James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 5 February 1820

From James Monroe

Washington Feby 5. 1820.

Dear Sir

I send you herewith the principal documents which have been printed since the commencment of the Session. Should any be omitted, or should there be any information on any point not touched by them, which you may desire, or [sic] being so advised, I will communicate it.

The Missouri question, as it is call’d, still engages the attention of Congress, & will probably do it, much longer. The result is altogether uncertain. The project was laid by Mr K.1 The members who brought it forward last Session were the instruments. Clinton2 it is said claims the merit of having originated it. The object is to form a new party division, turning the power which it may give, to those having the ascendancy, to all the purposes of which it may be susceptible, without much regard for its consequences in the Southern States. I doubt the policy which led to the union of Maine with Missouri, as it puts the republicans in Maine, & the Eastern States generally, in the hands & at the mercy of the authors of this scheme, and of their antagonists in that quarter. There is no one in Virga., or in that direction, of sufficient experience or force, to meet the crisis, tho many are respectable and able. I doubt whether the union mentiond, will gain one single vote on the main question; I think it more likely to lose votes on it, as the Eastern members, must in the last resort, as I presume, leave the southern, & separate the questions and admit Maine; in which case, it is possible, that their reunion, may not be effected as to all of them, on the admission of Missouri unrestraind. What effect, the daily encreasing knowledge, of the object of this project, may have, on the community, remains to be seen.

We hear nothing from Spain, and there is much cause to believe that no minister will be sent, for some months, if during the Session of Congress. Your friend

James Monroe

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1Rufus King (1755–1827) was a Harvard-educated lawyer who served in the Continental Congress, 1784–86, and was a Massachusetts delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A strong Federalist, King was elected U.S. senator from New York and served from 1789 to 1796, when he was appointed U.S. minister to Great Britain, returning to the United States in 1803. He stood as the Federalist vice presidential candidate in 1804 and 1808, and as the Federalist presidential candidate in 1816. As U.S. senator, 1813–24, he opposed JM’s administration and the War of 1812; later, he opposed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and was outspoken in his attacks on the extension of slavery (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends 9:73 n. 13; Robert Ernst, Rufus King: American Federalist [Chapel Hill, N.C., 1968], 20, 22, 44, 69, 92, 148, 217–18, 277, 286–87, 306, 320, 323–30, 351, 372–75, 393).

2DeWitt Clinton (1769–1828), nephew and political colleague of New York governor and JM’s vice president George Clinton, was a political force in New York and national politics. He served in the U.S. Senate, 1802–3, but resigned to become mayor of New York City, 1803–7, 1809–10, and 1812–15. In 1812 he was chosen by the Federalists and some Republicans to oppose JM for the presidency but lost the election by 128 electoral votes to 89. While governor of New York state, 1817–23, 1825–28, he spearheaded efforts to construct the Erie Canal, which successfully opened in 1825.

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