James Madison Papers

William Shaler to James Monroe, 14 July 1813

William Shaler to James Monroe

No. 84

Natchitoches 14 July 1813


I have the honor to transmit herewith several letters and other papers just received from San Antonio and Nacogdoches which I believe give a faithfull picture of affairs there.1 The truth is that verry little is required to ensure complete success to this revolution in the four provinces, if that little is withheld it must as certainly fail, and independent of other considerations, envolve thousands in the most frightfull misery and ruin. I have therefore determined to proceed and support Toledo in every way in my power consistent with my situation: this from the unbounded confidence all parties have in me will be an easy task.

The Son of Genl. Wilkinson engaged verry indiscreetly in this enterprize in direct opposition to my opinion frequently urged.

Refering you Sir to my last by mail2 for an account of Mexican affairs prior to the dates of the enclosed letters I have the honor to be with verry great respect Sir your most faithfull humble servant.

Wm. Shaler

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, Communications from Special Agents). Docketed by Monroe, with his note: “For the President / Mr Shaler / a copy of my last letter to him to be sent with this.” For Monroe’s “last letter” to Shaler of 5 June 1813, which effectively terminated his mission, see Madison and the Problem of Mexican Independence: The Gutiérrez-Magee Raid of August 1812, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 5:243. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Shaler enclosed a letter to him from José Álvarez de Toledo, 1 July 1813 (1 p.; in Spanish), conveying to Shaler a 28 June 1813 copy (1 p.; in Spanish) of the conditions, dictated by José Bernardo Maximiliano Gutiérrez de Lara, governor and military leader of the Texas republic, under which the Texas junta would allow Toledo to join the republican forces there. Toledo wrote Shaler that he could not accept these conditions, which stipulated that Toledo would be subordinate to Gutiérrez, ruled out freedom of religion, limited the number of soldiers who could join the Republican Army, and refused to guarantee citizenship to such soldiers in the new republic. Shaler also enclosed a 27 June 1813 letter to him from Henry Adams Bullard (3 pp.), reporting that Bullard had agreed to serve as secretary of the Texas republic under Gutiérrez in order to advocate that Toledo be asked to lead the army, and that he had succeeded in persuading the governing junta to do so in spite of fierce opposition from Gutiérrez, who now spent all his time “lolling on his sofa and catching flies.” The fourth enclosure was a three-page description, dated 20 June 1813, of the battle between republican and royalist forces at Alazán, including the Republican Army’s plan of march; a list specifying that 250 of the republican soldiers were “Anglo American,” 500 Mexican, and 150 Indian; a diagram of the battle; and a casualty list giving the republican loss in killed and wounded as 47, and reporting that 132 royalist soldiers were taken prisoner, and approximately 350 killed (for Shaler’s report of the battle, see n. 2, below). Finally, Shaler enclosed a letter to him from Joseph B. Wilkinson, 27 June 1813 (4 pp.), reporting that the American officers in the Republican Army had been asked to sign the conditions imposed on Toledo and had refused, that Gutiérrez had declared himself no longer governor of the republic, and that Wilkinson had built support for Toledo among the republican troops by using a letter Shaler had written to Maj. Reuben Ross, and had given the letter to Maj. Henry Perry for further such use. Wilkinson hoped that Shaler would “allow the end to sanctify the means.”

2In Shaler’s dispatch no. 83, 10 July 1813 (DNA: RG 59, Communications from Special Agents), he reported having met with Nathaniel Cogswell, an enemy of Toledo’s, to discuss the reasons for Cogswell’s assertion that Toledo was unfit to lead the Republican Army. Shaler had enclosed in his dispatch no. 81, 12 June 1813 (ibid.), extracts from a 29 Dec. 1812 letter from Cogswell to Gutiérrez and Augustus W. Magee detailing at least some of Cogswell’s grounds for suspicion of Toledo’s motives. When reports of the republican leader Francisco de Miranda’s capitulation to royalist forces in Venezuela arrived in Baltimore, Cogswell wrote, the “Patriots” of that city “were thunder struck at the news,” but Toledo “did not appear to be effected by it,” from which Cogswell concluded that Toledo must have been familiar with Miranda’s “arrangements” and “plots.” According to Cogswell’s “certain knowledge,” moreover, Toledo was “in close correspondence” with members of the Spanish Regency and cortes, and “with others, the most inveterate foes of the Patriotic cause.” Other circumstances, which Cogswell did not care to commit to writing, had persuaded him “beyond the possibility of a doubt” of Toledo’s “treacherous designs” to supplant Gutiérrez and Magee as leaders of the patriot cause in order to subvert it. After meeting with Cogswell, Shaler wrote, he remained unconvinced by these accusations.

Shaler added that the Republican Army had rallied from its disorder on 21 June to attack and defeat the royalists, who had “encamped and entrenched themselves on an elevation two miles distant” from San Antonio; that the royalists lost “more than 300 killed and wounded, 78 prisoners, 2 Cannon, 350 stand of arms, all their baggage, Stores, and horses,” while the republicans suffered casualties of only ten killed and twenty wounded. Despite this victory, the circumstances of the Republican Army were “desperate from the total want of talents at their head”; Shaler had therefore decided to “recommend Genl Toledo directly to the american chiefs and volunteers as their commander” and had vouched for Toledo’s “honor and integrity.” He had since learned of the junta’s request that Toledo join the army.

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