James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 15 November 1796

From James Monroe

Paris Novr. 15. 1796.

Dear Sir

This will pass by the way of Engld. & will therefore most probably arrive safe. It is committed to Mr. Dease1 lately with Mr. P. in Engld. & who will deliver it to some careful person abt. departing thence for America. I enclose in it two letters from T. Pickering to me, my answer to the first, & a communication wh. finally wound up my discussion with the minister of for: affrs. upon the subject of the complts. of this govt: agnst our own, & wh. took place between that officer & myself. You will observe that T. P. grounds his measure upon certain letters of my own of the 16. & 20 of Feby. 10. & 25. of March, the contents of wh. he states tolerably well himself. In truth those letters, contain strong proofs of my attention to the object in question, & of its effect upon this govt. How then they became a ground of censure I cannot conceive. I consider this as a precipitate act which they are perhaps already sorry for. It marks equally the violence and the desperation of the party. The Americans here to a man when they heard of it (two Scots Pitcairn and Sadler2 excepted) assembled drew an address expressive of their regret and other sentiments favorable to me appointed a committee who wrote me to know when I would receive it—I was aware that this would be laid hold of in America and turned to party account and therefore prevailed on them not to deliver it.

This act puts me at liberty to publish my correspondence &c but this I think had better be done in America for a like reason. The season is now too far advanced for me to sit [out] till the spring although this person were now arrived and in the interim you will write and advise me what to do.

I have not answered the last letter because I waited this man’s arrival3 and because I doubt whether it is not better to reserve what I should say for a future occasion—and because notwithstanding this unprecedented outrage I have still some tenderness towards General Washington. You will determine whether the publication of any thing you have will be suitable & act accordingly.

Malmesbury4 is still here. I send you papers wh. contain the state of the negotiation or rather of the appeal to publick opinion on both sides. Unpromising however as appearances are I shod. not be surpris’d if a peace shod. be made up, for Engld. never took this step otherwise than under the pressure of necessity.

You will readily observe that after I asked a communication upon the subject of the treaty with the minister, of the Directoire, that I cod. not answer his objections till he furnished them or stated them to me: and of course cod. not have answer’d them when the 4. letter to wh. he refers (Pickering) of the last of March was written.

RC and enclosures nos. 2–4 (DLC); enclosure no. 1 (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). RC unsigned. Italicized words are those encoded by Monroe using the code that Jefferson had sent JM on 11 May 1785. Decoded interlinearly by JM. Enclosures, numbered by Monroe, are copies of Pickering to Monroe, 13 June 1796 (no. 1); Monroe to Pickering, 10 Sept. 1796 (no. 2); Pickering to Monroe, 22 Aug. 1796 (no. 3); and Delacroix to Monroe, 7 Oct. 1796, and Monroe to Delacroix, 12 Oct. 1796 (no. 4).

1William Allen Deas (1764–1821?), member of a prominent South Carolina family, had served as Thomas Pinckney’s private secretary during his diplomatic missions to Great Britain and Spain between 1791 and 1796 (N. Louise Bailey et al., eds., Biographical Dictionary of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985 [3 vols.; Columbia, S.C., 1986], 1:374–75).

2Henry Sadler, Jr., was a New York merchant resident in Paris (William Stinchcombe, The XYZ Affair [Westport, Ct., 1980], pp. 87, 138).

3Presumably Monroe was referring to his successor, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who had arrived in France on 15 Nov. but did not reach Paris until the first week of December (Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, pp. 140–41).

4James Harris (1746–1820), first earl of Malmesbury, had been sent by William Pitt in October 1796 to negotiate peace with France. His mission failed, mainly because of disagreements over the restoration of French conquests of Austrian territory (Guyot, Le Directoire et la paix de l’Europe, pp. 261–305).

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