History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/First/II:13

Chapter 13: Monroe and TalleyrandEdit

Hardly was the Louisiana treaty sent to America in May, 1803, when Monroe began preparations for a journey to Madrid. The outbreak of temper with which Godoy and Cevallos received the news that Spain had been secretly deprived of Louisiana, caused Bonaparte to feel that further maltreatment of his ally was for the moment unwise; and he interposed a sudden veto on Monroe's journey. "With respect to Florida, this is not the time to pursue that object," said he, when Monroe came to take leave.[1] The Consul Cambarcérès echoed the warning: "You must not go to Spain at present; it is not the time; you had better defer it." The Third Consul Lebrun spoke in the same tone. Monroe took the advice, and abandoned the journey to Madrid. In July he crossed the Channel to London, and Aug. 17, 1803, was duly presented to George III. as the successor of Rufus King, who had already returned to America. Livingston remained at Paris to manage the relations with Napoleon.

In spite of success that should have filled his cup of ambition to overflowing, Livingston was far from satisfied. Neither the President nor the Secretary of State liked him; and to the latter he was a possible rival, who might become dangerous if the authority of President Jefferson, which was Madison's great support, should wane, and should New York claim the presidency from Virginia. Monroe distrusted Livingston, believing him to grasp at the whole credit of the Louisiana treaty, and to be intriguing to withdraw the Florida negotiation from Monroe's hands by causing its transfer from Madrid to Paris.[2] The Secretary of State was perpetually annoyed by his minister. Sometimes Livingston experimented on Spain, sometimes on England. At one moment he sent to the First Consul an indiscreet memorial that brought a remonstrance from the British government; at another he fell into a virulent quarrel with the American claims commissioners under the Louisiana treaty. His claims convention was admitted to be full of mistakes which he did not himself attempt to defend, while the American consul at Paris declared that his conduct in regard to certain claims was dictated by blind and insatiable vanity, if not by corrupt and criminal motives.[3]

Mistakes cost Livingston little serious annoyance; but although he could afford to disregard British complaints or Consul Skipwith's abuse, or even the severe criticisms of the claims commissioners, he must have had more than human patience to sit quiet under the superiority of Monroe. He knew that whatever diplomatic credit was due for the Louisiana negotiation rightly belonged to him, and that Monroe had no claim to any part of it, except that of supporting and approving what was already accomplished; yet he saw the Administration and the public attribute the chief honor to his rival. He showed his wounded self-esteem in protests and statements to which the world was deaf. His old Federalist friends took malicious pleasure in telling him that his triumph had offended the vanity of Jefferson.[4]

Consoling himself with the reflection that he should insist on returning to America in the autumn of 1804, Livingston endured these annoyances as he best could, and found in the society of Robert Fulton and Joel Barlow the hope of greater fame and profit than political distinctions could possibly bring. While he watched and encouraged Fulton's experiments with the steamboat, clouds gathered more and more thickly round his diplomatic path. The First Consul had never inspired him with much confidence; but after the rupture of the Peace of Amiens, in May, 1803, Bonaparte's acts became more and more alarming to every Republican. He passed the autumn of 1803 in preparations for a descent on England. He next effected, in February, 1804, the arrest, trial, and banishment of Moreau. The seizure and arbitrary execution of the Duc d'Enghien followed a month afterward, and finally, in May, 1804, the proclamation of the Empire.

In the midst of these events Livingston received from home the letter already quoted, in which Madison told the story of the Mobile Act, and complained of Yrujo's violent conduct. "The correspondence is chiefly of importance," said the Secretary of State, "as it urges the expediency of cultivating the disposition of the French government to take our side of the question." Livingston was personally rather inclined to the opposite course. He had little faith in obtaining favors from the Emperor, and no disposition to place the United States in the attitude of begging for them; but he had not the chief share in shaping action. A few weeks after receiving these instructions, when he heard of the quasi war which Pinckney in July declared at Madrid, Livingston was already expecting the arrival of his successor, General Armstrong, in the autumn.

