James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Charles Pinckney, 18 January 1803 (Abstract)

§ To Charles Pinckney

18 January 1803, Department of State. “My letters of Novr. 27th and Jany 10th communicated the information which had been received at those dates, relating to the violation at New Orleans of our Treaty with Spain; together with what had then passed between the House of Representatives and the Executive on the subject.… He has accordingly selected for this service, with the approbation of the Senate, Mr. Monroe formerly our Minister Plenipotentiary at Paris, and lately Governor of the State of Virginia, who will be joined with Mr Livingston in a Commission extraordinary to treat with the French Republic, and with yourself in a like Commission, to treat, if necessary with the Spanish Government.…1 From a letter received by the President from a respectable person, it is inferred with probability that the French Government is not averse to treat on those grounds, and such a disposition must be strengthened by the circumstances of the present moment.

“Though it is probable that this Mission will be completed at Paris, if its objects are at all attainable, yet it was necessary to apprize you thus far of what is contemplated both for your own satisfaction and that you may be prepared to co-operate on the occasion as circumstances may demand. Mr. Monroe will not be able to sail for two weeks or perhaps more.

“Of the letters written to you on the infraction of our rights at New Orleans, several copies have already been forwarded. Another is now inclosed.2 It is of the deepest importance that the Spanish Government should have as early an opportunity as possible of correcting and redressing the injury. If it should refuse or delay to do so, the most serious consequences are to be apprehended. The Government and people of the United States, are friendly to Spain, and know the full value of peace: but they know their rights also, and will maintain them. The Spirit of the nation is faithfully expressed in the resolution of the House of Representatives above referred to.3 You will make the proper use of it with the Spanish Government in accelerating the necessary orders to its officer at New Orleans, or in ascertaining the part it means to take on the occasion.

“The Convention with Spain is now before the Senate who have not come to a decision upon it. As soon as its fate is known I shall transmit you the necessary information.”4

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