James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Albert Gallatin, 2 August 1813

To Albert Gallatin


Washington 2d Augt 1813.

Dear Sir

You will learn from the Secy of State the painful manner in which the Senate have mutilated the Mission to St Petersburg:1 But the course and circumstances of the proceeding may require more of explanation than may fall within his scope and more indeed than can well be conveyed on Paper.

Previous to sending in the nomination of the Envoys there was no indication, that if the popularity of the object did not prevent opposition, it would extend beyond a portion of the Senate essentially short of a Majority, and there is reason to believe that if a preliminary attempt to embarrass the subject2 had been decided on at the proper time and before outdoor means could be interposed3 the desired and expected result would have been secured. Liberality however yielded to an adjournment of the question and the opportunity afforded by it was industriously improved. The first step after formally ascertaining the arrangement under which you were included in the Mission was, to obtain a vote declaring an incompatibility (without specifying, whether constitutional or other wise) between the domestic & diplomatic appointments. The tendency of this proposition to comprehend as many and to commit as much as possible is obvious. It would seem notwithstanding that the vote of incompatibility was concurred in by some who regarded it not as an obstacle to an ultimate concurrence in the nomination but rather as a protest throwing the whole responsibility on the Executive. The next step was to communicate this opinion of the Senate to me with a view either to extort a compliance or to unite against the nomination all or as many as possible who had concurred in the vote of incompatibility. In this stage of the Business it was the confident opinion of the supporters of the nomination that inflexibility on the part of the executive would ensure a majority for it and urgent advice,4 as well on general grounds as on that particular calculation, not to yield to the irregular views of the adverse party.5 The event proved that the final purposes of certain individuals on whom the turning of the scale depended had been miscounted. It is not easy to express the mixed feelings produced by the disappointment or the painfulness of my own in particular. It was at first suggested from some friendly sources, as the most advisable in such a posture of things, to send in a renomination founded on a vacancy in the Secretaryship of the Treasury and under certain points of view this expedient had its recommendations. They were met, however, by difficulties & considerations not to be got over 1st. The ground taken by the executive did not admit a compliance with the conditions imposed by the Senate without palpable inconsistency. 2d. Those who had approved and urged this ground could not brook the idea of putting their opponents ostensibly in the right and themselves in the wrong. 3d. It was calculated that the mediation if accepted by Great Britain would be over and the Envoys on their way Home before the decision of the Senate could reach Petersburg and that this last would certainly be the case should the mediation be rejected as was becoming more and more probable especially considering the prospects on the continent and as seems now to be put beyond doubt by a late communication from Beasely at London.6 Nor were these the only views of the subject. It was apprehended by some of the best disposed and best informed of the Senate that a renomination would not secure the object. As it had become certain that the open and secret adversaries7 together amounted to a formidable number who would be doubly gratified by a double triumph it was suspected that after succeeding in getting the Treasury vacated it would be a prerequisite to a confirmation of the other appointment that the vacancy should be actually filled in order to prevent its being kept open for your return which might be, looked for within the term of six months and that with this view a resolution might be obtained declaring the inconsistency of a protracted vacancy with the public service and the incompatibility of the two offices held by the Secretary of the Navy, to be used in like manner with the first resolution as a motive or pretext for embarassing and if possible getting rid of the renomination. It is certain that some who had intimated an intended change of their votes in case the Treasury Department should be vacated had in view that the vacancy should be forthwith filled and even that a nomination to it should go in with the renomination.8 Whether a majority would have gone such lengths is uncertain, but strong symptoms existed of a temper in the body capable of going very great lengths. And apart from all other considerations it would have been impossible, even if it had been intended to make and fill a vacancy in the Treasury Department, that the consent of the Senate in the other case could be purchased by a pledge to that effect. Besides the degradation of the executive it would have introduced a species of barter of the most fatal tendency.

I have given you this summary, that you may understand the true characte⟨r⟩ of a proceeding which has given us so much concern. I will add to it two observations only. 1st. That the Senate by resting their negative on the opinion of official incompatibility acknowledge9 a personal fitness and so far have defeated their own hostility. 2d. That the whole proceeding according to every friendly opinion will have the effect of giving you a stronger hold on the confidence and support of the nation. Judging from the effect as already known this cannot fail to be the case.