The news from Spain reaching London, startled Monroe from his repose. As soon as he could make ready, Oct. 8, 1804, placing his legation in charge of a secretary, Monroe left London. While he waited in Paris to sound the disposition of Talleyrand, General Armstrong arrived to relieve Livingston. Thus it happened that three American ministers—Monroe, Livingston, and Armstrong—met at Paris in November, 1804, to cope with Talleyrand, in whose hands lay the decision of Jefferson's quarrel with Spain.

The question to be decided was whether the United States government should disregard its obligations to Napoleon and act independently, or whether the President should defer to the opinion of Talleyrand and to the Emperor's will. The story of diplomatic adventure, which has so often an interest beyond what could be supposed possible from the contact of three or four quiet and elderly gentlemen meeting about a green table, or writing letters inordinately long, owes that interest in most cases to a hope or a despair, to a mystery or an elucidation; but Monroe's labors at that time offered little mystery, and less hope. Although he did not know all that was happening behind the diplomatic curtain, he knew enough to be aware that his negotiation for Florida, on the ground chosen by the President, was hopeless.

Three months had passed since Cevallos made his appeal to Talleyrand for help. "If the Emperor would but say a word," Cevallos urged;[5] "if he would make the United States understand that he will not be pleased at seeing them abuse their advantages,"—this would put an end to insults like the Mobile Act and Pinckney's threats. Talleyrand's answer could not be doubtful. Angry with Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Livingston for their attack on West Florida, into which his own and his master's finessing had drawn them; still angrier with Pinckney for the burlesque of Napoleonic manners with which he alarmed the government of Spain; hostile at heart to Bonaparte's ultimate schemes against the Spanish empire, but determined that if Spain were to be plundered France should have the booty; willing to repay a part of the humiliation and disappointment which the United States had twice inflicted upon him,—the instant the Spanish ambassador at Paris brought the Mobile Act to his notice, Talleyrand assured him with emphasis that the Emperor would formally oppose such pretensions on the part of the United States;[6] and when Pinckney's conduct was reported to him, with the request that the Emperor would instruct his minister at Washington to act in concert with Yrujo in order to prevent a rupture, Talleyrand hastened to meet the wish of the Spanish government.

Cevallos made other requests. After narrating the history of Pinckney's clainms convention, he touched briefly on the claim for French spoliations which the Americans so warmly urged against Spain, and he asserted that Lucien Bonaparte had given an assurance that these claims were covered by the Franco-American treaty of 1800, and therefore could not be pressed against Spain. He complained that Pinckney had used "language the most gross, the most insulting, and, so to speak, the most audacious and menacing." He called attention to the dangers which would result from allowing the boundary of Louisiana to be extended toward either Florida or Mexico; and he begged "that orders might be sent to the French commissioner Laussat in Louisiana, enjoining him to restrain the pretensions of the Americans regarding the limits of that province, and not to show himself favorable to the wishes of the Americans, as there is reason to suspect him of doing, according to his correspondence with the Spanish commissioner."

Laussat's offence consisted in telling the American commissioners that his instructions fixed the Rio Bravo as the western boundary of Louisiana. Cevallos made no protest to Talleyrand against the truth of Laussat's statement. He tacitly admitted that Laussat was right; but he invited Talleyrand to join in depriving the United States of Texas, which the United States had bought, and the price of which they had paid to France. That Godoy would conspire for this purpose was natural, for he had no reason to respect the Louisiana cession, and he had pledged his honor in no way to the United States; of property which Napoleon himself had bought from Spain and sold to the United States, and for which he had received some millions of coin for his personal objects and ambitions, showed that the Prince of Peace understood the characters of Bonaparte and Talleyrand.

Talleyrand, who held that Bonaparte had made a mistake in selling Louisiana to the United States, and who looked upon himself as having no responsibility for the transaction, was glad to restrict what he thought the evil that had been done. Taking the complaints of Spain to the Emperor, he received permission to do what Spain requested; and during the month of August he sent from the Foreign Office a series of documents that disposed for the time of any hopes still nourished by Jefferson's diplomacy.

