James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 20 August 1805

From James Monroe

⟨No. 33⟩;

London August 20. 1805


I had an interview with Lord Mulgrave yesterday on the late seizure of ⟨ou⟩;r vessels,1 which I am sorry to observe presented the prospect of a less favorable ⟨r⟩;esult than I had anticipated from the preceeding one. He asserted the principle ⟨i⟩;n the fullest extent, that a neutral power had no right to a commerce, with the colonies of an enemy in time of war, which it had not in time of peace; and that ⟨e⟩;very extension of it in the former state, beyond the limit of the latter, was due to the concession of Great-Britain, not to the right of the neutral power. I denied ⟨t⟩;he principle in equal extent and insisted that G. Britain had no more right ⟨in⟩; war to interfere with or controul the commerce of a neutral power with the ⟨co⟩;lonies of an enemy, than she had in peace. As we could not agree on the ⟨p⟩;rinciple, I asked on what footing his government was willing to place the trade? His reply shewed that it was not disposed to relax in the slightest degree from the ⟨d⟩;octrine of the late decrees of the courts of admiralty and appeals; which go to ⟨cu⟩;t up completely by the roots the whole Commerce of the U. States in the produce ⟨of⟩; the colonies of its enemies, other than for the home consumption of their citizens. ⟨I⟩; urged in as strong terms as I could the objections which occurred to me to this ⟨p⟩;retention, but he shewed no disposition to accommodate, so that we parted⟨a⟩;s remote from an accord as possibly could be. I asked Lord Mulgrave ⟨wh⟩;ether I should consider the sentiments which he expressed as those of his ⟨go⟩;vernment? He said he had in the commencement expressed a desire that ⟨o⟩;ur conversations Should be considered rather as informal, than official, ⟨a⟩;s entered into more in the hope of producing an accord than in the expectation that we should ultimately disagree—that he was sorry to find that we could not agree; that however he should report the result to the cabinet, & ⟨gi⟩;ve me such an answer to my letters, for my government, of the views of his own, ⟨a⟩;s it might wish to be taken of its conduct and policy in this business. ⟨I⟩; do not state the arguments that were used in the conference on each side, because ⟨th⟩;ose of Lord Mulgrave will probably be furnished by himself, and you will ⟨re⟩;adily conceive those to which I resorted. What the ultimate decision of his government may be I cannot pretend to say. It is possible that he held the ⟨tone⟩; mentioned above, in the late conference, to see whether I could be prevailed ⟨on to⟩; accommodate with his views. It is difficult to believe that it will yeild ⟨no⟩; accommodation on its part to our just claims in the present State of pu⟨blick⟩; affairs.

In my former interview with Lord Mulgrave he informed me that I ⟨should⟩; find by the reports which he gave me, that most of the vessels had been dism⟨issed;⟩; and it appeared by the reports that some of them had been, one or two on the o⟨pinion⟩; of Docr Laurence counsel for the Captured, which had been taken in the a⟨bsence⟩; of the King’s proctor. I returned to him the reports to obtain copies for yo⟨u.⟩; Genl Lyman had informed me that others have been since dismissed, and as ⟨he⟩; thought some that had been seized on the new doctrine of Continuity of Voy⟨age;⟩; tho’ nothing to countenance such an expectation escaped from Lord Mu⟨lgrave⟩; in the last conference.

It is decided on consideration of all circumstances, that Mr Bowd⟨oin⟩; will repair to Paris where he will probably remain till he receives the ord⟨ers⟩; of the President, and that Mr Erving will proceed immediately to Mad⟨rid⟩; to relieve Mr. Pinckney. Mr Bowdoin by being on that ground will be ⟨more⟩; in the way of obeying such orders as he may receive than here; and bo⟨th he⟩; and Mr. Erving respectively may perhaps take their ground with greate⟨r⟩; propriety in this stage, while it is known that our government has not ⟨acted⟩; than afterwards. I am, Sir, with great respect and esteem, Your very obedt. ⟨Serv⟩;

Jas. Monroe

RC (DNA: RG 59, DD, Great Britain, vol. 12); RC (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 10A–D1); RC (DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages, 10B–B1); letterbook copy (DLC: Monroe Papers); extract (DLC: Monroe Papers). First RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Monroe. Words and parts of words in angle brackets in the first RC are supplied from the letterbook copy. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1For the seizure of U.S. ships, see Monroe to JM, 16 Aug. 1805, and n. 2.

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