James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert R. Livingston, 25 June 1803

From Robert R. Livingston

Paris 25th June 1803

Dear Sir

Inclosed is Mr. Skipwiths report upon Colonel Powels claim.1 I fully concur with him in opinion that he has no foundation for any demand upon this government. Should we make it we should doubtless invite the most serious ones upon our own. I also inclose an arrette of this government2 and a note that I have put in this day upon the subject.3 I have asked a conference with Consul Le Brun and will endeavour to convince him of the absurdity of the regulation as it respects France and its injustice as it respects neutral powers. The First Consul having left Paris this business will fall in the department of Consul Le Brun. I have translated the note that as Mr. Talleyrand & the minister of the interior are with the first Consul it may be submitted to his consideration. I also inclose a Note on the subject of the transportation of negroes to the United States with the ministers answer,4 the minister of the marine and the Colonies, being absent having preceeded the first Consul who will be out two months, nothing will be done in it ’till his return.

I have received your letter of the  5 with the Commissions &c. the duplicates and triplicates—Before this reaches you, you will have learned that they were unnecessary as they respected our negotiations. You will find by looking back to my letters that I had long anticipated something of this kind and I was greatly surprised when Mr Monroe came without it. I however in all my conversations held out the idea very strongly and you will see it hinted at in my notes & in my letters to J. B.6 so that it doubtless has had a considerable operation in bringing this government to the resolution they took before the arrival of Mr. Monroe to part with Louisiana. You will remember that in one of my letters, I request you to set on foot a negotiation with Britain for assertaining your North western boundary7 but not to come to any conclusion8 as I was at that time endeavouring to excite the alarm9 here that should put us in possession of the country above the Arkansas and I own I have felt very much distressed, that I never found any of these suggestions noticed or encouraged by our government, but presuming always that they ultimately would be, I have carefully concealed my want of powers and acted as decidedly as If I had possessed them, and to this as well as to the firm attitude that our government took, you may attribute the success of our negotiations. I hope in God that nothing will prevent your immediate ratification & without altering a syllable of the terms, if you wish anything changed, ratify unconditionally and set on foot a new negotiation. Be persuaded that France is sick of the bargain and that Spain is much dissatisfied and the slightest pretence will lose you the treaty. Nothing has raised the reputation of our Country in Europe so high as the conduct of our government upon this occasion, both at home and abroad. In pursuance of the wish expressed in your Letter, Mr. Monroe proceeds in a few days as your resident Minister plenipotentiary to England, for tho’ it was doubtful whether this was, or was not, intended to depend upon the contingency mentioned therein, yet as you were unrepresented there, & the War rendered some representation necessary we thought it most conformable to the presidents intention that he should go.

I would submit it to your consideration whether it would not be proper to establish packet boats to France during the war, private vessels will not charge themselves with Letters, or if they should, those they take will be inspected on both sides & our vessels running between New York and L’Orient would be able to sail the first day of every month, the officers and sailors you must keep in pay would render the expence trifling, and that expence would be fully paid by letters & passengers, while the Commerce of the Country would be very much benefited by the measure.

They have published in some of the papers here an account of a large American merchant Ship from Naples, having been taken by an Algerine Frigate after a severe engagement, that Wm. Smith was on board. Smith was at Naples and did design to go up the Mediterranean in a large American armed vessel, this gives colour to that report, but I have no letters confirming it, nor can I believe that we have any breach as yet with Algiers. If the report is founded, the Capture must have been made I think by a Tripolitain, or which is more probable by some British Cruzer.

The Consul has left Paris with four of the Ministers upon a tour that will detain him two months, in consequence of this the great body of the corps diplomatique will leave Paris and as nothing can be done in the line of business, I propose to embrace that opportunity to avail myself of the Presidents permission and make a tour in England for a few weeks. I shall stay however fir[s]t to arrange the business of our board and to give my forth of July dinner. My absence will relieve the Treasury a little & delay the drawing of the orders upon it in consequence of the Treaty, ’till it can have had time to make arrangement for receiving them. On the Consuls return many things will require the attention which I shall endeavour to give them.

Nothing can be more animated or united than this Nation on the subject of the war. They consider the conduct of England in the most odious light, and the endeavours of the first Consul to avoid a war have rendered him extremely popular. Some attempts are on foot for a negotiation under the mediation of Russia, but as the principals upon which England has gone to war must keep her from negotiating on the basis of the Treaty of Amiens, and France will treat on none other, nothing will come of it. Inclosed is Mr. Talleyrands letter anouncing the war & my reply.10 I am dear sir with the highest respect & consideration Your most Obt He Set

Robt R Livingston

P S: I send a letter & papers recd. from Genl Dumas11 on which I give no opinion the government or Ministers have never spoken to me on the subject

2d P. S. the above mentioned arreté from the french Govt is contained in the Moniteur herein enclosed

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