These three papers were too important to be forgotten. French diplomatic writings were models of concise, impassive clearness, contrasting with the diffuse and argumentative, if not disputatious, style which sometimes characterized American and Spanish official correspondence. These three short letters offered examples of French methods. The first was addressed to Gerneral Turreau at Washington, and concerned the boundaries of Louisiana towards the west:[7]

"If the Mississippi and the Iberville trace with precision the eastern boundary of that colony, it has less precise limits to the westward. No river, no chain of mountains, separates it from the Spanish possessions; and between the last settlements of Louisiana and the first of those in the Spanish colonies are frequently to be found intervals so great as to make a line of demarcation difficult to agree upon. So Spain already appears to fear that the United States, who show an intention of forcing back the western limits of Louisiana, may propose to advance in this direction to the ocean, and establish themselves on that part of the American coast which lies north of California."

Turreau was directed to divert the United States government from the idea of extension toward the west and northwest in any manner that might annoy Spain. He was to employ means of persuasion and friendly influence for this purpose, rather than to act officially; all official action being reserved for objects directly interesting France.

The second document[8] was also addressed to Turreau, but was more decided in tone, as though the Emperor himself had dictated its language. After a brief allusion to Pinckney's claims convention and the American theory that Spain was responsible for French spoliations which she had not prevented, Talleyrand continued:—

"That convention, made under date of Aug. 11, 1802, is posterior by — months to that which France concluded with the United States, the 8th Vendemiaire, An ix. (30 Sept. 1800), and which declared that no indemnity should be given for prizes made by either of the two Powers. This Article ought to leave the Americans no hope that prizes made against them on Spanish shores would be excepted and paid for; it would be useless for them to suppose that it is Spain from whom they seek these indemnities: Spain, who would have only the advances to pay, would afterward recur to France for reimbursement. It is, then, upon France that this charge would ultimately fall; and as we are relieved by the convention of Sept. 30, 1800, from every kind of debt relating to prizes, we can only with some surprise see the United States seeking to obtain from another government a part of the indemnities which they had decidedly renounced in their convention with France. Spain had doubtless lost sight of these considerations, and had not in view this convention of ours, when her plenipotentiary signed that of Aug. 11, 1802, which the United States now require her to ratify. Circumstances which have since taken place have, fortunately, furnished Spain with an occasion for retracing the false step she took in signing this convention. The Federal government, which by different acts relative to the Flordas has violated the sovereign rights of Spain, and which for more than eighteen months has refused to ratify its convention with her, has lost the right to complain because the Court of Madrid now imitates it refusal, and insists upon making such modifications in this treaty as the lapse of time may make it think necessary and better suited to its rights and dignity."

After sending these instructions to Turreau, the French Minister for Foreign Relations next turned to Spain, and wrote a note intended to reassure Cevallos. The peculiar interest of this document lay in the spirit it showed toward the United States. Cevallos had invited an understanding as to the boundaries of Louisiana to be alleged against the United States. These boundaries, defined eighteen months before in the secret instructions for Victor, a copy of which was given to Laussat, declared the Rio Bravo to be the western limit of Louisiana:[9] "Bounded on the west by the river called Rio Bravo, from the mouth of this stream up to the 30th parallel, beyond this point the line of demarcation ceases to be traced, and it seems that there has never been an agreement as to this part of the frontier." That Laussat meant to act on these instructions was proved by his language to Governor Claiborne and General Wilkinson.[10] "M. Laussat confidentially signified" to these two American commissioners that the territory "did not comprehend any part of West Florida; adding at the same time that it extended westwardly to the Rio Bravo, otherwise called the Rio del Norte." Although Cevallos had remonstrated against the indiscretion of this statement, he had not suggested that Laussat was in error;[11] he merely invited Talleyrand to check a subordinate officer, in order to limit American pretensions. In accordance with this hint, Talleyrand marked for the Spanish government the line it was to take in resisting the American claim to territory for which France had received the purchase money.

After defining the eastern boundary of Florida as fixed by treaty at the Iberville and the Mississippi rivers, the French minister instructed the Spanish government as follows:[12]

