James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 18 October 1817

From James Monroe

At Mr. Gordons Octr 18 1817

Dear Sir

Our carriage arrivd sooner, somedays, than we expected, in consequence of which, and other considerations, connected with affrs at Washington (our horses also hir’d), I am forc’d to hurry on there. It was our intention to have been with you last night, but hearing that Mr Bagot is with you, we are under the necessity, on account of our equipment, our baggage being sent on, by Richmond, to decline calling. I think also, it will be better, to avoid a meeting, at your house, with the British Minister. We beg you (Mrs. Monroe & Mrs Hay) to present our respects to Mrs Madison, & to make our apology for not seeing her as we passd on.

I have written a private letter to General Jackson, in the spirit of our conversation, of which I send you a copy.1 Read it at your liesure, & forward it to Washington.

It will be better not to mention us to Mr & Mrs Bagot. With sincere regard your friend

James Monroe


1Andrew Jackson had protested to Monroe on 4 Mar. 1817 the action of former secretary of war William Harris Crawford in assigning work to a topographical engineer without passing the order through Jackson’s command. Crawford’s action, wrote Jackson, struck “at the very root of all subordination, that ought and must exist in an Army.” Jackson went on to issue in April an order forbidding “compliance with any order from the War Department that did not come through the proper channel” (Noble E. Cunningham Jr., The Presidency of James Monroe [Lawrence, Kans., 1996], 55–56). Monroe’s 5 Oct. 1817 reply laid out the issue clearly. Jackson’s order involved “the naked principle, of the power of the Executive, over the officers of the army.” The War Department, in carrying out the wishes of the president, was acting in an appropriate and constitutional manner and, Monroe continued, “under these circumstances I cannot perceive on what ground an order from the ch. Magistrate … can be disobeyd” (Smith et al., Papers of Andrew Jackson, 4:145).

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