James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 18 January 1814

From James Monroe

Department of State. Jany. 18. 1814.

The Secretary of State to whom was referred a Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 12th. Instant, requesting the President to lay before the House any correspondence with or communication in writing from the late Minister of France, on or about the 14th. of June 1809, or by his successor since, prescribing or declaring the conditions on which their sovereign would consent to treat of amity and Commerce with the United States, if such information was in the possession of the Executive, and if it was not, to inform the House, unless the public interest forbade such disclosure, whether there has not been such a correspondence or communication which was withdrawn from the Archives of the Department of State, and if so when, and how the same was withdrawn;1 has the honor to make to the President the following Report.

That of the transactions which took place in the Department of State, before the Secretary of State came into office, which was in the year 1811, he has no means of acquiring a knowledge, other than from the Archives of the Department or from the persons entrusted with their safe keeping.

That he has caused the files of the Department to be carefully examined for a communication described by the Resolution of the House of Representatives, and that none such has been found, of the date therein referred to or of any other date from the former Minister of France or from his successor, or any trace or evidence of such a communication: that he has also enquired of the Chief Clerk of the Department who has been in that office since the year 1807 concerning the same, and whose statement is annexed.2

That no such communication was ever addressed to the Secretary of State by the present Minister of France. All which is respectfully submitted.

Jas. Monroe

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A-E1); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL). RC in Edward Coles’s hand, signed by Monroe. JM forwarded the report to the House of Representatives on 19 Jan. 1814 (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A-E1). For enclosure, see n. 2.

1For the 14 June 1809 letter from Louis-Marie Turreau to then secretary of state Robert Smith, to which the resolution referred, and its publication in the Georgetown Federal Republican on 25 Aug. 1813, see John Graham to JM, 26 Aug. 1813, and JM to Graham, 28 Aug. 1813, PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 6:558 and n. 1, 566–67 and n. 2. The resolution was proposed on 28 Dec. 1813 by Maryland congressman Alexander Hanson, one of the editors of the Federal Republican, who wished to give greater publicity to his paper’s allegation that Turreau’s letter had not been withdrawn from the State Department until after the dismissal of British minister Francis James Jackson. Finding that the resolution in its original form would not serve this purpose, on 10 Jan. 1814 he submitted a revised version, which proposed that a committee be appointed to investigate the circumstances of the letter’s receipt and withdrawal. Hanson argued that if JM had concealed the letter, and with it France’s influence in the declaration of war against Great Britain, he had committed a “high misdemeanor” and “ought to be proceeded against.” As John C. Calhoun noted, this was an impeachment attempt, and the House responded by passing the resolution in its original form, over Hanson’s objections (Annals of Congress, description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends 13th Cong., 2d sess., 805–12, 872, 888–94, 900–927).

2In the enclosure, dated 18 Jan. 1813 (3 pp.; 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 3:629), Graham stated that although he clearly recalled having translated a letter from Turreau that was later withdrawn, he remembered neither its date nor its contents well enough to confirm that it was the letter published in the Federal Republican. According to Graham, Smith had instructed him not to file Turreau’s letter “but to lay it aside.” It was withdrawn by “a Gentleman attached to the French Legation” sometime before Jackson’s dismissal, Graham said, because he remembered Smith commenting at the time of that event that “he supposed General Turreau would now be glad he had withdrawn his Letter.”

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