"The western limit of Louisiana not having been fixed in a manner equally precise by the treaties which preceded that of March 21, 1801, nor by that treaty itself, the uncertainty which prevailed in regard to the direction of its frontiers has necessarily continued since the cession made to the United States. France could not even take upon herself to indicate to the United States what ought to be that precise limit, for fear of wounding on this point the pretensions of one or the other Power directly interested in this question. It would have become the object of negotiation between his Imperial and his Catholic Majesties. To-day it can be treated only between Spain and the United States. Nevertheless, as the Americans derive their rights from France, I have been enabled to express to his Imperial Majesty's minister plenipotentiary near the United States the chief bases on which the Emperor would have planted himself in the demand for a demarcation of boundaries. Starting from the Gulf of Mexico, we should have sought to distinguish between settlements that belong to the kingdom of Mexico, and settlements that had been formed by the French or by those who succeeded them in this colony. This distinction between settlements formed by the French or by the Spaniards would have been made equally in ascending northwards. All those which are of French foundation would have belonged to Louisiana; and since European settlements in the interior are rare and scattered, we might have imagined direct lines drawn from one to the other to connect them; and it is to the west of this imaginary line that the boundary between Louisiana and the Spanish possessions would have been traced at such distance and in such direction as France and Spain should have agreed. The great spaces which sometimes exist between the last French settlements and the last Spanish missions might have left still some doubts on the direction of the boundary to be traced between them, but with the views of friendship and conciliation which animate their Majesties, these difficulties would have been soon smoothed away."

Such were, according to Talleyrand, the conciliatory intentions which should have animated his Imperial Majesty. They were widely different from the positive instructions formally approved by the First Consul Nov. 26, 1802, which ordered Victor and Laussat to consider the Rio Bravo as the boundary of their command. The difference was the whole province of Texas.

On another point Talleyrand reassured the Spanish government.

"In any case," said he, "the Court of Madrid would appear to have no ground for the fear it shows that the United States may make use of their possession of Louisiana in order to form settlements on the northwest coast of America. Whatever boundary may be agreed upon between Spain and the United States, the line will necessarily be so far removed from the western coast of America as to relieve the Court of Madrid from any anxiety on that score."

Yet no one knew better than Talleyrand the instincts of the American people, and their ambition to use the entire continent for their experiments! He knew that the First Consul, by his instructions to Laussat, had given, so far as he could, the authority of both French and Spanish governments to the claim of the United States that Louisiana stretched westwardly to a line yet to be fixed. He knew that Laussat, who hated the Spaniards more than he did the Americans, had betrayed the secret. If Talleyrand hoped to repress American ambition, he must have calculated on the effects of force or fear, or he must have been overwhelmed by the immensity of the scale on which the Americans were acting. The doctrine of contiguity, on which the United States could rest their most plausible claim to Oregon, was as valid then as it ever afterward became; and if Talleyrand did not appreciate it, Godoy proved himself the more sagacious statesman.

By Sept. 1, 1804, these precautionary measures were completed, and Talleyrand could wait for the coming of Monroe and Armstrong. About the middle of October Monroe appeared in Paris. His instructions, sent from Washington before the news of Pinckney's extravagances had reached America, obliged him to insist upon the right of West Florida as "a sine quâ non, and no price to be given for it;"[13] to insist, also, upon the right to Texas, but with a border-land to be kept unsettled for thirty years; and to offer two million dollars for East Florida beyond the Perdido. The Cabinet then for the first time decided to commit itself to the doctrine that West Florida was a part of the Louisiana purchase,[14] alleging as its ostensible reason, not so much the abstract justice of the title, as the wish to avoid acknowledging Spanish land-grants made in Florida since the Louisiana cession.

"It is indispensable," wrote Madison, April 15, 1804, "that the United States be not precluded from such a construction [of the treaty],—first, because they consider the right as well founded; secondly and principally, because it is known that a great proportion of the most valuable lands between the Mississippi and the Perdido have been granted by Spanish officers since the cession was made by Spain. These illicit speculations cannot otherwise be frustrated than by considering the territory as included in the cession made by Spain."
The hope that Spain might submit to these concessions rested on the belief that she could not afford to quarrel with the United States. Foreseeing that she must soon be drawn into the war with England, the President from the first looked forward to that event, believing that the same reasons which as he supposed had forced Bonaparte to cede Louisiana, must reconcile Spain to the cession of Florida.
"Should she be engaged in the war," wrote Madison to Monroe, "or manifestly threatened with that situation, she cannot fail to be the more anxious for a solid accommodation on all points with the United States, and the more willing to yield, for that purpose, to terms which, however proper in themselves, might otherwise be rejected by her pride and misapplied jealousy."

