History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/I:3


Chapter 3: Cabinet VacillationsEdit

The Eighth Congress had hardly expired, March 3, 1805, amid the confusion and ill-temper which followed the failure of impeachment, when President Jefferson and Secretary Madison began to hear the first mutterings of European disaster. Talleyrand's letter to Armstrong, Dec. 21, 1804, arrived with its blunt announcement that Napoleon meant to oppose every step of Monroe's negotiation at Madrid, and with its declaration that West Florida had not been included in the retrocession of Louisiana to France, but had been refused to France by King Charles. Jefferson was then at Monticello, and thither the documents from Paris followed him. He wrote to Madison that Monroe's case was desperate.

"I consider," said the President, [1] "that we may anticipate the effect of his mission. On its failure as to the main object, I wish he may settle the right of navigating the Mobile, as everything else may await further peaceable proceedings; but even then we shall have a difficult question to decide,—to wit, whether we will let the present crisis in Europe pass away without a settlement."

This letter showed that as early as the month of March, 1805, the President foresaw Monroe's disasters, and began to speculate upon the next step to be taken. The attempt to obtain Florida through Spanish fears had failed; but his first impression was that everything might go on as before, if the Spaniards would consent to a free navigation of the Mobile. Madison was still more vague; his first impulse was to retrace his steps. He wrote to the President a singular letter of contradictions.

"I cannot entirely despair," said he, March 27, [2] "that Spain, notwithstanding the support given by France to her claim to West Florida, may yield to our proposed arrangement, partly from its intrinsic value to her, partly from an apprehension of the interference of Great Britain; and that this latter consideration may, as soon as France despairs of her pecuniary object, transfer her weight into our scale. If she [France] should persist in disavowing her right to sell West Florida to the United States, and above all can prove it to have been the mutual understanding with Spain that West Florida was no part of Louisiana, it will place our claim on very different ground,—such probably as would not be approved by the world, and such certainly as would not with that approbation be maintained by force. If our right be good against Spain at all, it must be supported by those rigid maxims of technical law which have little weight in national questions generally, and none at all when opposed to the principles of universal equity. The world would decide that France having sold us the territory of a third party, which she had no right to sell, that party having even remonstrated against the whole transaction, the right of the United States was limited to a demand on France to procure and convey the territory, or to remit pro tanto the price, or to dissolve the bargain altogether."

For eighteen months every French and Spanish agent in Washington, Paris, and Madrid had assured Madison, in language varying between remonstrance and insult, that Spain had not ceded West Florida to France; the records of the State Department proved that France had asked for West Florida and had been refused; Jefferson had not ventured to record a claim to West Florida when he received possession of Louisiana, and had been obliged to explain, in language which Gallatin and Randolph thought un satisfactory, the words of the Mobile Act. In spite of this, Madison committed himself and government to the claim that West Florida was a part of Louisiana; he pressed that claim, not against France, but against Spain; he brought Monroe to a rupture with the Spanish government on that issue,—yet with these recollections fresh in his mind, he suddenly told Jefferson that if France could prove a matter of common notoriety, the world would decide that the United States had acted without regard to law or equity, while in any case the claim to West Florida as against Spain was a mistake.

That Madison should have followed a train of reasoning so singular, was less surprising than that he should have advanced so far without showing a sign that he was prepared for the next step. Knowing as early as March, 1805, that his plans were defeated, and that he might expect a repulse from Spain and France, he selected a new minister to succeed Pinckney at Madrid. This diplomatist, whose career was to be as futile if not as noisy as that of his predecessor from South Carolina, was James Bowdoin of Massachusetts, son of a celebrated governor of that State. Jefferson wrote privately to him, April 27, announcing the appointment; and the tone of the letter implied that in the month's interval since the arrival of Talleyrand's manifesto the President's pacific views had suffered a change.

