James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Quincy Adams, 19 April 1811

From John Quincy Adams


April 19 [1811]

Since I had the honor of writing you last on the 8th February I have been informed that a commission has been sent to Count Pahlen for a temporary mission to the court of Brazil and that an optional authority is given him to go there immediately if he thinks proper. He is not however recalled from his mission to the United States and during his absence he is to leave Mr. Politico as chargé des affaires.1

The minister plenipotentiary from the Court of Brezil whose destination to this place was announced last October has not yet arrived but is expected as soon as the navigation will be free. In the mean time the Treaty between the two Governments rests suspended. I informed the Secretary of State of the arrangement which was concluded about this time last year and which was to continue in force untill the 11th: of March last.2 The continuance of this arrangement for another year was agreed upon by Count Romanzoff with the Portugueze Chargé des Affairs—but is left unfinished owing to some recent incidents, untill the arrival of the Minister.3

These incidents probably arose from the situation of the relations between Russia and France which threaten an immediate war. The preparations for this event on the part of Russia have been great and incessant during the whole winter. I have not however until very recently expected that it would commence this spring nor do I yet consider it as inevitable but as at least extremely probable. There are perhaps secret negotiations already in train with England and the Spanish Cortes government have offered assistance in money to Russia to maintain the war. Should it break out Count Romanzoff will4 retire from the administration. The war will effect a great commercial revolution in the north of Europe. Of its probable issue it would not become me now to speak. At this moment Russia is undoubtedly of the two parties the best prepared but the power of France and the manner in which the French emperor always makes war lead to the expectation that his movements will be rapid and his efforts powerful. The war may not be long.

RC (DLC: John Quincy Adams Letters and Papers); letterbook copy (MHi: Adams Family Papers). RC unsigned. Docketed by JM, “April 19. 1811.” Italicized passages are those encoded by Adams and decoded here by the editors using a partial key (see Adams to JM, 7 Jan. 1811, n.). The coded passages were decoded by John Graham in a separate three-page transcript, docketed by JM (DLC: John Quincy Adams Letters and Papers). Letterbook copy not encoded. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1Petr Ivanovich Poletika (1778–1849) was counselor of the Russian legation in Philadelphia, 1809–11. He later published a book on his experiences in the U.S. which was translated in Baltimore in 1826 as A Sketch of the Internal Conditions of the United States and Their Political Relations with Europe. By a Russian (see Bashkina et al., The United States and Russia, p. 1137; Nikolai N. Bolkhovitinov, The Beginnings of Russian-American Relations, 1775–1815, trans. Elana Levin [Cambridge, Mass., 1975], pp. 347–48).

2See Adams to Robert Smith, 24 Mar. 1810 (Ford, Writings of J. Q. Adams description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., The Writings of John Quincy Adams (7 vols.; New York, 1913–17). description ends , 3:407–10).

3Russia was interested in developing direct trading links with the Latin American colonies of Portugal and Spain in order to alleviate the shortage of imports that had resulted from the adherence of Alexander I to the Continental System. Foreign minister Count Nikolai P. Rumiantsev had opened negotiations for this purpose in 1809 with the Portuguese chargé d’affaires, Rodrigo Navarro de Andrade (Russell H. Bartley, Imperial Russia and the Struggle for Latin American Independence, 1808–1828 [Austin, Tex., 1978], pp. 42–49). Adams believed the issue was of interest to Americans since he suspected that the terms Rumiantsev negotiated with Portugal would set a precedent for the treaty of commerce that Russia was also seeking with the U.S. (see Adams to the secretary of state, 29 Apr. 1811, Ford, Writings of J. Q. Adams description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., The Writings of John Quincy Adams (7 vols.; New York, 1913–17). description ends , 4:59–63).

4Both John Graham’s decoding and the letterbook copy have “immediately” here.

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