James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 19 September 1796

From James Monroe

Paris Sepr. 19. 1796.

Dear Sir

From what I see in an American newspaper and what Dr. Edwards writes me from London it is probable the English faction with us will endeavor to impose on the publick the belief of an intrigue between some men in America [and] this government to prevail on the latter to interfere in our interior1 and to make Major Fulton2 the organ—nothing is more false—the man has come here to get paid what was due him in Genet’s time, and also to Clark—and in which I hear he does not succeed. This government hesitates as I hear to take Louisiana lest it should permanently weaken the3 between France and the United States—much less therefore wod. they dabble in a business of that kind. The above principle operates with force even at the present moment, when it is naturally weaker than at any other period. Besides the man is not a fit agent for such a business. He appears to be a worthy well tempered person, but well satisfied I am he has no trust unless it is to sell4 land or some such one. Be assured he has no communication with any person of weight here or was ever heard of by them. I have thought proper to add the above as a supplement to my last, & to add further that Jourdan is still on the retreat, and that Bournonville is spoken of for his successor. Wonderful is the conflict in this hemisphere, and its issue always incertain, tho’ greatly preponderant has Fr: been so far during the campaign, and from wh. nothing has detracted except the reverse with the army under Jourdan wh. it is to be hoped is only temporary. As this government has no confidence in ours I have been able to shelter the last only by the virtues of the patriotic party upon whose ground it is known I stand & whose sentiments I have said I spake. One of yr. letters was of great use to me in this respect. Tell me ought I to resign. I had much rather withdraw. This man Fulton talks of the principal characters here without knowing them and I suspect was attended5 to much by my friends6 in America by reason of his talking so much of me but this was wrong because he had no introductory letters from me—tho in as far as I know a good sort of man—by this however he gained a consequence he ought not to have. It were hard at the moment when by the virtue of Republican party war has so far been prevented that party should be charged with attempting to bring it on.

I enclose you a paper7 wh. gives the most brilliant acct. of Bounaparte’s late victories in the Tyrol by wh. he has just taken 16.000 prisoners & ruined agn. Wurmsers8 army. Moreau gives too by yesterday’s courier the most flattering accts. of his situation & progress & Jourdan’s situation ceases now to be dangerous. In addition to wh. Bournonville is on the march to join him with 25.000. men. The Directoire are firm & in high spirits as indeed they ought to be.

Be assured if Pinkny9 is put in any place he goes with the other party he is a good man.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Unsigned. Italicized words are those encoded by Monroe using the code that Jefferson had sent JM on 11 May 1785. Decoded interlinearly by JM.

1At the time Monroe was writing, Gen. Georges-Henri-Victor Collot was traveling down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The French minister to the U.S., Pierre Auguste Adet, had sent Collot to gather military intelligence on Spanish defenses and sound separatist sentiment in U.S. western territories (Durand Echeverria, ed. and trans., “General Collot’s Plan for a Reconnaissance of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, 1796,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 9 [1952]: 512–20; George W. Kyte, “A Spy on the Western Waters: The Military Intelligence Mission of General Collot,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 34 [1947]: 427–42).

2On Fulton, see JM to Monroe, 7 Apr. 1796, n. 6. On 23 May the Federalist N.Y. Minerva (which had recently reported French attempts to force the U.S. into the European war) published a letter, purportedly to Fulton, implicating him in French intrigues to separate western territories from the U.S. Fulton denounced the letter as a forgery.

3Monroe omitted a word here.

4Although Monroe correctly encoded “sell,” JM decoded “buy.”

5Monroe miscoded, and JM decoded, “at tend ran.”

6Monroe encoded, and JM decoded, “fri.”

7Monroe possibly included the Paris Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel for 17 Sept. 1796, which contained a lengthy account of Napoleon’s victories up to 6 Sept. See also Monroe to JM, 1 Sept. 1796, n. 11.

8Dagobert Sigismund Wurmser (1724–1797), commander of the Austrian armies in northern Italy in 1796–97.

9It is not clear whether Monroe was referring to William Pinkney, recently appointed commissioner under article 7 of Jay’s treaty, or to a member of the Pinckney family of South Carolina, probably Thomas. Monroe did not learn that Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was to replace him as minister to France until November 1796.

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