James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Sylvanus Bourne, 12 July 1805 (Abstract)

From Sylvanus Bourne, 12 July 1805 (Abstract)

§ From Sylvanus Bourne. 12 July 1805, Amsterdam. “You will not I hope that on accot of the many letters I have lately addressed you1 in reply to yours of May 23 be disposed to apply to my Case the allusion conveyed by the french proverb which says Celui qui s’excuse s’accuse.

“I have indeed Suffered infinite pain & mortification that you Should for a moment have had an unfavorable impression in my regard in the transaction alluded to; and it is not to be wondered at that my nerves which have been wire drawn by a Series of almost unparrelled misfortunes & dissappointments for ten years past Should be affected on a Subject so unpleasant in its prima facie view & by which I might in the least degree have impaired that confidence in your mind & that of my fellow Citizens at large which it has ever been my desire to cultivate & my pride to have possessed & on which depend the only sure means I have (since the failure of my commercial house) for the support of a truly distressed family.2

“I therefore do trust that from the explanation given, you will be Completely satisfied that I have not done or contemplated doing any thing which could militate with my public duty or priva⟨te⟩; faith—& that I shall continue to possess unimpaire⟩;d the confidence of my Govt which I shall ever keep myself worthy of by a correct & faithfull discha⟨rge⟩; of every obligation imposed by my Official positi⟨on⟩;.”

Adds in a postscript: “My Antagonist has been heard to Say that he woud Spend ƒ20,000 to ruin me—Should I meet the disapprobation so far as to lose its confidence it would ruin me indeed & fullfill his views at a cheaper rate & afford him a complete triumph.

“Even allowing for a moment that my views had been impure a most substantial, pub⟨lic⟩; good has been effected—of which our trade must long feel the advantages—this is the uniform & unbiassed opinion of all americans coming here.”

RC, two copies (DNA: RG 59, CD, Amsterdam, vol. 1). First RC 3 pp.; marked “Copy”; docketed by Wagner as received 20 Sept. Second RC marked “private”; docketed by Wagner. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1See Bourne to JM, 6, 8, and 10 July 1805.

2From this point the RC marked “private” reads: “consisting of two motherless infants—my aged mother & a Sister & you may believe me when I say that was I recalled to morrow—I doubt of having a Surplus after settling my affairs here, sufficient to pay my passage to the U.States—unpleasant even as this position may be I am still of opinion that you ought not to continue me a day longer provided you believe me to have violated the principles of public duty or private faith—but I flatter myself you will on a view of the whole case regard it in its true & unaffe⟨cted⟩; light—viz—That as the person in question had my public Confidence at the time proved by my leaving the Consular Powers with him—it was not unnatural that I should hav⟨e⟩; proposed to him a connection in my private Affairs & that th⟨e⟩; idea was suggested & supported by the following Circumstance⟨s⟩; viz that as he was the person who first introduced me to the acquaintance of my late partner I had reason to suppos⟨e⟩; he might be inclined, to an arrangment which might end⟨eavor⟩; to revive the decaying prospects of L & B—which he would hav⟨e⟩; in his power to do by recommending commercial buisness which a Broker from his position has often opportunity to do as it is not customary for Brokers to transact such themselves—in short I thought to make Such an arrangment as might help my house out of its embarrassments—but you ca⟨n⟩; never believe that I should have proposed any connection a⟨t⟩; all with him had I hence been aware that matters were conducted by him as explained in my former letters—the uniform tenor of my conduct through life precludes such a belief or opinion altogether—& in respect to the junct⟨ure?⟩; of the Consular Powers I meant nothing more than for the convenience of the merchants & of the buisness generally to give him the character of Secy. or Chancellor as is practised by many of our Consuls in France but nothing thereby was intended or could operate to divert the Consular Powers from their true & proper Channell nor endanger my responsibility or the public interest or incur one farthing’s aditional charge on our trade. Justice claims this intrepretation as the one due to the purity of my views & motives—such I doubt not you will be disposed to give—& that I shall remain in the full & unimpaired possession of your Confidence & you may rely that I shall continue to fullfill the duties of my Office as I have ever done with integrity & application to those duties in the most correct & rigid purity.

“I solicit your excuse for the trouble I have given you herein.”

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