James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Joy, 1 March 1820

From George Joy

London 1st March 1820

Dear Sir,

It is so long since I received your last letter,1 that, tho’ carefully preserved, it is out of my immediate reach; and it would take a longer time to get at it than the occasion requires, seeing it’s substance, as well as that of your more remote Correspondence is too interesting to be at any time beyond my powers of reminiscence. I am greatly obliged by your efforts in my favor; I assure you, I have more satisfaction in the unsuccessful attempt on your part than I should have had in succeeding without it.2 Give me a Judge, whose motives for his own Conduct are pure—if he err it will be in my favor; but on the point of intention I am bold to say, he will not err by consulting the mirror in his own breast. I speak of my endeavours to serve my Country without prejudice to the essential interests of any other. The quantum has been small: I wish it were more extensive, and it would have been—I mean that of my endeavours—had the opportunity been given me. The enclosed Correspondence will shew how the business of my appointment in Holland has terminated.3 There let it rest.

I have always thought that in polemics a man should attend to what is said or written on both sides of the question, and not idly turn his back upon the Arguments opposed to the opinion he may be inclined on a first impulse to espouse; but rather give them a preference in the labor of investigation to counteract the Bias to which we are all subject. Yet, when he has retired from the Duties of active Life, he may be indulged in the perusal of Authors of opinions congenial with his own; which is certainly the more agreable amusement. I therefore send you a work with which I have lately become acquainted;4 and which I hope you will find an interesting pastime in alternate readings between your Lady & yourself; tho’ I must protest (if it fall to your Lot to read the note at the foot of page*5) against your robbing the Geese of the Emphasis to place it on the word similar. I dont charge you with many facetia in this gender; yet I remember your recommending the interpolation of a word to produce an effect on an irritable enthusiast of Shakespeare by the name of Myers. I had found what appeared to me sufficient for this purpose in the preface to my Del Pino, where the Author in commending the Language which he could hardly commend too much, whatever might be said of his Grammar, observed of certain Spanish writers—Cervantes, I suppose—perhaps Garcilesso or Lope de Vega, that they were the most sweet Swans from whom Corneille and others in France, and Shakespeare in England had embellished their performances.6 You advised me to read “surreptitiously embellished &c” and Myers bounced like a parched Pea.

A jocis ad seria:7 what a state is Spain in at this moment! What a state has she been in for the profitable adjustment of our Concerns! I hope this will be yet effected, peaceably effected, with the Minister now on his way to the U.S. before the Nation shall assume an attitude less favorable to the attainment of our rights. The Insurrection has a formidable appearance—as respects Spain herself any Change must be for the better. I have no Idea of her recovering her Colonies; yet even there there is a portion of the Leven that is hostile to freedom. The monstrous Combination of Church and State has it’s ramifications in everything that is or ever was Spanish—for as to the King—(he seems to have no friends; but I am not without a Spice of Compassion for his manifold infirmities;)—what can he desire in which the happiness of the nation is not identified with his own? There are many discordant interests to consult; and he has been a weathercock, but perhaps the wind has blown too strong for him. He went to Spain—so said Lord Castlereagh when badgered by the opposition; and he may be believed on this point, since every crowned head, and every minister at the Congress could have contradicted him if it were otherwise—he went to Spain in the serious intention to confirm the Constitution of the Cortes. But he had not reached his Capital when he was surrounded by Priests and Grandees and others, who persuaded him that it was not the will of the nation. Now if I am afraid to say, against the current of opinion that this was true; I am not prepared to go with the stream in asserting it’s falsehood. I wrote you on the first burst of the Spaniards against the usurpation of Buonapartè8 that it was not liberty they were seeking, but the restoration of Past miserable phantoms of a theocratico-monarchical vice-regency to which they were still the Dupes. The Conduct of their Allies was in no way calculated to eradicate this notion. They hated the English; confounding the Licentiousness of the Soldiery with the theoretical principles of a free government. From the sample before their Eyes they were not likely to fall in love with the System; and they were easily persuaded that these were the effects of an heretical apostacy from the true faith. A few men there may have been among them of sufficient strength of mind to break the Chains of Kingcraft and Priestcraft; and such may have caught the glimmerings of the Light shining in darkness in the neighbouring nations; but the general darkness of their own comprehended it not—so that altho’ Lord Erskine is unhappy in brutifying them in Edinburgh9 at the moment when Quiroga’s Proclamation is circulating in London;10 he is only speaking the Language that most men have spoken, and would continue to speak, but for the tardy Evidence of the March of mind having beat up some recruits in Spain; because, like the food for powder here, they could endure their distresses no longer.

