James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Albert Gallatin, 14 September 1811

To Albert Gallatin

Montpelier Sepr. 14. 1811.

Dear Sir

The inclosed Letter was brought to me by the young gentleman in whose behalf it was written. He had other respectable recommendations addressed to you, which he has doubtless forwarded: His personal appearance does not make against him. He therefore stands in fair comparison with the other candidates to be taken into view, and who are better known to you than to me.

The accounts by the Jno. Adams fortify the ground on which we stand as to the cessation of the F. Decrees:1 but are liable to unfavorable remarks in several points of view. It is evident however, that there is an increasing desire in the French Govt. to be thought well disposed towards us; the policy of which particularly at the present moment explains itself. Mr. Foster in pursuance of instructions by the special messenger, has put in a formal demand of disavowal & reparation of the affair of the little Belt;2 accompanying it with a copy of the instructions under which Bingham cruised.3 The answer of Mr. Monroe refers to & repeats the explanation given at Washington; adhering to the ground on which no notice of the case, beyond a disavowal of hostile orders, could be taken without the obvious preliminary on the part of the B. Govt.4 The tenor of the instructions to Bingham, and the manner of their communication, afforded an apt occasion, for expressing the disposition here to meet every proof of an amicable one on the other side, in the way most suited to a favorable & general adjustment of differences. Late communications from Mr. Erving shew that the Danish depredations have ceased & that the loss on the whole will be so reduced as to form no essential proportion to what was threatened.5 The cases on which the D. Govt. was most inflexible were those in which our Vessels had availed themselves of B. Convoy. Most of them appeared to be desperate.

We are just setting out on a visit for 2 or 3 days to Monticello. Mr. Jefferson was with us a week or two ago; and seemed to enjoy good health, with the exception of a troublesome rheumatic affection near the hip.

Mrs. Madison offers Mrs. Gallatin her Affectionate respects. Be pleased to add mine, & to accept them for yourself.

James Madison

RC (NHi: Gallatin Papers). Cover marked “private” by JM. Enclosure not found.

3The instructions of Rear Admiral Herbert Sawyer to Capt. Arthur Batt Bingham of the Lille Belt on 19 Apr. 1811 directed him to deliver a packet to the British vessel Guerriere, either off Charleston or the Virginia capes or off New York. Failing that, Bingham was to cruise for as long as his supplies lasted before heading back to Halifax. While cruising, he was to pay due regard to protecting British trade and to the destruction of enemy vessels. He was to be “particularly careful not to give any just cause of offence to the Government or subjects of the United States of America, and to give very particular orders to this effect to the officers you may have occasion to send on board ships under the American flag.” Nor was he to “anchor in any of the American ports but in case of absolute necessity” (enclosed in Foster to Monroe, 4 Sept. 1811, 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, 3:475).

4In responding to Foster’s demand on 14 Sept., Monroe reminded the British minister that on two earlier occasions, on 2 and 16 July 1811, he had already stated that Commodore Rodgers had not been sailing under orders to reclaim impressed American seamen from British vessels and that he had made these statements “in order to obviate misapprehensions which might obstruct any conciliatory and satisfactory propositions with which you might be charged.” Monroe added that the circumstances of the encounter between the Lille Belt and the President, as the administration understood them, might equally well entitle the U.S. to demand redress from the British government, and he further noted that five years had now elapsed without the U.S. receiving the reparations owed to it in the case of the Chesapeake. With regard to Captain Bingham’s situation, Monroe concluded by reporting that JM saw in Sawyer’s instructions “a token of amity and conciliation which, if pursued in the extent corresponding with that in which these sentiments are entertained by the United States, must hasten a termination of every controversy which has so long subsisted between the two countries” (ibid., 3:476).

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