James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Joy, 16 May 1812

From George Joy

May 16th: 1812.

Dear sir,

Mr. Maury has transmitted to you from time to time in M. S. and print the sheets of a work of which the commencement was enclosed in my letter to you of the 15th. of Feby. and I have given a discretionary authority to Mr. John Atkinson of New York to print it in America. I have since sent Mr. Maury M. S. copy of a smaller work entitled “A letter from a calm observer to a Noble Lord on the subject of the late declaration relative to the orders in Council”;1 but am not yet advised of his having had an opportunity to transmit it to you. Of both these I send you printed copy2 by this conveyance to the care of Mr Maury who will send you two other copies of the last by seperate ships. My object in writing this was in the first instance to send it in my own name to Lord Sidmouth who might recollect me though it is some years since I had any intercourse with him. The vibration of events occasioned some vacillation in my resolution to send it him: I was urged by a friend to commit it to the press and finally determined not without advice to adopt both measures. I therefore handed M. S. to his Lordship in a letter of the 5th. advising him that I had been persuaded to make it public under certain modifications which would prevent him being seen as the party to whom it was addressed. On the evening of the 11th. I heard the news of the assasination of Mr. Perceval3 received a number of copies of the last impression and a Note from Lord Sidmouth of which the following is copy all within an hour.

“Richmond Park
May the 10th. 1812.

Lord Sidmouth presents his Compliments to Mr. Joy, and returns him many thanks for the Communication with which he has favor’d him. Ld. S. would be glad to see Mr. Joy, if he could make it convenient to call upon him at N. 18. Charles Street, St. James Square, on Thursday Morning at eleven o’clock.”

To this, in consideration of the event that had intervened between the date and receipt of the note I sent an answer as follows.

“Mr. Joy presents respectful Complts. to Lord Sidmouth and will do himself the honor of waiting on his Lordship on Thursday unless he shall be in the mean time apprised that the melancholy event with which his Lordship cannot fail to be occupied should render it inconvenient.

[“]Mr. Joy takes the liberty to cover to Lord Sidmouth two printed copies of the letter enclosed to him in manuscript in which his Lordship will find no other alteration than as to what might have indicated the writer (page 1) and the person for whom it was intended (Page 13) except the Preface occasioned by subsequent events.”4

The alteration here noted is designated in the margin of one of the printed copies now sent you; to this I received the next day the following answer.

“18. Charles Street.
May the 13th. 1812.

Lord Sidmouth presents his Compliments to Mr. Joy, and is sorry to be under the necessity of postponing for a few Days, the Pleasure of seeing him.”

As there are two opportunities within the reach of this nights post I have thought it as well to advise you thus far though a few days will probably shew what or whether any result may be expected from this effort. To enable you to form a perspective opinion it is proper that I should also add that in my letter to Lord S. of the 5th. I assured him that though in my conscience I perceived in the public evidences of the disposition of the American Government enough to satisfy me of the sincere desire of that Government to maintain the relations of amity with this, yet it was not on these alone that my opinion was founded; for that I was so fully convinced of your personal dispositions in this respect that with all the increased difficulties that had lately occurred I was persuaded that proposals directly from the one Government to the other would succeed under a liberal discussion in healing the differences and renewing the intercourse of the two Countries in a just and reciprocally beneficial manner to which I should be happy to contribute any thing in my power either here or in crossing the ocean which I meditated. With a view to perspective also I hand you two notes passed between Lord Holland and myself the latter of which does not much favor the report of a change of administration5 on the particular subject of the former I have while writing received a letter from a member of the Birmingham Committee who has gone home advising me that he agrees with me that the subject “has been quite misunderstood by all the witnesses that have hitherto been examined, (adding,) that it is therefore of the greater consequence that those of the outports say, London, Liverpool, Bristol & Hull, should be correctly informed. That the chairman of the Birmingham deputation (deputy chairman of the General Committee) will call on me with an intelligent member of the Liverpool Committee for particulars.” I had already in sending a copy of the little Pamphlet to Mr. Brougham requested his particular attention to the third paragraph of the Preface.6

The error appears to be in the parties here having taken up as isolated the fourth paragraph of Mr. Monroes letter to Mr. Foster of the 26th. of July 1811.7 This letter, the true date of which I noted from the book lent me for a short time by Mr. Russel is in my copy as cut out of the Newspapers the 27th. of July and acknowledges receipt of a letter from Mr Foster of the preceding day (yesterdays date) ’tis evidently an answer to a letter of Mr. F. dated in my Copy the 24th.8 but appearing to acknowledge receipt of that of the 26th. in which (4th paragraph) Mr. Foster disavows any acknowledgement that the blockade would cease merely in consequence of a revocation of the orders in Council9 you will perceive the mistake that may occur to parties not investigating the whole subject nor perhaps noticing at all the reply of Mr. Monroe of Octr. 1st. 1811 (paragraph 15 as divided in the copy I have) the real answer to Mr Fosters letter of the 25th. of July.10 ’Tis curious how narrowly these subjects must be watched in their progress but I will not detain you with any remarks, save that the best advises I can obtain from France are so unfavorable to a satisfactory accomodation of the just demands upon that Government as to make it the more desirable if possible to obtain an adjustment here.

I think it right to place these facts before you as they are but I should think it wrong to hold out any encouragement further than the mere matter of fact accompanied with the draw backs which former difficulties portend, may render prudent. I rest, always Very respectfully, Dear sir, Your Friend and Servant.

Geo: Joy.

