James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 20 March 1811

To James Monroe

private & confidential

Washington Mar. 20. 1811

Dear Sir

I may perhaps consult too much my own wishes public & personal, and too little a proper estimate of yours, in intimating the near approach of a vacancy in the Department of State,1 which will present to your comparison, as far as lies with me, that sphere for your patriotic services, with the one in which they are now rendered.2 Should such a transfer of them be inadmissible or ineligible, on whatever considerations, this communication, will I am sure be viewed in the light, to which its motives entitle it, and may rest in confidence between us.3 In a contrary result, be so good as to let me have your agreeable determination as soon as possible. Permit me to add that even in this result, it will be best for reasons reserved for personal explanation, that the precise turn of the communication, may be confidential.

I am the more anxious to hear from you as soon as possible, since besides the more obvious calls for it, the business of that Dept. is rendered by the present conjuncture, peculiarly urgent as well as important. It would be of the greatest advantage, if it could be in the hands which are to dispose of it, in about two weeks from this date, and receive a close attention for a short period thence ensuing. It is probable that an interval of relaxation would thereby be rendered consistent with the public interest. Accept assurances of my great esteem and sincere friendship

James Madison

RC (DLC). Docketed by Monroe.

1JM had requested the resignation of Robert Smith on 19 Mar. 1811 (see Memorandum on Robert Smith, ca. 11 Apr. 1811, and nn. 2, 3).

2Monroe had been elected governor of Virginia on 16 Jan. 1811 (Ammon, James Monroe, p. 286).

3Monroe had already been alerted to the possibility that he would be appointed secretary of state in a letter he had received from Senator Richard Brent of Virginia on 14 Mar. 1811. Although he had not been “expressly authorised” to offer Monroe the position, Brent mentioned that he had been consulted for his opinion as to whether Monroe would accept such an offer. Brent further stated that he was sure Monroe would be offered the appointment after he had authorized Brent to say that he would accept. However, Monroe did not respond to Brent’s letter of inquiry until 18 Mar., and Brent did not convey Monroe’s response to Washington until 22 Mar. (Brent to Monroe, ca. 10 Mar. 1811 [DLC: Monroe Papers]; Monroe to Brent, 18 Mar. 1811, and Brent to Gallatin, 22 Mar. 1811, Papers of Gallatin [microfilm ed.], reel 22).

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