James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Rufus King, 29 March 1801

From Rufus King

No. 8.

London March 29. 1801.

Dear Sir,

In confirmation of the rumours of the day, Carnot’s answer to Bailleul, published during the Exile of the former, states the Project which had been discussed in the Directory to obtain from Spain a cession of Louisiana and the Floridas.1 A reference to that performance, copies of which I at the time sent to the Department of State, will shew the manner in which it was expected to obtain the consent of Spain, as well as afford a clue to the views of France in seeking this establishment. What was then meditated, has in all probability since been executed: the cession of Tuscany to the infant Duke of Parma, by the Treaty between France and Austria, forms a more compact and valuable compensation to this Branch of the House of Spain than was formerly thought of, and adds very great credit to the opinion which at this time prevails both at Paris and London that Spain has in return actually ceded Louisiana and the Floridas to France. There is reason to know that it is the opinion of certain influential Persons in France that nature has marked a line of Separation between the People of the United States living upon the two sides of the range of Mountains which divides their Territory. Without discussing the considerations which are suggested in support of this Opinion, or the false consequences, as I wish to believe them, deduced from it, I am apprehensive that this cession is intended to have, and may actually produce, Effects injurious to the Union and consequent happiness of the People of the United States. Louisiana and the Floridas may be given to the French Emigrants, as England once thought of giving them to the American Tories; or they may constitute the Reward of some of the Armies which can be spared at the end of the War.

I hear that General Collot, who was a few years ago in America, and a Traveller in the Western Country, and who for sometime has been in disgrace and confinement in France, has been lately set at liberty; and that he, with a considerable number of disaffected and exiled Englishmen, Scotchmen and Irishmen, is soon to proceed from France to the United States. Whether their voyage has any relation to the cession of Louisiana is matter of mere conjecture, but having heard of it in connection with that Project, I think proper to mention it to you.2

What effect a plain and judicious representation upon this Subject, made to the French Government by a Minister of Talents and entitled to confidence, would be likely to have is quite beyond any means of judging which I possess; but on this account, as well as others of importance, it is a subject of regret that we have not such a character at this time at Paris. With perfect respect & Esteem, I have the honour to be, Dear sir Your obedient & faithful Servt.

Rufus King

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