James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 11 August 1811

To James Monroe

Mtpelier Aug. 11. 1811

Dear Sir

I snatch the opportunity by the bearer of yours of this date, to send to the Ct. House for the next rider who does not call here, the line you request in answer. As the report alluded to is erroneous as I supposed it to have been, a contradiction seemed to be due to the manner in which it was given to the public. Mr. Gales you will see has undertaken one which will probably be sufficient.1 Notwithstanding the late unseasonable as well as unwarrantable condemnations, it is best to pursue a steady course of fairness & truth towards that Govt. A more delicate question is whether, the same considerations both foreign & domestic, do not require the statement made by Mr. Gales as to the blockade of May 1806. to be now adapted to the disavowal of Mr. Foster, of the construction put on his communication on that subject.2 I regret much the injurious accident to your health. It is fortunate that its consequences are passing off. Yrs

James Madison

RC (DLC: Monroe Papers).

1The editor of the National Intelligencer, in noting the claims made in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser on 5 Aug. and also reporting that they had been repeated in the Baltimore Whig, stated that while he could not say that the charges of Foster’s insulting behavior were “contrary to fact,” he was sure that he would have heard of them had they been true. It was his belief, he wrote, that the interviews between Foster and Monroe had been “conducted in a perfectly decorous and friendly manner” (National Intelligencer, 8 Aug. 1811).

2On 25 July 1811 the editor of the National Intelligencer, in summarizing the month’s negotiations between Foster and Monroe, declared that “with respect to [the blockade of May 1806], it is understood to be placed under a construction and on a footing to render it no longer an insuperable difficulty.” This statement embodied a conclusion that Monroe had incorporated into his 23 July 1811 letter to Foster: that the president “has received with great satisfaction the communication, that, should the orders in council of 1807 be revoked, the blockade of May of the preceding year would cease with them, and that any blockade which should be afterwards instituted should be duly notified and maintained by an adequate force.” In his reply of 26 July Foster wrote that he was at a loss to understand how JM could have drawn from his letter “the unqualified inference, that should the orders in council of 1807 be revoked, the blockade of May, 1806, would cease with them.” Disavowing this interpretation, the British minister declared that “the blockade … will not continue after the repeal of the orders in council, unless His Majesty’s Government shall think fit to sustain it by the special application of a sufficient naval force; and the fact of its being so continued or not will be notified at the time” (see ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:442, 443).

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