James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong (Abstract), 6 May 1805

§ From John Armstrong

6 May 1805, Paris. “Intending to write in a few days by another conveyance, I now but enclose Copies of three letters from Mr. Monroe & my answers.1 The drawing of the Bills began on the 3d. instant.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, DD, France, vol. 10); letterbook copy of first enclosure (NN: Monroe Papers, “Correspondence Relative to the Negotiations at Madrid”). RC 1 p.; docketed by Wagner as received 5 July 1805. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1The enclosures (6 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received in Armstrong’s 6 May dispatch) are copies of (1) Monroe to Armstrong (undated; letterbook copy dated 31 Mar. 1805), stating his and Pinckney’s belief that Talleyrand was not representing the American position on Louisiana correctly to Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, Jean-Jacques Cambacérès, and Charles-François Lebrun, or to François Barbé-Marbois, approving of Armstrong’s communicating that information through Joseph, suggesting that he approach the others also, and mentioning that a courier had left for Paris that day possibly in consequence of their note to Cevallos of the previous day (for that note, see ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:657); (2) Monroe to Armstrong, 4 Apr. 1805, saying that the hands of the Spanish government were tied and that France might make an offer to mediate, acceptance of which would leave the United States at France’s mercy; (3) Monroe to Armstrong, 16 Apr. 1805, reporting that he and Pinckney had received Cevallos’s answer suggesting that the western boundary of Louisiana be considerably closer to the Mississippi than the Americans wished, which greatly reduced the extent of that region, suggesting again that France might offer to mediate if negotiations in Madrid failed, asking if there was a chance American vessels in France, Spain, and Holland might be embargoed in case of such a failure, and musing that in that event it might be better to continue negotiations; and (4) Armstrong’s 4 May 1805 reply to Monroe, acknowledging receipt of Monroe’s letters, stating that he had submitted copies of Monroe and Pinckney’s correspondence with Cevallos to Barbé-Marbois, who had advised against communicating them to Cambacérès and Lebrun, suggesting that the latter two “may be willing to hear, what they would not have chosen to read,” disagreeing with Monroe’s suggestion that Talleyrand had held back information from Napoleon since both Monroe’s note and the papers from the U.S. State Department had been presented, and reporting that Spain’s position on the western boundary of Louisiana had been known in France before Napoleon’s departure for Italy but had not, as Monroe suggested, originated in France. Armstrong stated that the French would probably not soon make any proposals to mediate, since they intended to let relations between Spain and the United States deteriorate further when they would step in to prevent a war, that Spain and the United States would “be a couple of oranges in her hands: which She will squeeze at pleasure, and against each other, and that which yields the most will be the best served; or rather the least injured,” that there was no danger of an embargo on U.S. ships in France or Holland, since France wished no quarrel with the United States, although she would take Spain’s side should a war break out, and that the United States should seize the northern bank of the Rio Grande, which would expedite a favorable close to Monroe’s negotiations. Armstrong added that the French hoped the movements of the allied naval squadron would result in a change of ministry in England, which “will produce a peace,” and noted that the “Court of Vienna” had made no reply to news of Napoleon’s changes in Italy, that Prussia had “answered equivocally,” that Count Cobenzl was believed to be recalled, and that Armstrong and the Danish minister were the only diplomats left in Paris, since all but Cobenzl had followed Napoleon to Milan, where he was expected to remain until September.

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