But will the Revolution succeed? I say yes. Such at least is the Preponderance of my opinion—not because the Nation was prepared for it at the time of Ferdinands return; but because of the miseries that they have endured from the opposite System. Adversity has taught them wisdom. What obstructions it may meet, is a question for time to decide. There is the Nemesis of Porlier11 to appease, and not a few living Victims; and the subjects of the most Catholic King are not specially imbued with christian meekness—on the other hand there will be no Crusade in favor of Ferdinand to excite his subjects to murder him; and he may thus escape the fate of the good Louis XVI—moreover he has a retreat open on the ground abovementioned; and surely there will be some one to remind him of it. The speech of Lord Castlereagh will corroborate his averment;12 for it is in print, and in a very positive style; tho’ I dont find it so generally remembered as it ought to be. I would jog his memory—pauvre Diable, if I were near him. Kingship has been a bad trade of late—they are neither better nor worse than we; and have as much need of all our Charities as the poorest of their subjects have of theirs. The thing beginning with the Army savours somewhat of Imperatorial Elections; but I trust that military Mania are on the decline—true it is they have floated much on the Brain of late; and Buonaparté succeeded for a time in substituting the enthusiasm of martial Glory even for that of Liberty; but the Epidemic is abating in Europe. God forbid that it should rage in our Country. Sad indeed would be the falling off, if a Nation that “Sprung forth a Pallas armed & undefiled”13 should suffer the Principles that nerved her Arm, to be obscured in the false glare of an Ignis fatuus.14 The Proclamation of Quiroga, by making the People paramount, says as little however for imperial as for regal usurpation—mais nous verrons.15

I shall rejoice to hear from you at your leisure; and a Letter directed to me at No 13 Finsbury Square, or to Mr: Rush, will always find me whether in or out of town; and I shall be happy to be of any use to you; resting always, very faithfully Dear Sir, Your friend & Servt:

G. Joy

P. T. O.


G. Joy to the Secry. of State 4th Novr: 1817

Chargé d’ Affaires, at Brussells to G. J. 30 June ’19

G. J. to Do. 13 July ’19 Extract

Do: to Sec. of State 16th Do.—Do.

To compleat this Correspondence in respect to this Object, there is wanting an Extract of a Letter from Mr: Adams that crossed mine of the 4th Novr: 1817 which is not at hand; but which advised my going to Rotterdam &ca.—see foot of Extracts16

In a separate Parcel

Life of Colo: Hutchinson by his Widow 2 Vol: 8vo

RC, two copies, and enclosures, two copies (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). First RC postmarked “Norfolk VA May 10”; docketed by JM. Second RC in a clerk’s hand, except for Joy’s emendation, signature, and note: “Duplicate … Original with two Octavo Volumes sent under cover to Chas. Mallory Esqre. Collector Norfolk ship Comet.” Minor differences between the copies have not been noted. For enclosures (20 pp.), see n. 3.

1JM to Joy, 15 Aug. 1817, PJM-RS description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (2 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 1:100–101.

2In the second RC, the following sentence appears here: “Your appreciation of my humble services is a source of gratification which you know how to estimate.”

3Joy enclosed two copies of the following letters: (1) Joy to John Quincy Adams, 4 Nov. 1817, giving his reasoning for wishing the post of consul general in Holland, discoursing on European politics, and opining on U.S. relations with European powers; (2) Alexander H. Everett to Joy, 30 June 1819, requesting of Joy whether he would be taking up the post of consul at Rotterdam as Consul Wambersie at Oostende had expressed an interest in it; (3) Joy to Everett, 13 July 1819, relinquishing the post at Rotterdam in favor of Wambersie; and (4) an extract of Joy to Adams, 16 July 1819, noting that Joy had been willing to go to Rotterdam, but he “should have very soon demanded a successor.” For the history of Joy’s interest in the post, see his letters to JM of 10 May and 17 June 1817, PJM-RS description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (2 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 1:45–46, 61–62.

