James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 12 February 1806

No. 11.⟨D⟩uplicate.

London Febry. 12. 1806.


The arrangement of the new ministry was compleated, and its members installed in their respective offices, in the course of last week. It makes as you will find by the list a thorough change of character as I hope it will of principle! in its measures, at least with respect to us. It is well Known that the King yielded to this change with extreme reluctance; that he offered to supply the chief place which had become vacant by the death of Mr. Pitt, by Lord Hawkesbury, who did not seem Unwilling to accept it, and in other respects to preserve the power in the same hands, with a view as is to be inferred, of pursuing the same system of measures. But the other members of the late ministry seemed disposed to retire, and as the opposition was not to be broken and external causes pressed with great force, the change could no longer be resisted. The measure itself being resolved on, the King had the prudence not to embarrass it with conditions that were sure to be ill received or not accepted. He assented at once to commit the administration to the Opposition and authorized Lord Grenville and Mr. Fox to form and present to him an arrangement for the purpose. The only obstacle which was understood to have arisen afterwards respected the continuance of the Duke of York in the command of the forces, which was objected to by these gentlemen. That obstacle however was finally removed, by the King’s agreeing that the Duke might be assisted, or perhaps controuled by a military council. The new ministry is composed of characters who have ’till of late, been opposed to each other; from which circumstance as from a Knowledge that the King must retain a strong prejudice against some of them, it is believed that it will not remain long in power. The presumption is not an unreasonable one, tho’ there are many considerations to authorize a different conclusion. It is not likely that the causes which formed the union will soon be done away. It is more probable that they will acquire greater force. From present appearances those which are external cannot well fail to do it, and they must tend of course to produce a correspondent effect internally. If the war continues between this country and France, or the present rivalry in peace, this government will be compelled to preserve its independence, to arm the whole nation, whence the people must unavoidably have more influence in its measures. Such a course of things would be apt not only to preserve the union which already exists between many who have been hitherto opposed to each other, but to strengthen it and to increase the weight and consideration of those who were viewed for many Years past with most jealousy, and now admitted into a participation of power with the greatest reluctance, in the direction of public affairs.

As soon as Mr. Fox took possession of his office he requested an interview with the foreign ministers which took place yesterday. We were introduced separately. Mine lasted about half an hour. He received me with great kindness and attention, and in fact put me more at ease in that short time, than I have ever felt with any person in office since I have been in England. I have made it a rule of Conduct, which I have observed with much strictness, here and on the Continent, to look to the government alone as the quarter where I was to hold not official intercourse only, but principally the social one. I very well knew that a communication on my part with Mr. Fox and his friends, would excite much disgust with the court, and without benefiting him might prove hurtful to my country. I therefore cautiously avoided giving that handle to such as might be disposed to lay hold of it, to turn it to our prejudice. I had hinted this long Since to a friend of his, who I Suppose had made it known to him. He appeared to understand very distinctly the cause which had hitherto kept us at a distance, and it is not improbable that he had also acted on it. As soon as the ceremony of the interview had passed, I observed that I presumed he had been too short a term in office to have made him self acquainted with what had occurred between his predecessors and myself; more especially the last one. He said he had not had time to read the papers, tho’ he presumed he had a general idea on some of the topicks. In respect to the immediate question of seizure he asked me whether I had made to them or they to me any proposition? I gave a short sketch of the part which our respective governments had acted towards since the commencement of the present war towards each other. I told him my government had been ready to form a commercial treaty with his on the expiration of the late one; that it had agreed to postpone it to accommodate his and with a desire that the arrangements which might be formed, being entered into at a time when each had sufficient leisure to attend to the object, and founded on a liberal view of their respective interests, might place their relations on such a footing as to secure their Friendship from interruption, at least at an early day: that in the same spirit it had sought to put out of the way certain causes of a transient nature which might possibly create misunderstanding in the course of the war, such as the impressment of our Seamen, blockades by proclamation, &c. according to a project which had been presented to Lord Hawkesbury, and to both his successors: that those gentlemen never gave any definitive answer to that project, and urged as a cause of their delay, the other and pressing engagements of their government with which I was well acquainted, as also that its conduct towards the U. States in the course of the present war was as consonant to their principles and wishes in the most important points as they could desire it to be: that I left the business on that ground, when I went to Spain in the expectation that no change in the existing relations between the two Countries would be made in my absence. I assured him that I was astonished to find on my return that on the Contrary those relations had experienced the most essential change: that an attack had been made on our commerce on a principle, which had heretofore been so completely settled between our governments, and abandoned by his, as to have been a case for which no provision was even proposed in the project referred to. I explained to him the ground of this remark; and informed him that I had written several notes to Lord Mulgrave on the subject to which I had not been able to obtain an answer, on the main question, tho’ he seemed desirous by keeping it open, in his short replies, that I should not consider it, as decided against the U. States. I could not avoid intimating to him that the friendly disposition which our government had shewn had been most ungenerously requited by his: that it seemed as if it had pursued a just and friendly conduct towards the U. States ’till the moment that the new coalition was formed, and gave the present blow when the prospect was favorable to success, and kept the business in suspense to see the result of affairs on the Continent and in the U. States. He heard me with much attention and apparent interest; intimated that he had been accused of being too friendly to America, and when I spoke of the treaty with Russia he observed, that he had thought that the arrangement made by it was a good one, tho’ I did not understand him as pledging himself by the remark to its conditions. I requested that he would make himself master as soon as in his power of the Correspondence between Lord Mulgrave and myself and give me an interview which he promised. I am happy to add, on a view of all circumstances, that I think the prospect of arranging our affairs with this government, especially that one which respects our trade with the colonies of its enemies, on satisfactory terms a very favorable one. It is certain that nothing more favorable to Such a result was or could reasonably have been expected, from the first interview with the present Minister. I am Sir, with great respect and esteem Your very obedient servant

(signed) Jas. Monroe

DNA: RG 59--DD-Diplomatic Despatches, Great Britain.

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