James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Anthony Morris, 10 May 1813

From Anthony Morris

Bristol Monday PM. May 10. 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 5th Inst, was not deliverd at my house in Philada untill this Morning, from whence it was immediately forwarded to Me here; I had indeed advancd so many Steps in consequence of your first friendly proposal, that to retrace them would have been painful.

I am therefore at no loss in promising myself the pleasure of seeing you in a few days in compliance with your wishes; and having made many preparations wh the first object requir’d, shall find less time necessary for the second.1 With every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect I am Dr Sir very Sincerely Yr Mo. ob. st.

Anthony Morris

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1The “first object” was a post for Morris as commissary of prisoners at Bermuda, thwarted by Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren’s refusal to allow Morris passage there (see JM to Morris, 14 and 28 Apr., and Morris to JM, 16 and 29 Apr. 1813). Morris accepted the position of special agent to Cádiz that JM had offered in his letter of 5 May, and discussed the mission with the president in Washington on 16 May. In a memorandum of that meeting, Morris noted that JM “introduc’d the Subject of my proposd Mission by observing that under the present Circumstances it was not probable that any impression could be made upon the   Government by Us, nor upon Us by them that the character of Mr O [Luis de Onís] had been very Exceptionable, and did not merit tho’ it had recd toleration, that a respectable Character in whom the Government could confide was wishd to be stationd for a time at C. to represent truly the views of the Admnn. whose wish it was to avoid any entanglement with Ferdinand or Joseph, that thro’ Mr O its views had been much misrepresented in that the Floridas was also an object of attention wh the Govt. could not see likely to pass into other hands while the claims of the Us. against Spain remaind unsatisfied—to know whether it had been transferd to England &c but more particularly to preserve the good understanding between the Sp & am. Governments, to represent correctly its views &c. That Mr. Monroe would more particularly Explain the Subject, & woud furnish Me with a paper wh. would recognize Me as the avowed representative of the Admn on this Subject—that an entire concealmt of destination would at present be proper lest suspicion might arise on the Subject &c” (PHi: Anthony Morris Papers).

James Monroe subsequently sent Morris instructions for the mission, dated 9 June 1813 (ViFreJM), under a covering letter of 10 June (MHi: Charles Edward French Autograph Collection). The covering letter expressed the administration’s hope that Morris would be able to leave for Spain soon, since the recent U.S. occupation of Mobile might, “without the proper explanations,” produce “very eroneous impressions” of American motives. The instructions reviewed U.S. grievances against Spain: the spoliations committed on American commerce during the Quasi-War of 1798–1800, the abrogation of the right of deposit at New Orleans in 1802, and Spain’s continued refusal to acknowledge U.S. claims to West Florida based on the Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803) and the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1800). The two latter problems had been addressed by the U.S. acquisition of New Orleans and, more recently, by the American occupation of Mobile. The spoliation claims remained unresolved, however, and the administration considered East Florida an appropriate indemnity for them, especially in light of the danger that the territory would otherwise fall to the British. Morris was to ascertain whether the Spanish Regency would either cede East Florida to the United States outright or agree to an “informal arrangement” whereby the United States would hold the territory “in trust subject to future negociation & adjustment.”

These instructions represented a change of strategy in JM’s ongoing efforts to obtain East Florida for the United States. After Congress’s refusal, in February 1813, to authorize the use of military force to take possession of East Florida, Monroe ordered Maj. Gen. Thomas Pinckney to evacuate the U.S. troops that had been there since the occupation of Amelia Island in March 1812. The troops’ withdrawal on 26 Apr. marked the end of any possibility that the United States would acquire East Florida by military force in the near future, and JM accordingly shifted his focus to the strategy of negotiation outlined in Monroe’s instructions to Morris (James G. Cusick, The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida [Gainesville, Fla., 2003], 252–54, 257, 266).

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