James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Congress, 6 January 1814

To Congress

January 6th 1814

I transmit for the information of Congress, copies of a letter from the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to the Secretary of State, with the answer of the latter.1

In appreciating the accepted proposal of the Government of Great Britain for instituting negociations for peace, Congress will not fail to keep in mind, that vigorous preparations for carrying on the war, can in no respect impede the progress to a favorable result; whilst a relaxation of such preparations, should the wishes of the United States for a speedy restoration of the blessings of peace be disappointed, would necessarily have the most injurious consequences.

James Madison

RC and enclosures, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A-E1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages, 13A-E2). Each RC in Edward Coles’s hand, signed by JM. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1JM forwarded a copy of Lord Castlereagh to James Monroe, 4 Nov. 1813 (4 pp.), enclosing a copy (3 pp.; in French) and translation (4 pp.) of British minister William Cathcart’s 1 Sept. 1813 note to Russian diplomat Karl Robert Nesselrode (printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends 3:621–22). Cathcart stated that although the Prince Regent would not accept the Russian offer of mediation, he was willing to appoint ministers to negotiate directly with the U.S. peace commissioners in either London or Gothenburg. Having learned from Cathcart that the U.S. commissioners were willing to participate in such negotiations but lacked the authority to do so, Castlereagh noted that JM might wish to revise their instructions to accommodate the proposed change, and assured Monroe “that the British Government is willing to enter into discussion with the Government of America for the conciliatory adjustment of the differences subsisting between the two States, with the earnest desire on their part to bring them to a favorable issue, upon principles of perfect reciprocity, not inconsistent with the established maxims of public law, and with the maritime rights of the British empire.” JM also forwarded a copy of Monroe’s 5 Jan. 1814 reply (8 pp.; printed ibid., 622–23), accepting the offer of direct negotiations at Gothenburg, although JM would have preferred to hear from the U.S. commissioners before making a decision and regretted that Great Britain had rejected Russia’s mediation. Monroe averred that the United States would “treat with the sincere desire … of terminating the present contest … on conditions of reciprocity consistent with the rights of both parties as sovereign and independent nations, and calculated not only to establish present harmony, but to provide, as far as possible, against future collisions which might interrupt it.”

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