James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert R. Livingston, 6 July 1795

From Robert R. Livingston

ClerMont 6th. July 1795.

Dear Sir

I sincerely condole with you on the ratification of the treaty which sacrafices every essential interest & prostrates the honor of our country. I had indeed little hope of Mr. Jays rendering us any essential service. His hatred to France & the violence with which he entered into the system of the ministerialists whose views have long appeared to me to be such as I do not chuse to explain but which may be deduced from the treaty gave me reason to apprehend a want of energy in stating our claims. But I own that our disgrace & humiliation has in this instance greatly exceeded my expectations. You see my apprehentions on the score of Mr. Jeffersons sentiments relative to the rights of neutral vessels fully verified1 they have as I predicted furnished arguments to our enemies and are here considered as the most powerful appology for Mr. Jay.2 The disposition that France has for some time past been in with respect to us make⟨s⟩ me seriously apprehend that if this treaty is ratified she will demand the execution of our guarantee of the Islands3 & push us to chuse between a war with her or Britain the first I fear will be the choice of a party among us as it may lead thro’ a civil war to the accomplishment of their object. Never my dear Sir was there a time that called more loudly for exertion.

It may yet be possible to convince the publick & the president of the danger of a ratification. Write to them write to him shew the evils the unconstitutionality of the treaty in its true light. I myself tho not like you in an official situation nor possessing an equal share of his confidence have just written to him4 & shewn him5 the sentiments of an independant citizen who values his essteem without courting his favor. My Letters from New York inform me that the treaty has been received there with the utmost disgust but that Hamilton openly undertakes its defence & has induced Jays violent freinds to say that it is not so bad as they thought it, & some of the Tories to commend it, That the great body of the people still saw it in its proper light & that petitions were handed about & very generally signed praying the president to withold his ratification.

The new order to seize all Neutral provission Vessels going to France which is again declared to be in a state of siege has evinced the use intended to be made of the 18th. Article.6 Adieu my dear Sir remember you are answerable to your country for every neglect or omission on this important occasion. I am Dear Sr with much essteem & regard Your Most Ob hum: Servt

Robt R Livingston

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); draft (NHi: Livingston Papers); Tr (NN: Livingston Papers, Bancroft Transcripts). RC docketed by JM. Livingston incorrectly addressed the RC to JM at Williamsburg (cover not found, but see JM to Livingston, 10 Aug. 1795). The Right Reverend James Madison forwarded the RC to JM in his letter of 25 July 1795. Minor variations between RC and draft have not been noted.

1Jefferson’s letter of 5 Sept. 1793 to George Hammond was annexed to the Jay treaty. In that letter the secretary of state assured the British minister to the U.S. “that measures were taken for excluding from all further Asylum in our Ports Vessels armed in them to Cruize on Nations with which we are at Peace; and for the restoration of the Prizes …, and that should the measures for restitution fail in their Effect, The President considered it as incumbent on the United States to make compensation for the Vessels.” Article 7 of the Jay treaty read in part: “It is agreed that in all such cases where Restitution shall not have been made agreably to the tenor of [that letter], the Complaints of the parties shall be, and hereby are referred to the Commissioners to be appointed by virtue of this article.” In “Cato” No. 15, Livingston objected to Jefferson’s letter and the way it was used to justify further concessions in article 7: “The first thing that strikes us, is … the extreme solicitude of the parties to render Mr. Jefferson obnoxious to the censure it might naturally be supposed to draw after it, by appearing to make it originate in his letter to Mr. Hammond, written at the moment when the irritations occasioned by the controversy with Mr. Genet were highest, and when it was doubtful whether a rupture with France would have compelled us, according to the then favourite system, to throw ourselves into the arms of England. This letter, as was natural under the circumstances, carries our concessions to Britain, far beyond any thing which the law of nations will warrant” (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:265, 253; N.Y. Argus; or, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, 23 Sept. 1795).

2In the draft this sentence reads: “You see my apprehentions on the score of Mr Jeffersons Letters fully verified they have as I predicted made them the basis of the most dangerous parts of the treaty & they are considered here as the strongest fort of Mr. Jays appologists.”

3By article 11 of the Franco-American treaty of 1778, the U.S. undertook to defend the French West Indies (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:39).

4Livingston to Washington, 8 July 1795 (Jared Sparks, ed., Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington … [4 vols.; Boston, 1853], 4:473–76).

5In the draft this sentence begins: “I myself tho not like you in an official situation but deprived by the artifices of those about him of a great share of his confidence will notwithstanding venture to write to him & Let him see what are …”

6Part of the Jay treaty’s article 18 made provisions subject to seizure with compensation to shipowners (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:259).

Index Entries