I have just recovered strength enough, after a severe and tedious attack of bilious fever, to bear a journey to the mountains whither I am about setting out. The Physicians prescribe it as essential to my thorough recovery and security against a relapse at the present season. For recent occurrences and the general state of affairs, I refer to the official communications going by this conveyance. If it were less inconvenient to me to lengthen my Letter, I should recollect that I send it without expecting that it will find you at Petersburg, should it happen not to be intercepted on its passage. Accept my affectionate Esteem & best wishes.


RC, two copies (NHi: Gallatin Papers); draft (DLC). First RC docketed by Gallatin, “Recd. Amsterdam May 1814.” RCs in the hand of John Graham. Draft docketed by JM, with the note: “(Copd.)”; text partially overwritten in Dolley Madison’s hand, with interlinear coding by Graham. Italicized words and letters are those encoded by Graham on the first RC and decoded here by the editors. For a description and printed copy of the code, see Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938 (Chicago, 1979), 154–56, 478–89.

1James Monroe’s letter to Gallatin of 5 Aug. 1813 conveyed the news that the Senate had rejected Gallatin’s nomination as a member of the commission for negotiating peace with Great Britain. The decision was founded, Monroe wrote, “on a supposed incompatibility” of the diplomatic appointment with Gallatin’s post as secretary of the treasury (Papers of Gallatin [microfilm ed.], reel 26). Monroe enclosed “a paper containing the proceedings of the Senate, on the nomination,” which was probably a copy of Extract from the Executive Record, Comprehending the Messages of the President of the United States in Relation to the nominations of Albert Gallatin, John Q. Adams, and James A. Bayard … with the proceedings of the Senate thereon (Washington, 1813; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 30181). The Extract gave the official version of the events described by JM in this letter, with the additional information that John Quincy Adams’s and James A. Bayard’s nominations as peace commissioners had been confirmed. Monroe also wrote a private letter to Gallatin on 6 Aug. deploring the Senate’s attempt to put “a committee on a footing with the ch: magistrate,” especially when JM “was confind with a bilious fever, which endanger’d his life” (Papers of Gallatin [microfilm ed.], reel 26).

2This phrase was decoded interlinearly in an unknown hand. The value for “em,” which Graham omitted, was inserted above the line in the same hand.

3The value for “inter,” omitted by Graham, was inserted above the line in the same unknown hand as above.

4Draft has “and their unanimous & urgent advice.”

5For JM’s refusal to negotiate with Joseph Anderson’s Senate committee regarding Gallatin’s nomination, see his letter to Anderson, 14 July 1813, and nn. Christopher Gore provided a forceful articulation of the “irregular views of the adverse party” on 29 July 1813, ten days after the rejection of Gallatin’s nomination, when he introduced Senate resolutions asserting that the president’s recess appointment power was limited to filling vacancies, and that JM had exceeded his authority by appointing Gallatin, Adams, and Bayard as ministers to treat for peace with Great Britain because those positions had never been previously filled and therefore were not “vacant.” The resolutions were tabled (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:415–16).

6In a letter to Monroe of 27 May 1813, Reuben G. Beasley, agent for American prisoners in London, wrote, “I learn from a source which I think may be relied on, that this Government has again rejected the mediation of Russia; and that Ministers are highly displeased with Admiral Warren for listening to it” (DNA: RG 59, CD, London).

7Graham encoded “adeersariest”; draft has “adversaries.”

8JM’s determination to hold the treasury secretaryship open for Gallatin’s return may not have been in accord with Gallatin’s own expectations or wishes. On 8 May 1813, Gallatin wrote Thomas Worthington: “I am perfectly aware that the two offices [of secretary of the treasury and peace commissioner] may, even for the six months period provided by law, be considered as incompatible, and that, at all events, another Secretary must be appointed in the case of delay.” The appointment of William Duane as adjutant general of the Fourth Military District had soured Gallatin’s relationship with JM’s administration as well, which he admitted to Worthington and stated more forcefully to William Few the following day: “The appointment of Duane has appeared to me so gross an outrage on decency and self respect, and to me was so obnoxious that I felt no wish to remain associated with an administration which could employ such a miscreant” (Papers of Gallatin [microfilm ed.], reel 26). For a description of some of Duane’s newspaper attacks on Gallatin, see 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 , 3:286 n. 2.

9Draft has “tacitly acknowledge.”

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