P. S. Indisposition, as the remains of my Danish Complaint having confined me to my lodging for the most of the last 6 weeks, has prevented my seeing several individuals on these subjects, am now nearly well and out tho’ not far every fine day.

RC and enclosures (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Joy. For surviving enclosures, see an. 1, 2, and 5.

1This “smaller work” was a sixteen-page pamphlet, American Question: A Letter, from a Calm Observer, to a Noble Lord, on the Subject of the Late Declaration Relative to the Orders in Council, which Joy had published in London under a 24 Apr. 1812 dateline. Its contents continued the discussion of Anglo-American disputes that Joy had argued at greater length in his earlier pamphlet, The Dispute with America, Considered in a Series of Letters from a Cosmopolite to a Clergyman. According to the preface of the smaller pamphlet, Joy’s motive for publishing it was to refute a tactic he anticipated that the Perceval ministry might resort to even if it did repeal the orders in council, namely “that a discrimination is intended to be advanced between the Orders in Council, and the notification of blockade of the 16th of May, 1806; and in order to trip the advocates for peace and free commercial intercourse with the United States, the importance of maintaining our maritime rights will be prostituted in an unrighteous contest, in which the false pretence of a desire to invade or diminish them on the part of that government will be as usual unblushingly asserted.” Irrespective of whether the notification of the May 1806 blockade was to be considered as equivalent to an order in council or whether it was regarded as having been merged in the subsequent order in council of January 1807, “there is no doubt,” Joy continued, “that its existence in the shape of a mere proclamation blockade is incompatible with the conditions upon which alone the President is authorised to restore the intercourse between the two countries.” For that reason much of the “Calm Observer” letter was taken up with the definition of what constituted a legal blockade and in particular with how JM might understand that issue on the basis of his treatment of it in his diplomatic correspondence as secretary of state.

2In addition to the printed copy of Joy’s “Calm Observer” pamphlet filed with the RC, there is a copy in the collection of Madison pamphlets held in the Special Collections Department of the University of Virginia Library.

3In the early evening of 11 May 1812 Spencer Perceval was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons by John Bellingham, a disgruntled mercantile clerk who had spent five years in prison for debt in Russia, a misfortune which he attributed to the ministry. After his repeated petitions to both ministers and Parliament for redress had failed, Bellingham apparently concluded that he was justified in taking matters into his own hands. The death of Perceval precipitated a political crisis which was not resolved until 8 June, when the prince regent reconstituted Perceval’s cabinet under the leadership of Lord Liverpool (Gray, Spencer Perceval, pp. 455–58, 465; Watson, The Reign of George III, pp. 497–500).

4Joy was presumably referring to the printed version of A Letter from a Calm Observer to a Noble Lord.

5Joy enclosed copies of a letter he had written to Lord Holland on 12 May 1812 and Holland’s reply of 14 May 1812. The first page, or pages, of Joy’s letter to Holland has not been found, but the subject matter of the surviving final page is similar to the theme Joy had sounded in the preface of his Letter from a Calm Observer to a Noble Lord, namely that the ministry would have to revoke both the orders in council and Fox’s blockade of May 1806 in order to permit JM to issue a proclamation ending the nonimportation policy against Great Britain. Recent debates in the House of Commons had led Joy to conclude that several opponents of the orders in council in Great Britain believed that the removal of the orders alone would be sufficient to restore trade with America. This belief, Joy warned, was based on a misreading of Monroe’s diplomatic correspondence with Foster over the summer of 1811, particularly Monroe’s 27 [26] July 1811 letter to the British minister. Holland’s two-page reply expressed the fear that “all endeavours to avert an American war will … come too late,” and he thought that neither the U.S. nor Great Britain was as eager for peace as the interests of their peoples required. The chance for peace, Holland concluded, had been lost, though he wished to see “the experiment of conciliatory measures fairly tried as it certainly ought to be before recourse is had to hostilities.”

6For the third paragraph of the preface to the Letter from a Calm Observer to a Noble Lord, see n. 1, above.

7The paragraph cited by Joy reads: “It is in the power of the British Government, at this time, to enable the President to set the non-importation law aside, by rendering to the United States an act of justice. If Great Britain will cease to violate their neutral rights by revoking her orders in council, on which event alone the President has the power, I am instructed to inform you that he will, without delay, exercise it by terminating the operation of this law” (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, 3:443).

8For Foster’s 24 July 1811 letter to Monroe, see ibid., 3:442.

9In the fourth paragraph of his 26 July 1811 letter to Monroe, Foster declared that he was “wholly at a loss to find out” how JM had drawn “the unqualified inference, that should the orders in council of 1807 be revoked, the blockade of May, 1806, would cease with them” (ibid., 3:443).

10In the paragraph mentioned by Joy, Monroe had observed to Foster on the basis of the 3 July 1811 letter he had received from the British minister that “the blockade of May, 1806, had been included in the more comprehensive system of the orders in council of the following year, and that, if that blockade should be continued in force after the repeal of the orders in council, it would be in consequence of the special application of a sufficient naval force.” Monroe therefore inferred that “the repeal of the orders in council would necessarily involve the repeal of the blockade of May.” “I was the more readily induced to make this inference,” Monroe continued, “from the consideration, that, if the blockade was not revoked by the repeal of the orders in council, there would be no necessity for giving notice that it would be continued, as by the further consideration, that, according to the decision of your Court of Admiralty, a blockade instituted by proclamation does not cease by the removal of the force applied to it, nor without a formal notice by the Government to that effect” (ibid., 3:446).

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