"Our relations with that nation are vitally interesting," he wrote. [3] "That they should be of a peaceable and friendly character has been our most earnest desire. Had Spain met us with the same disposition, our idea was that her existence on this hemisphere and ours should have rested on the same bottom, should have swum or sunk together. We want nothing of hers, and we want no other nation to possess what is hers; but she has met our advances with jealousy, secret malice, and ill-faith. Our patience under this unworthy return of disposition is now on its last trial, and the issue of what is now depending between us will decide whether our relations with her are to be sincerely friendly or permanently hostile. I still wish, and would cherish, the former, but have ceased to expect it."

Jefferson had the faculty, peculiar to certain temperaments, of seeing what he wished to see, and of believing what he willed to believe. Few other Americans could have seriously talked of the Spanish empire in America as swimming or sinking with that of the United States; but Jefferson, for the moment, thought that the earthen pot of Spanish dominion could trust itself to float safely under charge of the iron energy of American democracy. He could gravely say in regard to Spain, "we want nothing of hers," when for eighteen months he had exhausted every resource, short of force, to gain Baton Rouge, Mobile, and Pensacola, not to speak of East Florida and Texas. He charged that Spain met his advances with jealousy, secret malice, and ill-faith, after his ministers had intrigued with Napoleon for nearly two years, in the constant hope of depriving her of her property. Dec. 13, 1804, he wrote to General Heath: "With Spain we shall always be bickering, but never at war till we seek it;" [4] and six months later he wrote to Bowdoin that her secret malice and ill faith were leading to permanently hostile relations. He had not much further to go; for if he meant to maintain his authority among rulers, the war that would never come till he sought it must be sought.

As Monroe's overthrow became more and more evident, the President grew uneasy, and turned restlessly from one device to another. In the first days of August Monroe's despatches arrived, announcing that he had left Madrid, and that all his offers had been rejected by Spain. Madison was in Philadelphia, where his wife was detained by a long and troublesome lameness. The President was at Monticello. A brisk interchange of letters took place, marking from day to day the fluctuations of feeling peculiar to the characters of the two men. One question alone was to be decided,—should they seize this moment to break with Napoleon?

Madison's first reflections reached no result. He shrank from admitting that the government stood between war and humiliation more dangerous than war.

"The business at Madrid," he said, August 2, [5] "has had an awkward termination, and if nothing, as may be expected, particularly in the absence of the Emperor, should alleviate it at Paris, involves some serious questions. After the parade of a mission extraordinary, a refusal of all our overtures in a haughty tone without any offer of other terms, and a perseverance in withdrawing a stipulated provision for claims admitted to be just, without ex post facto conditions manifestly unreasonable and inadmissible, form a strong appeal to the honor and sensibility of this country."

The conclusion drawn from this somewhat mild review was not such as Monroe, Armstrong, or Livingston had recommended.

"I find that, as was apprehended from the tenor of former communications," continued the secretary, "the military status quo in the controverted districts, the navigation of the rivers running through West Florida, and the spoliations subsequent to the convention of 1802 have never had a place in the discussions. Bowdoin may perhaps be instructed, consistently with what has passed, to propose a suspension of the territorial questions, the deposit, and the French spoliations, on condition that those points be yielded, with an incorporation of the convention of 1802 with a provision for subsequent claims. This is the utmost within the Executive purview. If this experiment should fail, the question with the Legislature must be whether or not resort is to be had to force, to what extent, and in what mode. Perhaps the instructions to Bowdoin would be improved by including the idea of transferring the sequel of business hither. This would have the appearance of an advance on the part of Spain, the more so as it would be attended with a new mission to this country, and would be most convenient for us also, if not made by Spain a pretext for delay."

