James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 27 February 1796

From James Monroe

Paris Feby 27. 1796.

Dear Sir

This will accompany your china which is addressed to Mr. Yard. I enclose also the charge by wh. you will be able to pay the duty.

About a fortnight past I was informed by the minister of foreign affairs that the government had at length resolved how to act with us in respect to our treaty with England. That they considered it as having violated1 or rather annulled our treaty of alliance with them and taken part with the coalised powers. That they had rather have an open enemy than a perfidious friend. That it was resolved to send an envoy extra. to the United States to discuss this business with us and whose powers would expire with the execution of the trust. I was astonished with the communication and alarmed with its probable consequences. I told him it might probably lead to war and thereby seperate us which was what our enemies wished. That it hazarded much and without a probable gain. That from the moment a person of that character arrived their friends would seem to act under his banner and which circumstance would injure their character and lessen their efforts. In truth I did everything in my power to prevent this measure and in which I am now told by the minister that I have succeeded the Directoire having resolved to continue the ordinary course of representation only. But thro’ this I hear strong sentiments will be conveyed. The whole of this is made known to the executive by me.2

Mr. Adet has sent in his resignation & pressed earnestly the acceptance of it.3 Of course a successor will be sent in his place.

I am astonished that I have heard nothing from you, it is now I think 9. months, altho’ I have written you so often & communicated so freely. From me too there is some hasard in communicating & for reasons that will occur & wh. has been encreased by the multiplication of duplicate dispatches & wh. were forwarded merely because the originals if recd were not acknowledged. To me the motive for this reserve is impenetrable & therefore I repeat agn my astonishmt. at it.

The state of things has varied little since the organization of the new govt.—great preparations are making for carrying on the campaign with vigor on both sides. It is said the army of the Rhine & Moselle will amt. together to 300,000 men, & that4 in Italy to 150,000. On the opposit side too great preparations are making, so that unless peace shod. close the scene, a greater carnage may be expected this than in any preceding campaign, and at present there is but little prospect of peace, at least I see none.

The forced loan was less productive than was expected and the embarrassment in the finance extreme. Some think another movement at hand but I see no evidence of it at present. In all calculations on this subject it ought to be recollected that the executive are sound and having the government in their hands are strong.

There are strong symptoms of an actual rupture between us and this country. The minister the government preferred to have us as open5 rather than perfidious friends. Other proofs occur to shew that this sentiment has gone deep into their councils.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); FC (DLC: Monroe Papers). RC unsigned. Unless otherwise noted, italicized words are those encoded by Monroe using the code that Jefferson had sent JM on 11 May 1785. RC decoded inter-linearly and docketed by JM, “Received May 21. 1796.” FC in a clerk’s hand and marked “Copy letter forwarded to James Madison 28 february 1796”; not decoded. Enclosure not found.

1Monroe miscoded, and JM decoded, “cap ol ated.”

2Monroe was reporting the substance of conversations he had with Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Delacroix on 15 and 16 Feb. 1796. On 17 Feb. the Directory had announced the appointment of Citizen Charles-Humbert-Marie Vincent, director of fortifications in Saint-Domingue, as envoy extraordinary to the U.S. (Monroe to secretary of state, 16 Feb. 1796, 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 , 2:454–60; Bowman, The Struggle for Neutrality, p. 239; Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue [rev. ed.; 3 vols.; Paris, 1958], 3:1558).

3Adet’s recall was announced in Paris along with the appointment of Vincent, but the minister, in fact, had not requested it and was annoyed when the report reached Philadelphia (Adet to minister of foreign relations, 23 and 26 Apr. 1796, 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 , pp. 896, 897, 898).

4Underlined by Monroe.

5Monroe probably omitted to write “enemies” here.

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