The first part of this calculation was realized even before Monroe quitted London. Oct. 1, 1804, a British squadron seized the Spanish treasure-ships on their voyage from America; and no one doubted that Spain must declare war. She did so a few weeks later, December 12, before Monroe reached Madrid. The effect of this new disaster on what Madison called her misapplied jealousy" remained to be seen.

The only published record of Monroe's stay in Paris is contained in a note dated Nov. 8, 1804, which he persuaded Livingston to convey to Talleyrand. Although Livingston's temper was peculiar, and his diplomacy under ordinary circumstances restless, he was well acquainted with the men who governed France; and he had little faith in another man's ability to do what he had himself attempted in vain. That Livingston should be jealous of Monroe's presence in Paris was natural; for the American minister at London was not accredited to the Emperor, and his interference could do nothing but harm to the actual minister at Paris. When asked to act as medium for Monroe's proposed communications with Talleyrand, Livingston made objections. Not until Armstrong arrived, about November 1, did the ministers agree upon the terms of the note, and send it to its address. Monroe had then been one month absent from London.

Nothing could be more courteous than the tone of Monroe's letter, which ignored Pinckney's conduct, and breathed a spirit of benevolence.[15] The object of writing was to ask the Emperor's good offices in support of the negotiation to be opened at Madrid; and in order to reach this end, Monroe touched on the story of his present mission, recounting the causes of the previous quarrel with Spain, and alluding to West Florida, the spoliation claims, the claims for damages rising from Morales's occlusion of the Mississippi, and to the Mobile Act, which, as Monroe admitted, was intended to authorize the taking immediate possession of Florida. The only offensive idea suggested in the note was that the Spanish occupation of Florida implied an aggression against the United States, "which tends to provoke hostility and lead to war."

The note combining the diplomacy of three ministers was sent; and the three diplomatists waited in fear of what would follow, dreading nothing so much as Talleyrand's answer. They had reason to know that it would be unfavorable, and that at least on the question of West Florida Talleyrand had already committed himself against the United States. They were told, too, that on reading their note Napoleon showed great irritation. Besides this, they had other causes of alarm. Within three days after Monroe's arrival at Paris, Marbois, his best friend among Napoleon's ministers, told him that the question was one of money:[16] "Such was the situation of Spain at this time, that he was persuaded if we would make her suitable pecuniary accommodations we might succeed." M. Hauterive, another gentleman within the circle of government, soon afterward repeated the remark: "Spain must cede territory; the United States must pay money." Care was taken to let Monroe understand that once this principle should be agreed upon, France would cause the negotiation to be transferred to Paris. Armstrong soon afterward wrote to Madison, alluding to the story in regard to the Emperor:[17]

"This country has determined to convert the negotiation into a job, and to draw from it advantages merely pecuniary to herself, or, in other language, to her agents. It is this venality that explains her present reserve, the degree of excitement displayed by the Emperor on reading the note, and the marked incivility with which Mr. Monroe was treated by Talleyrand. Since his departure, repeated intimations have been given to me that if certain persons could be sufficiently gratified, the negotiation should be transferred hither, and brought to a close with which we should have no reason to find fault."

Monroe, though honest as any man in public life, and more courageous in great emergencies than some of his friends or rivals, was commonly not quick at catching an idea, nor did he see it at last from a great elevation; but in this instance the idea was thrust so persistently into his face, that had he been blind he could not have missed it. Nothing could more clearly explain his situation than the language of the diary in which he recorded, for the President's benefit, the daily course of his conduct.

"No other alternative," he explained,[18] "presented itself to me than to abandon the object and return to London, or to submit to the terms which it was sufficiently well understood France was willing to accept, and seemed in some measure to dictate, which amounted to this: that we should create a new loan of about seventy millions of livres, and transfer the same to Spain, who would immediately pass them over to France, in consideration of which we should be put in possession of the disputed territory, under stipulations which should provide for the adjustment of the ultimate right there, and reimbursement of the money by instalment in seven years."

"To submit to the terms proposed was altogether out of the question," continued Monroe. Having led his Government to take the ground that West Florida had already been bought, he could not enter into a negotiation to buy it a second time. His instructions made this point a sine quâ non of negotiation. Recognizing that under these circumstances further effort was useless, or in his own words that no other alternative presented itself but to abandon the object and return to London, Monroe intimated to Talleyrand that he meant not only to pay no money, but also to negotiate in spite of Napoleon; and started for Madrid.

