the foundation of a similar one, on the part of Spain, as a sett off, against our claims admitted by two treaties, I requested him to write Mr Correa an answer to his former letter, declaring his demand to be inadmissible, unjust in itself, & unwarranted by the usage of all nations, & to request also the names of the judges whom he had denouncd in such unqualified & strong terms, as of the officers said to have servd on board Artigan privateers. A letter to this effect, was written, in the most mild & conciliatory terms; but he gave no answer to it. I suspect his intention has been to transfer this affair to the person left by him as chargé, and that we may probably hear from him on it.

very respectfully & sincerely your friend

James Monroe

RC (DLC); edge chipped; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Nov. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. FC (DLC: Monroe Papers); in an unidentified hand, with emendations by Monroe; endorsed by Monroe. Enclosure: Message from the President of the United States to both Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the Second Session of the Sixteenth Congress. November 15, 1820 (Washington, 1820), stating that “I see much cause to rejoice in the felicity of our situation” (quote on p. 2); noting the ill effects of European events on the United States economy and outlining the country’s current relations with Spain, Great Britain and its colonies, France, and South America; discussing public revenue and debt; describing recent progress in constructing coastal fortifications; reporting on trade regulations with American Indians intended to bring about “the great purpose of their civilization” (quote on p. 8); and approving of recent improvements in overseas commerce facilitated by the presence of American naval vessels.

In his note to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams of 16 July 1820, José Corrêa da Serra listed nineteen Portuguese ships captured by artigan privateers, with a total value of $616,158. These vessels claimed to serve the Uruguayan revolutionary José Gervasio Artigas, but Corrêa da Serra complained that they were fitted out in United States ports and manned by American seamen. He wrote again on 26 Aug. 1820 regarding judges he believed had disgrac’d their commissions from the United States. At Monroe’s behest Adams wrote Corrêa da Serra from Washington on 30 Sept. 1820 declaring his demand to be inadmissible as indicated above but requesting documentation for his complaints and assuring him that if they “shall be found to contain evidence upon which any officer, civil or military, of the United States or any of their citizens can be called to answer for his conduct as injurious to any subject of Portugal, every measure shall be taken to which the Executive is competent to secure full justice and satisfaction to your Sovereign and his nation” (all printed in Léon Bourdon, José Corrêa da Serra: Ambassadeur du Royaume-Uni de Portugal et Brésil a Washington, 1816–1820 [1975], 564–5, 578–9, 594–5).

The Portuguese chargé d’affaires was José Amado Grehon.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John Quincy; as secretary of state search
  • Artigas, José Gervasio search
  • Congress, U.S.; presidential messages to search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; as Portuguese minister plenipotentiary search
  • Europe; relations with U.S. search
  • France; and U.S. search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Grehon, José Amado; as Portuguese chargé d’affaires search
  • Highland (J. Monroe’s Albemarle Co. estate); J. Monroe at search
  • Indians, American; plans for civilizing search
  • Indians, American; trade with search
  • Monroe, James; and U.S. foreign relations search
  • Monroe, James; letters from search
  • Monroe, James; presidential messages of search
  • Monroe, James; visits Loudoun Co. search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; and foreign commerce search
  • Philadelphia; yellow fever in search
  • Portugal; and U.S. search
  • South America; and U.S. search
  • Spain; and U.S. search
  • Treasury Department, U.S.; and public debt search
  • United States; and France search
  • United States; and Great Britain search
  • United States; and Portugal search
  • United States; and South American republics search
  • United States; and Spain search
  • United States; fortifications search
  • United States; national debt search
  • United States; trade of search
  • yellow fever; in Philadelphia search