James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Joy, 19 September 1812

From George Joy

London Septr: 19th. 1812.

Dear sir,

Mr. Maury has transmitted to Monroe M.S. copy of a peice that I had the good fortune to get into the Times of the 24th. Ult.1 I am not advised of his having had an opportunity of sending the enclosed rejoinder to a note of the Editor thereon which however he has refused to insert from, among other things, “the absolute want of room for new correspondents when the Journal cannot afford space even to its old ones, whose opinions are congenial to its spirit.”2 Such is his reply to a mercantile house in the city (Messrs. Mullett & Co.) through whom it was conveyed to him without announcing the Author.

Sir Wm. Scotts judgment on the Snipe3 is rich in evidence of the necessity for a tribunal differently constructed to decide ultimately on these subjects. I have noted largely upon it with a view to publication in case of need. But while the door is open to a proposition for a mode of adjustment which may not incur his powerful opposition; the severity of censure is best repressed. If, as I observed many years ago, the redress of injury is to be preferred to the revenge of insult; and the former only to be applied as subsidiary to the latter; the irritation of individuals is not to be excited at the expence of the property of our fellow citizens; & least of all is the gratification of the individual instead of his punishment to be thus blindly promoted. If the great end is to be obtained by the retreat of the enemy without annoyance let him back out in God’s name. It is with a view to this conciliatory mode of adjustment that I have referred, in the enclosed note to Lord Sidmouth, to Mr Forster’s late correspondence with Mr Monroe on the subject of impressments.4 And though I have since been informed that Lord Castlereagh has said it was unauthorized, yet as he himself has certainly made use of it in parliament as an evidence of the desire of this Government to come to a reasonable adjustment with us on that head, I would willingly leave it as a pretext if they are desposed to make it such.

The object of my meeting Lord S. referred to in the within and on which among other things I spent an hour with him about three weeks ago was to deprecate the admission of Mr Canning into the Cabinet (which I had heard from pretty good authority was in serious contemplation) while the hope of conciliation with America remained. I referred him to an extract from the National Intelligencer in the Morning Chronicle of the 8th. Novr: 1808 “We pronounce this charge a gross and palpable falsehood” &c5 and to an unsatisfactory apology in a note from Canning that Mr Pinkney read to me at the time.6 I also mentioned a conversation I had had with Count Bernstorff, in which he charged C. with that gross misrepresentation which destroyed all confidence. And though I had little faith in the report of Mr Thornton going to Denmark,7 and still less in his effecting any thing, I stated my apprehension that as well there, as with us, his (Mr C.’s) coming into office would be considered as a signal of hostility.8 It is now pretty certain that he will not be employed before the meeting of parliament; and whether he will then or not is doubtful.

I have considered the insertion of the above mentioned peice in the Times as fortunate; because the effects of it in promoting a change of opinion in many quarters were immediately announced to me. I was not aware in time to justify the anticipation of any good effects, of the influence of my former publications. Indeed, I have now reason to believe that efforts were made to suppress the conviction produced by them in places of some consideration. Could I have anticipated this, I should not from a false delicacy have been backward to announce it. Without better evidence of it than any that fell in my way it would have been wrong, as well as indecent, to have promised any thing from them. Indeed, I have very little to boast either as a prophet or a priest; for both the court of Admiralty, and Parliament have passed over the subject of the date of the French decree of April 1811 without noticeing the obvious inconsistency of its want of promulgation with the requisites of the Duke de Cadore’s letter of the 5th. of Aug: 1810 although the former has quoted that very letter; and in contempt of my salutary intimation (Letter to a Noble Lord page 4.) has in that quotation omitted the words that I had marked in Italics.9 The Duke of Sussex too, who is a reading man, and with whom I spent an hour last week, mortified me by observing that we claimed the privilege of free ships free goods, although I had sent him, at the time it was published, under a blank cover, a copy of said letter which I now acknowledged was my own. I am however not easily mortified, nor discouraged in the pursuit of what I think right and I shall continue my endeavours to get rid of this abominable impressment of seamen, though a source of that emolument which would fall to me in the situation I have proposed for myself. I rest always most truly, Dear sir, Your friend and servt.

Geo: Joy.

RC and enclosures (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Joy; postmarked Baltimore, 3 Dec. Note on cover reads: “Custom House Baltime Decr 3 1812 / Recd & forwd by J H McC.” Docketed by JM, “Joy Geo. 19 & 21. Sep. 1812.” For enclosures, see nn. 2 and 4.

