James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 5 August 1795

From James Monroe

Paris Augt. 5. 1795.

Dear Sir

Soon after my arrival here last year I found it necessary to appoint some one consul provisionally & in consequence appointed Mr. Skipwith to that office & announc’d him to this govt. as well as our own: but before this step was known the President had nominated a Mr. Pitcairn1 for that place. Mr. P. being by birth a British subject & having latterly become an American citizen & in consequence being still a Bh. subject, I thought it proper to suspend his introduction into the office untill I submitted to the Executive the objections which applied to the appointment & thereupon wrote Mr. R.2 that by placing such a person here, very essential injury wod. be rendered to the U. States for if admitted & wh. wd. only be expected in case the fact above stated was with held, he wod. be an object of jealousy with this govt., & of course watched closely, and as often with me, it wod. also unavoidably lessen any confidence they might have in me: not to mention the impolicy of putting a person with British connections capital &ca at the head of our commerce in this country whereby Britn. wod. have the emolument at our expence. In this state the business yet rests; Mr. Sk: performs the duties of the consulate & I am left to depend on providence for one to supply his place with me. In expectation his nomination wod. be confirmed I wrote you that I would take Prevost.3 But in truth I wish I could avoid it for I consider Burr as a man to be shunned. His friend here & who is mine in every view of his character joins me in this opinion. In short he is an unprincipled adventurer and whom it is better to get rid of at once. Can you promote this object. I have with me at present Mr. Purviance who is well qualified & a most amiable man. And I wish Dawson could come.4 He is poor and sound in principle. I write this in great haste & am affecy. yr. fnd.

Jas. Monroe.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Addressed by Monroe to JM in Orange County. Cover marked: “Received and Forward⟨ed⟩ from Philada. Octr. 28. 1795 by Yo⟨ur⟩ very Affe. hble servt. J Swanwick.” Docketed by JM. Italicized words are those encoded by Monroe using the code that Jefferson had sent JM on 11 May 1785. Decoded interlinearly by JM.

1Joseph Pitcairn was U.S. vice-consul at Paris, 1794–97. After Pierre Auguste Adet, the French minister to the U.S., denounced Pitcairn as a British spy, John Adams appointed him consul at Hamburg, where he served until 1802 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 1:163, 164, 253, 254, 406; Adet to the French foreign minister, 26 Mar. 1797, Turner, Correspondence of French Ministers description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed., Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797, Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2 (Washington, 1904). description ends , p. 1000).

2Monroe to Edmund Randolph, 6 Mar. and 17 May 1795 (Hamilton, Writings of Monroe description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe … (7 vols.; New York and London, 1898–1903). description ends , 2:226–28, 255–56).

3In November 1794 Monroe had proposed that Skipwith, then his private secretary, be nominated as U.S. consul general in France. At the same time, he also suggested to JM that should John Bartow Prevost, Aaron Burr’s stepson, come to France, he could replace Skipwith as his secretary. Monroe later confirmed this arrangement with Burr, and Prevost sailed for France in July 1795, shortly after the Senate had confirmed Skipwith’s nomination (PJM description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (1 vol. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 15:402–3; Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr [2 vols.; Princeton, N.J., 1983], 1:183, 223–24).

4On John Henry Purviance and John Dawson, see PJM description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (1 vol. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 15:404 nn. 4, 5, 7:199 n. 17.

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