James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tench Coxe (Abstract), 7 June 1805

§ From Tench Coxe

7 June 1805, Philadelphia. “Shortly before Mr. Adams[’]s mission of Messrs. Gerry, Pinckney & Marshall to France1 my solicitudes to avoid a quarrel with that country brought into my mind many considerations, which I was anxious to communicate to the government. I wrote an ingenerous but respectful letter to Mr. Adams, of which I have some where the rough draught, and inclosed in it the paper of which I have now the honor to send you a copy.2 The subject of an arrangement with great Britain is now supposed to be under consideration, and war between that country & France continues, wherefore it is possible that this paper may be of some little use.

“The third article about impressments of our citizens continues to be deeply interesting. I am satisfied that G. Britain does not mean to recede from it, and that she will contend that impressment of her own citizens is a constitutional right of her Government—that our protections ought not to be of any avail because we give them to men who are unalterably native British Subjects, & that tho England naturalizes & denizenizes foreigners, she has never asserted the principle of protecting them against the state of their native allegiance.

“It is of great consequence to England in respect to our country that she should not at this time from passion’s interest or necessity force unreasonable doctrines upon our country before the Eyes of our citizens.”

RC (DLC). 2 pp.; marked “(private)”; docketed by JM: “as to a Treaty with G.B. particularly on the subject of impressment.”

1For the appointment of Elbridge Gerry, John Marshall, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as envoys to France in the summer of 1797, see PJM, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77; vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends 17:12 n. 5, 27 and n. 3.

2The enclosure has not been found, but on 10 May 1797 Coxe wrote to John Adams saying that some government officials were claiming that the French had originated the practice of seizing neutral ships, and enclosing the paper which he referred to in his draft as “concerning the Question ‘whether England or France originated the Business of neutral Spoliation’” (MHi: Adams Papers [microfilm ed.], reel 118; PHi: Papers of Tench Coxe [microfilm ed.], reel 65).

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