Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN ARMSTRONG. d. of s. mss. instr. - The Writings, vol. 8 (1808-1819)
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TO JOHN ARMSTRONG. d. of s. mss. instr. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 8 (1808-1819) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 8.
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TO JOHN ARMSTRONG.d. of s. mss. instr.
Department of State, July 22, 1808.
Your dispatches by Lt. Lewis were delivered on the 8th inst.
It is regretted that the interval between his arrival and the date of your letter to Mr. Champagny, during which I presume some verbal intercommunication must have taken place, had produced no indication of a favorable change in the views of the French Government with respect to its decrees; and still more that instead of an early and favorable answer to your letter, it should have been followed by such a decree as is reported to have been issued on the 22d April at Bayonne. The decree has not yet reached the United States; and therefore its precise import cannot be ascertained. But if it should be, as it is represented, a sweeping stroke at all American vessels on the high seas, it will not only extend our demands of reparation, but is rendered the more ominous with respect to the temper and views of the Emperor towards the United States, by the date of the measure.
The arrival of Mr. Baker with my letter of May 2nd, of which a copy is herewith sent, will have enabled you to resume the subject of the Decrees with the fairest opportunity that could be given to the French Government for a change of the unjust and unwise course which has been pursued; and I assure myself that you will not have failed to turn the communications with which you are furnished to the best account. If France does not wish to throw the United States into the War against her for which it is impossible to find a rational or plausible inducement, she ought not to hesitate a moment, in revoking at least so much of her decrees as violate the rights of the sea, and furnish to her adversary the pretext for his retaliating measures. It would seem as if the Imperial Cabinet had never paid sufficient attention to the smallness of the sacrifice which a repeal of that portion of its system would involve, if an Act of justice is to be called a sacrifice.
The information by the return of the Osage from England, is not more satisfactory than that from France. Nothing was said on the subject of the Chesapeake, nor anything done or promised as to the orders in Council. It is probable that further accounts from the United States were waited for, and that the arrival of the St. Michael will have led to a manifestation of the real views of that Government, on those and other subjects. In the mean time it cannot be doubted that hopes were cherished there of some events in this Country favorable to the policy of the orders, and particularly that the offensive language and proceedings of France, would bring on a hostile resistance from the United States; in which case the British Government would be able to mould every thing to its satisfaction. There is much reason to believe that if the British Government should not concur in a mutual abolition of the orders and of the Embargo, it will result from an unwillingness to set an example which might be followed, and might consequently put an end to the irritating career of her enemy on which the insidious calculation is built. Might not use be made of this view of the matter, in those frank and friendly conversations which sometimes best admit topics of a delicate nature, and in which pride and prejudice can be best managed without descending from the necessary level? In every view it is evidently proper, as far as respect to the National honor will allow, to avoid a stile of procedure which might co-operate with the policy of the British Govt, by stimulating the passions of the French.
In an interview which Genl. Turreau asked about a month ago, he complained of the disposition here, as indicated by certain publications, (such as the circular letter of Mr. Burwell and the report of the Committee of the Senate, both of which will be seen by you) to put France au même ligne with Great Britain in aggressions on the United States, insisting that the latter must at least be regarded as the prior as well as the greater wrong doer. He dwelt at the same time on the disposition of his Government to cultivate friendship with this, and added that he was particularly charged to receive any communications or explanations it might be disposed to make, which would evince a corresponding disposition; wishing it, however, to be understood, that he had no allusion to any propositions tending even to an alliance, or any positive arrangements between the two Countries. After this preface, he expatiated on the exclusion of England from the continent of Europe, which would soon be completed by the issue of the Swedish War; and the probability, as an effect of that state of things, and of what was passing in Spain, that her attention would be turned to this continent, to South America, as a Commercial substitute for her loss, and to North America, which could so easily give facilities or obstructions to her revolutionary plans.
It was observed to him, that without discussing the priority of the wrongs we had suffered from the belligerents, they were of sufficient amount from both, to justify the complaints made on our part; that it afforded pleasure nevertheless to find by his assurances that his Government was in so friendly a disposition towards the United States, and that he might be assured that proofs of theirs would keep a reasonable pace with such as might be found in the conduct of his Government towards them; that with respect to declarations or propositions we had none to make different from the explanations which had been from time to time given of our fair neutrality, and of the justice and redress to which we were entitled, particularly in relation to the French Decrees. His observations with respect to the policy of England, resulting from the State of things in Europe, were allowed their full weight and it was equally admitted that the United States would become peculiarly important to G. Britain, from such a change in her system, but a continuance of their neutrality became for the same reason of the greater importance to France and Spain; the more so, as the disposition of the Spanish provinces to look to the auspices of the United States, was so well understood. He was left under the impression, however, that the principles and policy of the United States would sufficiently restrain them from becoming parties against any nation whose just and friendly conduct should leave them to their pacific cause.
