James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert R. Livingston, [14] March 1802

From Robert R. Livingston

(No. 7 Copy)

Paris 24th. [14] March 1802

Dear Sir,

I yesterday recieved the duplicate and triplicate of your letter of the 19th. december last the original not having come to hand.1 This is the first and only letter I have been honored with from you since my arrival. I immediately sent one of the copies of the Presidents proclamation to the Minister of Foreign Relations with the enclosed note no. 1.2

I had before anticipated the inconveniences that peace might occasion to our commerce and as I found that the subject was but little understood here and that it was the favorite idea that France had nothing to do to make herself a great naval power but to imitate the British restrictions upon the commerce of other nations—I threw together some hasty thoughts upon the subject which I put into the hands of Marbois, Consul le Brun (who reads english) Mr. Volney &c. and at the same time prepared a translation that I got other members of the court to read. I enclose a copy of it.3 Most of the persons to whom I gave a perusal of it were struck with many circumstances in it which they had not adverted to—but it is a rule here that no person intrudes an idea on the first Consul unless he asks their opinion or the conversation naturally leads to it.

The favorite idea at present is a navigation law and restrictive duties to confine the carrying trade to themselves. In conversation with Taleyrand I proposed to him some such commercial arrangements as present circumstances appeared to exact and hinted at the disadvantage that might result from a number of our seamen going into the British service. But he declined doing any thing in the business and defered it till Mr. Otto should go to America.4 The fact is that Taleyrand is decidedly unfriendly to the United States.

On recieving your letter I yesterday sent him the Note No. 2.5 I had before mentioned to you the duty on tobacco and what I thought the best means of counteracting it. I shall send you a tariff of the duties as soon as I can get it made out, which is a matter of much more difficulty here than in other countries. On the business of Louisiana they have as yet not thought it proper to give me any explanations tho I have omitted no opportunity to press the subject in conversation and ultimately by the note sent you on the 25th. February (a duplicate of which was forwarded on the 28) with the copy of another note enforcing the above, to which I have as yet recieved no answer.6

The fact is they believe us to be certainly hostile to this measure and they mean to take possession of it as early as possible and with as little notice to us as they can.

They are made to believe this is one of the most fertile and important countries in the World, that they have a much greater interest with the indians than any other people, that New Orleans must command the trade of our whole Western country And of course that they will have a leading interest in its politics. It is a darling object with the First Consul who sees in it a mean to gratify his friends and to dispose of his Armies. There is a man here who calls himself a frenchman by the name of Francis Tatergeny7 and pretends to have great interest with the Creek Nations. He has been advanced to the rank of a General of division. He persuades them that the indians are extremely attached to France and hate the Americans, that they can raise 20,000 warriors, that the country is a Paradise &c. &c. I believe him to be a mere adventurer but he is listened to & was first taken up by the old Directors.

I cannot help thinking that it would be adviseable for the present Congress to take Measures for establishing the Natchez or some other port and giving it such advantages as would bring our vessels to it without touching at Orleans—on this subject however you will form a better judgement than I can. I have but one hope left as to defeating this cession it consists in alarming Spain and England. The Spanish minister is now absent but I have not failed to shew in the strongest light to the minister of Britain the dangers that will result to them from the extension of the French possessions into Mexico and the probable loss of Canada if they are suffered to possess it.

I have requested Mr. King to press this subject also as opportunity offers. I enclose a copy of my last letter to him.8 If the treaty does not close soon I think it would be adviseable for us to meet at Amiens & have accordingly proposed it to him.

I believe that such is the state of things here and such the desire for peace that Britain may force them to relinquish Louisiana particularly as the people here are far from desiring the establishment of any foreign colonies which they consider as weak points & drains for the population & wealth. Prussia and the Emperor have acquiesed in the business of the Italian Republic. Britain still keeps possession of Alexandria.

On the business of payments I can add nothing new. My notes are still unanswered, tho I am promised that they shall be within a few days as well as those that relate to the conduct of the council of Prizes of which we have some cause of complaint tho in fact much less than the clamors of some ship owners would make us believe. My notes enumerate all the cases I have been able to collect—and upon two the Ann and the commerce it is very problematical whether the decisions are not conformable to the treaty. The discharge however in the state they now are9 and the enormous bills of charges in many cases render the acquittal illusory. I have remonstrated on the subject—as have the Ministers of Denmark and Sweden but no answer has been recieved by either of us.

I have also ventured to make the enclosed proposition on the subject of the debt10 prompted by the desire of satisfying the numerous American creditors and believing that the guarantee of a loan would not be very dangerous on our part as the amount would not be considerable & I mean If the thing should be acceeded to to take such Measures of security as I think will render us safe. At all events the whole amount will remain among us—and perhaps it would be better to facilitate a credit in this way than to suffer them to go on ruining individuals from whom they will obtain them. My last note suggests what I think the duty of our government relative to this object. I very much fear that the necessities of the Armament will induce them to embroil us anew by seizing our property in the islands & even at sea.

I only hint at this that measures of precaution may be taken. I should however mention that nothing I believe will be done on the subject of the note as I fear they have already sold the greater part of the dutch debt. For the fact is that nothing which could be converted into money has escaped the rapacity of Government or individuals.

I have with great difficulty procured an order for the payment of Archambals bills for the Trumbul and Olive after the owners had waited here 6 months and then without interest or damages. The demand of the Pegou is I hope also in the way of payment.11

As to the Contract demands the Minister of Marine told me I might as well ask him to cut off his fathers head as to ask payment.

However on this subject I shall be better informed when they reply to my note. I believe that they may possibly put the debt upon their 5 pr Ct. loan which is now at 57. but will in that case fall considerably—so that at most the creditor after waiting many years will sink half his debt—but as they hint necessity has no Law. Their expenses exceed their income and the government is at this moment maintained by anticipations at an interest of from 12 to 18 pr Ct. Notwithstanding this apparent scarcity of money extravagance of every kind is at the highest pitch and every article of life double its former price. I must again mention that I recieve no Newspapers from America till after they are too old to be interesting except what I get from my private friends.12 The œconomy that forbids them to come from the seaports by post has rendered the sending them at all useless and they may as well remain in the Printers shops as at Bourdeaux or Nantes. The postage of news papers is very trifling if only put in wrappers. 7 papers will cost less than 6d. I have had one letter from Mr. Pinckney but it contains no information on the subject of Louisiana. The enclosed letter from Mr. Obrien13 having been sent open to me I availed myself of the information it contained by a communication of it to the Neapolitan Embassador who stands very well here urging the policy of availing himself of this moment of discontent with France England & Algiers to get the subject taken up at Amiens—where nothing has yet been concluded. You will remark a passage in General LeClercs communication to this government of which I am afraid I shall hear more.14 I am Dear Sir, with much consideration & respect your Mt. Obt. Hle. St

Robt R Livingston

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