4Lucy Apsley Hutchinson, Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson … With Original Anecdotes of Many of the Most Distinguished of His Contemporaries, and a Summary Review of Public Affairs … , 3d ed. (2 vols.; London, 1810).

5Joy placed an asterisk here and at the bottom of the letter’s last page wrote: “*I cannot find this in the present Edition; and the Editor, notwithstanding his assurance (preface page v) has, no doubt, suppressed it; but I read it in the large paper Quarto in Wiltshire—it is indeed very trite; but, having noticed, I must give it to prevent the trouble of a research. I think it is an extension of the note b at the foot of page 277 V. 1 of this Edition. Vizt. that it was probably suggestd by the Author, who was a great reader of the Classics, and probably remembered that a similar watchfulness of the Geese saved the Roman Capitol.”

6Hipólito San Joseph Giral del Pino, A New Spanish Grammar; or, The Elements of the Spanish Language … , 3d ed. (London, 1787), xv.

7A jocis ad seria: from jokes to serious matters.

8In a letter Joy wrote to JM on 17 Sept. 1808, he noted in regard to the Spanish uprising against the French that “instead of a People rising to assert their own rights, the metaphorical standard of an absent Crown was set up; and at this time or shortly after it appeared that they were dedicating Victories to the holy Mother of the true Prince of Peace, by some modern title which I had never before heard, and have already forgotten” (DLC).

9At a dinner given for Thomas Erskine, first Baron Erskine of Restormel (1750–1823), in Edinburgh on 21 Feb. 1820, Lord Erskine remarked to the assembled guests that “if he [Ferdinand] had stuck by the Cortes, he would have saved his empire in South America; and if he established it even now, the danger in Spain would be, that the people would still be not sufficiently free, having been brutified so long by the despotism to which they have submitted” (Times [London], 1 Mar. 1820).

10Antonio Quiroga (1784–1841) was a Spanish army officer and veteran of the Napoleonic wars who, along with Rafael del Riego y Núñez, launched an uprising in 1820 that eventually forced Ferdinand VII to accept the Constitution of 1812. Quiroga issued many proclamations, but Joy is probably referring to that of 5 Jan. 1820, in which Quiroga called on the army to rise against “a tyrannical and arbitrary Government, which disposes at will of the properties, the existence, and the liberties of the unhappy Spaniards” (Biographie universelle [1843–65 ed.], 34:675–76; Times [London], 16 Feb. 1820).

11Juan Díaz Porlier (1788–1815) was a Spanish army officer who fought as a guerrilla general against the French army, 1808–13. Disappointed in the postwar political situation, he led his troops in 1815 from Coruña in an attempt to unseat Ferdinand VII, but the insurrection failed, and Díaz Porlier was condemned and hanged (Rodolfo G. de Barthèlemy, “El marquesito” Juan Díaz Porlier: “General que fue de los ejercitos nacionales …” [1788–1815] [2 vols.; Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1995], 1:17, 31, 65–68, 355, 2:444, 449–53, 542, 547, 585, 588).

12Joy may have been referring here to Lord Castlereagh’s defense of Ferdinand VII and British policy toward Spain in reply to a motion of 15 Feb. 1816 by Henry Brougham, requesting British intervention against the king of Spain and his measures (Times [London], 16 Feb. 1816).

13“Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be, / And Freedom find no champion and no child / Such as Columbia saw arise when she / Sprung forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?” (George Gordon Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” stanza 96, lines 856–59, in Jerome J. McGann, ed., Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works [7 vols.; Oxford, 1980–93], 2:156).

14Ignis fatuus: something that confuses or misleads.

15Mais nous verrons: but we shall see.

16This paragraph is omitted from the second RC. The note continues: “if I wished for Consular Emoluments, or the like—to this I considered my said Letter as furnishing a reply; and it was to this last, among others, that a reply was promised on the annexed Conditions; but time is above being made, and that which is ready made will halt for no one; but glides on

“ut Unda impellitur Unda Urgeturque prior venientem, urgetq. priorem. [as wave is pushed on by wave, and as each wave as it comes is both pressed on and itself presses the wave in front] (Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.180–82 [Loeb Classical Library, 2:376–77])—it has therefore never yet brought me the promised Communication.”

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