James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert R. Livingston, 1 September 1802

From Robert R. Livingston

(No. 22)

Paris 1st. September 1802

Dear Sir,

I yesterday made several propositions to the Minister on the subject of Louisiana. He told me frankly that every offer was premature, that the French Government had determined to take possession first—so that you must consider the business as absolutely determined on. The armament is what I have already mentioned and will be ready in about six weeks. I have every reason to believe the Floridas are not included. They will for the present at least remain in the hands of Spain. There never was a government in which less could be done by negotiation than here. There is no people no legislature no counselors one man is every thing—he seldom asks advice and never hears it unasked—his ministers are mere clerks & his legislature & counselors parade of ⟨ficers. Tho the sense⟩ of every reflecting man about him is against this wild expedition no one dares to tell him so. Were it not for the uneasiness it excites at home it would give me none for I am persuaded that the whole will end in a relinquishment of the country and transfer of the Capital to the United States. Their islands call for much more than France can ever furnish. The extreme hauteur of this government to all around them will not suffer peace to be of long continuance. The French Minister at Lisbon it is said is coming home without taking leave. England is very sour. The debts due the Northern powers unpaid as well as ours tho’ their justice is admitted. Helvetia is still in arms the little Cantons not acceding to the new form of government.1 I propose to make an excursion of about 15 days into the low countries—as I find nothing pressing at this moment here that I can forward by my stay. I am Dear Sir, with much esteem and respect your Obt. Hle. St.

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