I have no doubt that the language he held with respect to manifestations of our friendship was the version made by his prudence of the propositions contained in your letter by Capt. Haley, and that his remarks on the subject of So. America grew out of the views given latterly in the Newspapers of the interest G. Britain had in making Spanish America the primary object of her operations. His remarks however shew the light in which the subject strikes a French mind, and it is not improbable, especially if the condition of Spain should second the purpose, that you will be able to turn the co-operation which the United States could afford towards a revolution in South America, into a motive to guard against it by a compliance with their reasonable expectations.
In all the conversations which have been held with the French Legation here it has appeared that much juster views are taken by it, of the true interest of France in relation to the United States, than have prevailed in the French Government, and I think it probable that their correspondence has imparted those views. Of late much solicitude seems to have been felt by Genl. Turreau to promote a change in the tone of language as well as of measures, employed towards the United States. As the most likely mode of succeeding in it, Mr. Petrie is about to take, if he can find, a passage to France, where he will be able by personal intercourse, to make impressions not otherwise communicable. . . . 1
With great respect, &c.
TO WILLIAM PINKNEY.d. of s. mss. instr.
Department of State, January 3, 1809.
Availing myself as heretofore of a British packet from New York, I forward a continuation of the proceedings of Congress, as they will be seen in the prints herewith inclosed, adding at the same time a copy of my last letter which was transmitted thro’ the favor of Mr. Erskine along with some of his dispatches by way of New Brunswick.
You will observe that in pursuance of the resolutions of the House of Representatives not to submit to the Foreign Edicts against our commerce, and to provide further for the security of the Country, a Bill is on its passage, for raising immediately a volunteer force of 50,000 men. This added to other preparations, has induced Mr. Erskine to make it the subject of conversation, in which he alluded to his duty of communicating measures of that character to his Government, and the usage of their being accompanied with such explanations as the Government here might think proper to make on the occasion. He was reminded that we had seen at different times and in different quarters, augmentations of British force in our neighbourhood, without any intimation of its object, or that it had no reference to the United States. But that there was, nevertheless, no hesitation in saying to him, that however desirous the United States might be of preserving peace, the situation in which they found themselves made it their obvious and indispensable duty to be prepared for War; that the perseverance of his Government and that of France in their respective Edicts, especially after the communications which had been made to them and the removal of the very pretexts for such aggressions indicated a spirit of hostility against which it would be the most culpable neglect not to provide; and finally that it would be frankly avowed as was indeed to be inferred from the sentiments expressed by the Legislature, that the time might not be distant when a longer adherence to those Edicts would give them the overt character, as they had long had the real effect of War, and impose on the United States the obligation of vindicating their honor and their rights by other means than had thus far been resorted to. With these observations were mingled explicit assurances of the solicitude of this Country to avoid such an extremity, and of the satisfaction that would be afforded, by any change in the conduct of the belligerent Governments and particularly of his own, which would lay the foundation for amicable adjustment. He signified that it did not lie with him to do more than to give information to his Government leaving to that the inferences and decisions proper to be formed. He expressed, however, his wishes and hopes that any hostile result might be avoided; and alluded, as he had repeatedly done on preceding occasions to the documents explaining what had passed between this Government and France, and to the effect of the proposed non intercourse Act, in sinking the non-importation Act, and the proclamation of July 1807, pointed against G Britain alone, into regulations common to her and her Enemy, as furnishing grounds to which he could not undertake to say that his Government might not be disposed to give a favorable attention.
I have given you this sketch as at once apprizing you of the communication which will of course be made to Mr. Canning, and assisting you in any conversations with him which may ensue.
The impatience under the Embargo, more particularly in Massachusetts, is becoming extremely acute under the artificial excitements given to it; and a preference of war within a very limited period is every where gaining ground. Were it not for the chance of belligerent relaxations, under the influence of the known dispositions and determinations here, and of events in Europe, it is probable that letters of Marque and reprisal would at once be issued. For the present it seems to be in view, to provide for an extra Session of Congress in the Month of May, with an understanding that War will then be the proper course, if no immediate change abroad shall render it unnecessary. What other measures, provisional or positive, may be connected with or added to this extra call of Congress, I do not venture now to anticipate; the less so as the public mind is in a state too impressible to shew in its present temper, what its bias may become in the progress of the Session. It is not improbable that a time would be immediately fixed, at which hostilities should be commenced against the persevering aggression or aggressions, but for the apprehension that the menacing alternative presented by that course might be an obstacle with pride to relaxations not otherwise inadmissible.
I have the honor to be &c
[1 ]The omitted portions relate to finding a successor to Fulwar Skipwith, Consul at Paris, and the state of public opinion in the United States.