James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 28 June 1795

From James Monroe

Paris June 28. 1795.

Dear Sir

I have recd. from you 3. letters of which that of the sixth of April1 was the last. Dr. Edwards2 by whom it was sent has not yet arrived in Paris so that I am yet to receive his communications upon the state of our affairs. The cypher was recd. in this last letter, and by which I have been highly gratified for it will greatly facilitate our future correspondence.

Since my last the committee of 11. have reported the draft of a Constitution which divides the legislature into two branches, one of which is calld the council of 500, consisting of the same number of deputies to be of the age or above 30. & the other a council of 250. not to be under 40. The first house will originate bills—they are each to be elected for 2. years, one half to be replac’d annually, & the qualifications of each to be the same. The Executive is to be composed of 5, members to be elected for 5 years, but to be replac’d by the retreat of one only annually. In fact the principle of the Senate of the U. S. is carried into the Executive branch here. Each member is to have a salary of abt. £5000. annually to enable him to receive & entertain foreign ministers. The Judiciary will be better arranged than heretofore.3 The discussion will take place in a day or two, & when adopted I will forward you a copy.

The British have recommenc’d their aggressions on our commerce by a revival of the order of the 6th. of Novr. 1793.4 40 of our vessels being carried in to the ports of Engld. which were destined for those of this republick & charged with provision. They will I presume break up our commerce again, for the merchants of our country here, seem disposed to abandon for the present the sea. The Danes & Swedes will probably commence hostilities: Baron Stahl who is here says they will.5 You will readily conceive what effect this measure has produc’d in the councils of this government towards us, and how difficult it will be to prevent some indication of their resentment towards us. If they contain themselves within bounds it will verify many things that wod. never have been otherwise admitted: but under existing circumstances it will be difficult to keep them within bounds. What shall we do in consequence? How does this measure correspond with the treaty of Mr. Jay? If the Danes & Swedes act it will throw us completely under a shade & expose us in a greater degree to the censure of this govt. Holland has ministers & ambassidors Extry. here and I think that power will be in higher estimation than we shall be. Their ambassadors have been entertained by the Committee, an attention never shewn to any other power.6 Indeed tis not possible we shod. preserve our ground under the circumstances that exist, & especially those that have attended the treaty of Mr. Jay, the contents whereof are yet unknown to them & me. I write you in haste & am affecy. your friend & servant

Jas: Monroe

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1PJM description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (1 vol. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 15:507.

2Enoch Edwards (1751–1802) was a surgeon, apprenticed by Benjamin Rush, who served, as did Monroe, on the staff of Lord Stirling during the Revolution. He was a member of the Pennsylvania ratifying convention in 1787 and sat as an associate judge on the court of common pleas from 1791 to 1802. He traveled extensively in Europe in the mid-1790s (Butterfield, Letters of Benjamin Rush, 2:743 and n. 2).

3Here Monroe described the Constitution of 1795, which was in operation under the Directory until November 1799 (Lefebvre, The Thermidorians and the Directory, pp. 176–82, 450–53).

4Since the 25 Apr. order in council remained secret, Americans erroneously assumed that recent British seizures of U.S. ships had been authorized by a renewal of earlier orders (Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers, pp. 88 n. 37, 97 n. 67).

5Erik Magnus, Baron Staël von Holstein, the Swedish ambassador to France, conveyed to the National Convention Sweden’s diplomatic recognition of the French Republic in 1795. For several years he had been separated from his wife, Germaine de Staël, the famous woman of letters. With French encouragement, Sweden and Denmark had concluded a short-lived armed neutrality convention in 1794. Although Jay’s instructions authorized the envoy to discuss an American alliance with those neutrals, Hamilton assured the British that this threat was not serious, and Jay never acted on it (Annual Register for 1795 [1807 ed.], p. 129; Samuel Flagg Bemis, Jay’s Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy [rev. ed.; New Haven, 1962], pp. 296, 304–5, 337, 343).

6The Dutch envoys Jacob Blauw and Caspar Meijer had been in Paris since 10 Mar. 1795, unsuccessfully resisting French demands embodied in the Treaty of The Hague. After the treaty was ratified, France recognized the Batavian Republic and guaranteed its independence (Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780–1813 [London, 1977], pp. 202–7).

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