"I did not hesitate," he wrote home,[19] "in many informal communications, the substance of which I was persuaded were made known to those in power, to declare most solemnly that I would sanction no measure which contemplated a payment of money to Spain in any transaction we might have with her in the affair,—by which was meant, by creation of stock or otherwise which took the money from our people; that neither the state of things between the parties, the example of France in a similar case, or my instructions, permitted it. These conversations were with a person who possessed the confidence of certain persons in power, as well as my own, though they were not of a nature to compromit either party. That circumstance enabled me to speak with the utmost freedom, and perhaps to say things which it might have been difficult to press directly in the same manner to the parties themselves."

If thus defying France, Monroe, if he resembled European diplomatists, must have aimed at giving his Government an opportunity to break with the Emperor and to proceed against Florida by means of force. That he should have still hoped for success in negotiating at Madrid was hardly possible. Armstrong thought his chance desperate.[20]

"Mr. Monroe has no doubt communicated to you," he wrote to the Secretary of State, "the motives which induced him to leave England in prosecution of his mission to Spain, and while here to attempt to draw from this Government some new declaration of support of our construction of the late treaty. With this view a note was prepared and transmitted through Livingston, the receipt of which was acknowledged by Mr. Talleyrand with a promise that 'an answer should be given to it as soon as the Emperor should have signified his will on the subject.' Having waited nearly a month, and no answer being given, having some reason to believe that any declaration from this Court now would be less favorable that those already made, and fearful lest something might be lost at Madrid, while nothing could be gained here, he set out on the 8th instant for Spain. I have but little hope, however, that he will be able to do more than fulfil the forms of his mission."

Armstrong preferred, as he expressed it, "an effort (which cannot fail) to do the business at home." He had already discovered that the Emperor was personally irritated with the Americans, that he took no pains to conceal it, and that this irritation was a cause of his reserve.

"I have employed every means in my power to ascertain the cause of this cause, and have learned from a person sufficiently near him to know the fact, that this temper originated in representations made by Leclerc and others from St. Domingo; that it has since been kept alive by the incident of the war in that country, the trade carried on between it and the United States, the freedom with which he is treated in our press, the matrimonial connection of Jerome, and, above all, the support which principles he wishes to extinguish in France receive from the progressing prosperity of the United States."

With Napoleon in this frame of mind; with Godoy and Cevallos in a humor far worse; and with Talleyrand in such a temper as not to allow his treating Monroe with civility,—the American plenipotentiary departed to Madrid, hoping that something might occur to overcome his difficulties. During his journey, Charles IV. declared war against England. This long-foreseen event, which should have brought Spain to terms with the United States, in fact threw her only at the feet of Napoleon. Henceforward every offence to Spain was an offence to France, which the Emperor was the more bound to resent because by treaty he must regard a war upon Charles IV. as a war upon himself.

Talleyrand was not vindictive, but he had been twice mortified by the failure of his policy toward America. If his callous cheek could burn, it was still red with the blow which the last President of the United States had struck it; and no waters of oblivion could drown in his memory the cry of distress with which he had then begged for mercy. He had been again overthrown by the present President, and obliged to sell Louisiana, turn his back on the traditions of France, and shut up his far-reaching mind within the limit of his master's artillery politics. Day by day he saw more clearly that soldiership, and not statecraft, was to guide the destinies of France, and that the new régime was but revolution without ideas. He had probably begun already to feel that the presence of his coldly silent face was becoming irksome to a will which revolted at the memory of a remonstrance. Talleyrand was corrupt,—perhaps he thought himself more corrupt than he was; but his political instincts were sounder than his private morality. He was incarnate conservatism; but he was wider-minded and more elevated in purpose than Napoleon. He had no faith in Napoleon's methods, and was particularly hostile to his projects against Spain; but in respect to Monroe and his mission, Talleyrand's ideas coincided with those of the Emperor; and when two such men marked out a victim, his chance of escape was small.

