James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Gilmor and Others, 1 April 1811 (Abstract)

§ From Robert Gilmor and Others

1 April 1811, Baltimore. “The Commerce of the United States with the River La Plata, has become very lucrative, and important, and the present ruling Power of that Country is well disposed to give greater Latitude and Freedom to it, if it should appear to be a desirable Event.” The subscribers lament the “present calamitous Situation” with respect to the European belligerents and despair of the return of free navigation so long as the war continues. They believe it worthwhile for the U.S. to “improve the present auspicious Appearances in part of our own Hemisphere” and suggest that a consul or commercial agent residing at Buenos Aires or Montevideo would be of essential service. They recommend Luis Godefroy, a merchant of Montevideo, for the position. “He not only receives Him [the American] with Hospitality & Kindness, but is his Protector against the Rapacity of corrupt Officers.… He is now in this Country, and admires, and is attached to our Form of Government.” The subscribers recommend him to the president and “solicit that He may be appointed Consul or Commercial Agent for Monte Video, Buenos Ayres, and other Ports in the River La Plata.”1

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17, filed under “Godefroy”). 4 pp. Signed by Gilmor and twenty-seven others, including Robert and John Oliver, and endorsed by Alexander McKim with a note to the effect that the subscribers were worthy of confidence. Addressee not indicated.

1JM gave Godefroy an interim appointment as consul for Buenos Aires and all other ports below that place on the Río de la Plata on 30 Apr. 1811. At the same time he elevated Joel Roberts Poinsett to the position of consul general to the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chile, and Peru. On 13 Nov. 1811 JM sent Godefroy’s name to the Senate for confirmation, only to see the Senate reject the appointment as “inexpedient” five days later (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:188, 190; William Spence Robertson, “Documents concerning the Consular Service of the United States in Latin America,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 2 [1916]: 567). This rejection appears to have resulted from the efforts of David Curtis DeForest, a Connecticut merchant based in Buenos Aires, who arrived in Washington in early May 1811 to seek the position that JM had just conferred on Godefroy. DeForest bitterly protested the appointment of the French-born Godefroy to both JM and Monroe; and after they declined to reconsider the matter, he succeeded, much to JM’s annoyance, in persuading the U.S. senators from Connecticut, Samuel Dana and Chauncey Goodrich, to defeat the nomination (see DeForest to Monroe, 2 and 4 May, 8 June, and 12 July 1811, and DeForest to [Dana or Goodrich?], 22 Oct. 1811 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Benjamin Keen, David Curtis DeForest and the Revolution of Buenos Aires [New Haven, 1947], pp. 56, 57, 84, 85).

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