James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Robert R. Livingston, 11 July 1801

To Robert R. Livingston

Washington July 11. 1801

Dear Sir

I have recd. your favor of the 1st. instant. Your observations on Neutral rights & the means of promoting them are certainly very interesting, & will merit consideration. It is questionable however whether any leading arrangements by the U. States during the war, even in an eventual form adapted to a state of peace, would be free from the danger of entangling us too much in the present contests & vicisitudes of Europe; or at least of exciting too much the apprehensions of this consequence, among our own Citizens. The attempt to rectify the abuses of the maritime code, having a second time failed, in an appeal to an armed coalition, it is the more probable that the true remedy, by a well timed example recommending itself to peaceable imitations, will find its way into the reflections which will succeed the war. I mean however to give your ideas a further consideration.

Your request on the subject of papers shall be attended to when your despatches may be made up. It is not known at present that a second visit to this place will be requisite before your departure. This will not be the case, unless the information from France should call for personal communications with you, of which you will of course be apprized. We have heard nothing more of Mr. Dawson, than what you have seen in the Newspapers, viz, that the vessel in which he went arrived at Havre on the 8th. of May. Computing from this date, we may every day look for the Treaty, if no difficulties should attend its ratification.

I understand from Mr. Hammond, one of our St. Domingo Consuls just arrived, that Toussaint will certainly proclaim in form the Independence of that Island, within a very few weeks. The Government will be a pure Despotism, vested in Toussaint for life with power to name his successor. This event will present some very important aspects to the U. States, as well as to other nations. It seems that Toussaint augurs a very unfavorable impression from it, on the Counsels of this Country, and is apprehensive of measures dictated by that, and by the regulations foreseen, from the French Republic. But it is not to be doubted that his patrons have guaranteed the supply of the Island’s wants, against every possible contingency.

I have taken occasion to sound Mr. Pichon on the subject of Louisiana. He says that he knows nothing of an actual arrangement between France & Spain for ceding it to the former: but considers it as not improbable. He avows himself an advocate for such an acquisition to France, as highly important to her interest, & perfectly consistent with the most friendly relations with the U. S. The conversation with him confirms my belief both as to the reality of the Cession, and the conciliating policy that will be engrafted on it.1 What new turn time may give to it, time alone can explain.

There is already a consul at Nantz2 on whose merits no decision has been formed, and one or two respectable competitors with Mr. Patterson. On the part of your letter therefore relating to him, no decisive answer can at this time be given. With most perfect respect I am Dr. Sir, your sincere friend & servt

James Madison

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