Talleyrand was not to blame that Monroe's note remained unanswered before Monroe left Paris. About ten days after receiving it Talleyrand made to the Emperor a report on the subject, so cool and clear as to read like a mathematical demonstration.[21]

"The United States," he began, "who wish to negotiate at Madrid under the auspices of France for the acquisition of Florida, have acquired little title to the good offices of the Emperor by the sharpness of tone and the want of civility (égards) with which they have conducted themselves toward Spain."

After enumerating the threats and agressions of the United States government against Spain during the last three years, the report disposed of the American claims, one by one, in few words. First, the spoliations, which had been formally abandoned by treaty; second, the claim for losses rising from the interruption of entrepôt at New Orleans, which "should be terminated by the treaty of cession,—the acquisition of an immense country might throw out of view some anterior losses;" finally, the claim to West Florida,—a species of attack on the Emperor's dignity and good faith which merited some expression of his displeasure. To support this view, Talleyrand related the history of the French negotiation for West Florida and its failure, commenting on the manner in which the Americans had fabricated their claim, and coming at last to a conclusion studiously moderate, and evidently in harmony with the views of Hauterive as expressed to Monroe. Talleyrand rarely wrote such papers with his own hand; probably they were drawn up under his directions by Hauterive, or some other subordinate of the Office, in the form of suggestions rather than advice.

"According to such evidence, no one can suppose the United States to be convinced of the justice of their rights; and we are warranted in thinking that the Federal government, as a result of confidence in its own strength, of its ambition, and its ascendancy in America, raises pretensions to a part of Florida in order to show itself afterward more exacting toward Spain. The Emperor will feel that justice requires him not to recognize such pretensions. If he should assist by his good offices an arrangement between the United States and Spain, he would wish good faith and impartiality for its base.
"Only in case the United States should desist from their unjust pretensions to West Florida, and return to the forms of civility and decorum,—from which in their relations with each other governments should never depart,—could the Emperor allow himself to second at the Court of Madrid the project of acquisition of the two Floridas. Then perhaps the Emperor might think that this country is less suited to Spain now that it is separated from her other colonies, and that it is better suited to the United States because a part of their Western rivers cross the Floridas before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico; and finally, that Spain may see in her actual situation, and in the expenses entailed on her by the war, some motives for listening to the offers of the Federal government."

Talleyrand had great need to insist on "the forms of civility and decorum from which governments should never depart"! Perhaps Talleyrand already foresaw the scene, said to have occurred some two years later, when Napoleon violently denounced him to his face as "a silk stocking stuffed with filth," and the minister coldly retaliated by the famous phrase, "Pity that so great a man should be so ill brought up!" The task of teaching manners to Jefferson was not Napoleon's view of his own functions in the world. He probably gave more attention to the concluding lines of the report, which suggested that he should decide whether a Spanish colony, made worthless by an arbitrary act of his own, could be usefully employed in sustaining his wars.

This report, dated Nov. 19, 1804, lay some weeks in the Emperor's hands. Monroe left Paris for Madrid December 8, and still no answer had been sent to his note. He wrote from Bordeaux, December 16, a long and interesting letter to Madison, and resumed his journey. He could hardly have crossed the Bidassoa when Armstrong received from Talleyrand, December 21, the long-expected answer,[22] which by declaring the claim to West Florida emphatically unfounded struck the ground from under Monroe's feet, and left him to repent at leisure his defiance of Talleyrand's advice. Under the forms of perfect courtesy, this letter contained both sarcasm and menace. Talleyrand expressed curiosity to learn the result of Monroe's negotiation:—

"This result his Imperial Majesty will learn with real interest. He saw with pain the United States commence their difficulties with Spain in an unusual manner, and conduct themselves toward the Floridas by acts of violence which, not being founded in right, could have no other effect but to injure the lawful owner. Such an aggression gave the more surprise to his Majesty because the United States seemed in this measure to avail themselves of their treaty with France as an authority for their proceedings, and because he could scarcely reconcile with the just opinion which he entertains of the wisdom and fidelity of the Federal government a course of proceedings which nothing can authorize toward a Power which has long occupied, and still occupies, one of the first ranks in Europe."