1In his 20 Aug. 1812 dispatch, James Maury had enclosed six manuscript pages of an article that appeared above the signature of “A Cosmopolite” in the London Times on 24 Aug. 1812 (DNA: RG 59, CD, Liverpool). Joy’s article, couched as a response to a critique of JM’s 1 June message to Congress that had been printed in the same paper on 12 Aug., took issue with the notion that impressment was insufficient grounds for war. Joy denied the charge that the U.S. had long been willing to tolerate impressment, arguing that neither JM nor his predecessors had been “content to be passive on the subject for one moment,” in spite of their desire to maintain favorable relations with Great Britain. Instead, Joy faulted Great Britain for failing to redress the grievance in light of its disavowal of any right to impress native-born Americans. Nor, he argued, could it be proved that the U.S. had given cause for impressment by encouraging the desertion of British seamen. Joy explained that, on the contrary, the U.S. had declared a willingness to aid in the discovery and return of British sailors as part of an agreement to protect the rights of its own. Joy observed that while British naturalization laws were designed to recruit foreign seamen, British sailors could find no inducement in American naturalization practices to defect. He concluded that since few British seamen were actually recovered during searches on the high seas, their recovery could not be the true object of such acts, which “so often deprived the American ship of her own proper seamen, and left her not unfrequently with an insufficient crew to keep her off a lee-shore.”

Joy also took exception to the implication in the earlier article that U.S. policy was guided by French influence. He argued that JM had taken pains to point out French transgressions on American maritime rights and had stated publicly that the U.S. should avoid entangling alliances with foreign powers. Joy expressed the hope that British policy makers would “perceive, which is the true fact, that Americans are not Frenchmen; neither are American principles French principles.”

2Joy enclosed an unpublished response (3 pp.) to the charge of French influence on American policy, which appears to have been inspired by an extract from a meeting of the citizens of Columbia County, New York, published in the 24 Aug. London Times. The meeting had objected to the war because it connected the destinies of Americans “with those of the French Empire.” Though France stood to gain from a war between Great Britain and the U.S., it was Joy’s opinion that such an outcome was not an object of the war. He observed that JM had urged Congress to avoid entanglements “in the interests or views of other powers.” He pointed to the willingness of the Senate to support a war against France as further evidence of his point, referring to his published pamphlets on the subject of British-American relations for further treatment of this matter.

3In his 30 July 1812 opinion in the case of the Snipe, Sir William Scott declared that the French decree revoking the Berlin and Milan Decrees was “altogether obscure, involved, and contradictory.” He pointed out that repeated requests by Great Britain for a copy of the decree had been denied, leading him to the conclusion that the document was “a false and fraudulent instrument, without good faith, without authenticity, and without promulgation.” Scott argued that its fraudulence hardly mattered in any case, because the real question was whether it was appropriate for France to select a single neutral power as the beneficiary of the supposed revocation while leaving restrictions in effect with respect to other neutral nations (The Times [London], 28 Aug. 1812).

4Joy enclosed a copy of his 12 Sept. 1812 letter to Lord Sidmouth (2 pp.), which had enclosed a reprint of a 4 Aug. 1812 editorial on impressment from the National Intelligencer. Joy alluded to measures taken by the British government to open negotiations on the subject before the declaration of war, probably referring to Foster’s 15 Apr. and 1 June 1812 letters to Monroe. In the former, Foster promised that when American-born citizens were found upon British vessels, “no exertion shall be wanting on my part to procure their discharge.” In the latter, Foster claimed to be under orders to inform Monroe that “the Government of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent will continue to give the most positive orders against the detention of American citizens on board His Majesty’s ships” any longer than necessary to determine their citizenship (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, 3:454, 459–60).

5This edition of the London Morning Chronicle reprinted an extract from a 2 Sept. 1808 editorial from the National Intelligencer criticizing George Canning’s 24 June 1808 speech in Parliament. The extract claimed that Canning’s misrepresentation of the relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain, the orders in council, and the Chesapeake affair had the effect in the U.S. of promoting opposition to the administration on the eve of several important elections. The editorial took exception to Canning’s charge that the U.S., indifferent to restoring harmony with Great Britain, had failed to submit remonstrances against the orders in council while keeping the lines of communication open with the French. Declaring such a charge to be a “gross and palpable falsehood,” the editorial claimed that redress had been demanded of both nations whenever an infraction of the neutral rights of the U.S. had been committed. The editorial further argued that Canning had himself received and ignored remonstrances against the orders in council, thus closing all avenues of recourse.

6Canning’s 22 Nov. 1808 letter to William Pinkney explained his delay in responding to the American minister’s comments on the implementation of the orders in council as the result of the pressure of business and his own misunderstanding of Pinkney’s authority and intentions (ibid., 3:237–39).

7On 10 Sept. 1812 the London Times reported that Sir Edward Thornton, British minister to Sweden, had been in Denmark, where he had failed to negotiate a peace treaty.

8Canning had been a member of the ministry that had ordered the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, a measure taken to prevent the neutral Danes from forming an alliance with France (see Rory Muir, Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807–1815 [New Haven, 1996], 23–25).

9In his pamphlet A Letter, from a Calm Observer, to a Noble Lord (see Joy to JM, 16 May 1812, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (5 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 4:389 n. 1), Joy had italicized the phrase “conformément à l’acte que vous venez de communiquer,” referring to Macon’s Bill No. 2.

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