James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 13 January 1815

From James Monroe

War Department January 13th. 1815.


I have the honor to lay before you extracts of correspondence between this Department and Officers commanding ⟨the⟩ 7th. Military district, in conformity to a resolution of the Senate of the United States of the 19th. of December.1

Jas. Monroe

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 46, TP, Florida, 13A–E6); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 107, LSP). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Monroe. JM forwarded the RC and enclosures to the Senate on 14 Jan. 1815 (DNA: RG 46, TP, Florida, 13A–E6). For enclosures, see n. 1.

1The resolution, introduced in the Senate by Christopher Gore on 9 Dec. 1814, requested information from JM as to whether he had taken any action authorized by an 1811 act of Congress allowing U.S. forces to occupy East Florida under certain conditions (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 2:589–90, 597; for the act, see PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (8 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 3:95 n. 4). The enclosed correspondence (92 pp.), much of it extracted, consisted largely of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s letters to John Armstrong and Monroe from June through December 1814, informing them of British and Indian activities at Pensacola; enclosing agents’ reports on affairs at the ostensibly neutral town and Jackson’s correspondence with Mateo Gonzáles Manrique, the Spanish governor there; and requesting orders to take possession of it. Monroe also enclosed responses from the War Department: to Jackson’s initial query of 27 June 1814, as to whether he was authorized to occupy Pensacola if the British and Spanish were sheltering and arming the remnants of the hostile Creek Indians there, Armstrong replied on 18 July that in such a case “it becomes our duty to carry our arms where we find our enemies.” He added, however, JM’s instructions to make sure the reports were accurate and not to attack if it appeared that Spanish actions were motivated by British threats rather than hostility toward the United States. In answer to Jackson’s repeated request for permission to attack Pensacola, Monroe wrote on 21 Oct. 1814, “I hasten to communicate to you the directions of the President, that you should, at present, take no measures which would involve this government in a contest with Spain.” He went on to say that JM preferred to address the problems at Pensacola through diplomatic channels. Jackson, however, received neither this response nor Armstrong’s before attacking the town on 7 Nov. 1814 (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:782–83, 791–96). He reported the battle in a 14 Nov. letter to Monroe, of which Monroe enclosed a complete copy here, as well as an extract of his 7 Dec. 1814 letter to Jackson, stating that he hoped his 21 Oct. instructions had arrived in time to prevent the attack. If not, Jackson was to remove his forces from East Florida immediately and explain that he “had entered it for the purpose of freeing it from British violation.” Monroe also enclosed here extracts of Armstrong to Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson, 27 May 1813, stating that a Spanish attack on Mobile or on U.S. forces on the Perdido River would justify Wilkinson “in pursuing and punishing the perpetrators of it, wherever they may be found”; Armstrong to Maj. Gen. Thomas Pinckney, 24 July 1813, observing that Spanish support for Creek hostilities against the United States would be “an act of war on their part, which may at least leave us at liberty to strike against Pensacola”; and William C. C. Claiborne to Monroe, 24 Oct. 1814, urging the administration to authorize Jackson to attack the town. Finally, Monroe enclosed a copy of Tennessee governor Willie Blount’s letter to him of 18 Nov. 1814, forwarding a 26 Oct. 1814 deposition sworn by William H. Robertson before Mississippi Territory superior court judge Harry Toulmin, averring that British forces were effectually in command at Pensacola, where they were “collecting Indians, negroes and American deserters.” Blount observed that this information “certainly would justify the United States in taking possession of Pensacola” and expressed his hope that Jackson would do so.

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