Madison and Monroe, as well as Jefferson, in the course of their diplomacy had many mortifications to suffer; but they rarely received a reprimand more keen than this. Yet its sharpness was so delicately covered by the habitual forms of Talleyrand's diplomacy that Americans, who were accustomed to hear and use strong language, hardly felt the wound it was intended to inflict. After hearing Yrujo denounce an act of their government as an "atrocious libel," they were not shocked to hear Talleyrand denounce the same act as one of violence which nothing could authorize. The force of Talleyrand's language was more apparent to Godoy than to Madison, for it bore out every expression of Yrujo and Cevallos. The Prince of Peace received a copy of Talleyrand's note at the moment when Monroe, after almost a month of weary winter travel, joined Pinckney, who had for six months been employed only in writing letter after letter begging for succor and support. Don Pedro Cevallos, with this public pledge in his hand, and with secret French pledges covering every point of the negotiation in his desk, could afford to meet with good humor the visit of the new American plenipotentiary.

Pinckney's humiliation was extreme. After breaking off relations with Cevallos and pledging himself to demand his passports and to leave Spain, he had been reduced to admit that his Government disavowed him; and not only was he obliged to remain at Madrid, but also to sue for permission to resume relations with Cevallos. The Spanish government good-naturedly and somewhat contemptuously permitted him to do so; and he was only distressed by the fear that Monroe might refuse to let him take part in the new negotiation, for he was with reason confident that Monroe would be obliged to follow in his own footsteps,—that the United States could save its dignity and influence only by war.

At the beginning of the new year, Jan. 2, 1805, Monroe entered Madrid to snatch Florida from the grasp of Spain and France. The negotiation fell chiefly within Jefferson's second term, upon which it had serious results. But while Monroe, busy at Madrid with a quarrel which could lead only to disappointment or war, thus left the legation at London for eight months to take care of itself, events were occurring which warned President Jefferson that the supreme test of his principles was near at hand, and that a storm was threatening from the shores of Great Britain compared with which all other dangers were trivial.

  1. Monroe to Madison, July 20, 1803; MSS. State Department Archives.
  2. Monroe's Memoranda, Monroe MSS., State Department Archives.
  3. Skipwith to Madison, Feb. 21, 1804; State Department Archives.
  4. Gouverneur Morris to Livingston, Nov. 28, 1803; Sparks's Morris, iii. 188.
  5. Vandeul to Talleyrand, July 26 and Aug. 6, 1804; Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
  6. Gravina to Talleyrand, July 24, 1804; Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS. Cevallos to Monroe and Pinckney, 16 Feb. 1805; State Papers, ii. 643.
  7. Talleyrand to Turreau (No. 99), 20 Thermidor, An xii. (Aug. 8, 1804); Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
  8. Talleyrand to Turreau (No. 101), 27 Thermidor, An xii. (Aug. 15, 1804); Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
  9. Instructions secrètes pour le Capitaine-Général de la Louisiane, approuvées par le Premier Consul le 5 Frimaire, An xi. (Nov. 26, 1802), Archives de la Marine, MSS.
  10. Madison to Livingston, March 31, 1804; State Papers, ii. 575.
  11. Cf. Memoir upon the Negotiations between Spain and the United States of America. By Don Luis de Onis, Madrid, 1820.
  12. Talleyrand to Gravina, 12 Fructidor, An xii. (Aug. 30, 1804); Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
  13. Jefferson to Madison, July 5, 1804; Works, iv. 550.
  14. Madison to Monroe, April 15, 1804; State Papers, ii. 627. Madison to Monroe and Pinckney, July 8, 1804; State Papers, ii. 630.
  15. Monroe to Talleyrand, Nov. 8, 1804; State Papers, ii. 634.
  16. Monroe to Madison, Dec. 16, 1804; MSS. State Department Archives.
  17. Armstrong to Madison, Dec. 24, 1804; MSS. State Department Archives.
  18. Diary at Aranjuez, April 22, 1805; MSS. State Department Archives.
  19. Monroe to Madison, Dec. 16, 1804; MSS. State Department Archives
  20. Armstrong to Madison, Dec. 24, 1804; MSS. State Department Archives.
  21. Rapport à l'Empereur, 28 Brumaire, An xii. (Nov. 19, 1804); Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
  22. Talleyrand to Armstrong, Dec. 21, 1804; State Papers, ii. 635.