James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 15 October 1797

From James Monroe

Albemarle Octr. 15. 1797.

Dear Sir

I tax you with H.’s pamphlet,1 requesting that you will return it by the post to Mr. Jeffn. You will be so good as tell me frankly yr. opinion of the footing upon wh. my correspondence with that Scondrel stands, and whether it becomes me to pursue him further.2

Mr. Dawson will be at yr. court I think on the 25. wh. I presume is yr. ct. day. If I can I will meet him at yr. house.3 My narrative will perhaps be closed by the last of this week. Our best respects to Mrs. M. & yr. father & family. Yr. friend & servant

Jas. Monroe

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers).

1Monroe enclosed Alexander Hamilton’s Observations on Certain Documents (see Jefferson to JM, 24 July 1797, and n. 2).

2Monroe’s involvement in the Reynolds affair stemmed from a meeting in December 1792 at which he, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, and Abraham Venable confronted Hamilton with documents that suggested the secretary of the treasury was guilty of improper transactions. Hamilton, by admitting to an adulterous liaison with Maria Reynolds, was able to convince the trio that he had not betrayed his office by speculating in government funds; enough so, at any rate, to keep them from making the inquiry public. The original documents were kept by Monroe. When Callender’s History of the United States for 1796 was published, revealing Hamilton’s indiscretion and reviving the old charge of peculation, Hamilton, in a stormy meeting on 11 July 1797, accused Monroe of releasing the information to the press and lying to him about it. Monroe called Hamilton a scoundrel, the argument escalated, and each challenged the other to a duel. Through the intervention of others present, the two were calmed but not reconciled. An acrimonious exchange of letters continued through the fall with the threatened duel looming over the correspondence, but by the end of January 1798 the affair had fizzled out. For a detailed explanation of the Reynolds affair, see the introductory note to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to Hamilton, 3 July 1797, and “David Gelston’s Account of an Interview between Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe,” 11 July 1797, in Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols.; New York, 1961–87). description ends , 21:121–44, 159–62; for JM’s advice on the affair, see his letter to Monroe, 19 Oct. 1797.

3On 27 Oct. Monroe wrote Jefferson that he had “lately been in Orange at Mr. Madison’s,” where he had met John Dawson (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

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