James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Levett Harris, 27 October 1812 (Abstract)

§ From Levett Harris

27 October 1812, St. Petersburg. “The present will be handed You by my nephew, Mr John L. Harris, who returns home the bearer of dispatches from Mr Adams from Count Romanzoff & from me.1 He will have the honor of paying his respects in person to your Excellency. I take the liberty of thus introducing him to you & of recommending him to your protection & notice.”

RC (NN). 1 p.; dated “15/27 October 1812” in the Julian and Gregorian calendars; docketed by JM.

1John Levett Harris probably carried Adams’s 17 and 24 Oct. 1812 dispatches to Monroe, Count Nikolai P. Rumiantsev’s instructions to Andrei Dashkov of 12 Oct. 1812, and Levett Harris’s 27 Oct. 1812 dispatch to Monroe.

Adams’s 17 Oct. letter explained that he had received a 9 Sept. 1812 letter from Jonathan Russell announcing the closure of his mission in London and the British government’s rejection of his proposal to suspend hostilities. Adams described a meeting with Count Rumiantsev during which he informed the count of the contents of Russell’s letter and mentioned that Rumiantsev had reacted to the news by repeating his earlier offer to mediate between the U.S. and Great Britain, both “from the sentiment of friendship to see the parties reconciled to each other” and from “a strong interest of his own in their reconciliation.” Adams explained that Rumiantsev had prepared a letter to Dashkov instructing him to offer mediation, requesting that Adams find a safe means of transmitting it (Ford, Writings of J. Q. Adams, 4:401–2). Adams’s 24 Oct. dispatch discussed the means by which his and Rumiantsev’s letters were to be transported to the U.S. (DNA: RG 59, DD, Russia).

Rumiantsev’s 12 Oct. letter to Dashkov explained the Russian emperor’s view that war between Great Britain and the U.S. would “create great obstacles to the commercial prosperity of nations,” so that he was compelled to do “all in his power to thrust aside the harm that this war augurs for even those nations which do not take part in it.” The emperor, Rumiantsev declared, entrusted Dashkov to propose mediation and, should it be accepted, to request that Adams be furnished with the necessary power to begin the negotiation (Bashkina et al., The United States and Russia, 880–82).

Harris’s communication reported that trade to St. Petersburg had been “totally suspended” by the American war with Great Britain. He noted that most of the ships that had sailed before news of the declaration of war arrived had been captured and carried to Great Britain. He reported that he was seeking reimbursement for $2,000 spent to support several destitute American seamen who had arrived in ships with false American registers. He calculated that “there is now here in store American and colonial produce, brought the present year in our ships and belonging to American citizens, to the value of three and a half million dollars, which, from the stagnant state of commerce occasioned by the present war, cannot be sold, and which, in the event of the French arms reaching this city, will be exposed to great danger” (ibid., 894–95). Harris may also have enclosed copies of his 16 May and 22 Aug. letters to Monroe (DNA: RG 59, CD, St. Petersburg, vol. 2).

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