Madison, after enduring one "refusal of all our overtures in a haughty tone," suggested that another be invited. The slightly patronizing air which characterized Jefferson's attitude toward Madison, but which he never betrayed toward Gallatin, was explained by this want of directness in Madison's nature, and by the habitual slowness of his decisions. The action suggested by Madison threw the control of events into the hands of France. This at least was the opinion of Jefferson, whose mind was wrought by the news from Pinckney to a state of steadily growing

alarm.
"I think the status quo, if not already proposed, should be immediately offered through Bowdoin," wrote Jefferson, August 4, before receiving Madison's letter of August 2. [6] "Should it even be refused, the refusal to settle a limit is not of itself a sufficient cause of war, nor is the withholding a ratification worthy of such a redress. Yet these acts show a purpose, both in Spain and France, against which we ought to provide before the conclusion of a peace. I think, therefore, we should take into consideration whether we ought not immediately to propose to England an eventual treaty of alliance, to come into force whenever (within — years) a war shall take place with Spain or France."

Three days later he wrote again, and his alarm had increased:[7]

"The papers now enclosed to you confirm me in the opinion of the expediency of a treaty with England, but make the offer of the status quo [to Spain] more doubtful; the correspondence will probably throw light on that question. From the papers already received I infer a confident reliance on the part of Spain on the omnipotence of Bonaparte, but a desire of procrastination till peace in Europe shall leave us without an ally."

Ten days more passed; the whole mortification became evident; the President's anger and alarm rose to feverishness. [8] He wrote to Madison, August 17,—

"I am anxious to receive opinions respecting our procedure with Spain, as should negotiations with England be advisable they should not be postponed a day unnecessarily, that we may lay their result before Congress before they rise next spring. Were the question only about the bounds of Louisiana, I should be for delay. Were it only for spoliations, just as this is as a cause of war, we might consider if no other expedient were more eligible for us. But I do not view peace as within our choice. I consider the cavalier conduct of Spain as evidence that France is to settle with us for her,—and the language of France confirms it,—and that if she can keep us insulated till peace, she means to enforce by arms her will, to which she foresees we will not truckle, and therefore does not venture on the mandate now. We should not permit ourselves to be found off our guard and friendless."

The President's plan presented difficulties which Madison could not fail to see. That Jefferson should wish Pitt to fight the battles of the United States was natural; but Pitt was little in the habit of doing gratuitous favors, and might reasonably ask what price he was to receive for conquering the Floridas and Texas for the United States. Madison's comments on the President's proposed British treaty pointed out this objection. Madison agreed that the Executive should take provisional measures, on which Congress might act.[9] "An eventual alliance with Great Britain, if attainable from her without inadmissible conditions, would be for us the best of all possible measures; but I do not see the least chance of laying her under obligations to be called into force at our will without correspondent obligations on our part." Objection to the President's plan was easy; but when the secretary came to a plan of his own, he could suggest nothing more vigorous than to renew a moderate degree of coquetry with Merry, which would have the side advantage of alarming France and Spain, "from whom the growing communication with Great Britain would not be concealed."

Such a weapon was no doubt as effective against Napoleon as heelless slippers against Pitt; but the President thought the situation to have passed beyond such tactics. Madison's proposed coquetry with Merry met with less favor in Jefferson's eyes than his own proposed one-sided alliance with England had met in the eyes of Madison. Upon a treaty of alliance with England the President was for the moment bent, and he met Madison's objections by arguments that showed lively traits of the writer's sanguine temper. He complained that Madison had misconceived the nature of the proposed British treaty. England should stipulate not to make peace without securing West Florida and the spoliation claims to America, while American co-operation in the war would be sufficient inducement to her for making this contract. [10]

"Another motive much more powerful would indubitably induce England to go much further. Whatever ill humor may at times have been expressed against us by individuals of that country, the first wish of every Englishman's heart is to see us once more fighting by their sides against France; nor could the King or his ministers do an act so popular as to enter into an alliance with us. The nation would not weigh the consideration by grains and scruples; they would consider it as the price and pledge of an indissoluble friendship. I think it possible that for such a provisional treaty they would give us their general guaranty of Louisiana and the Floridas. At any rate we might try them; a failure would not make our situation worse. If such a one could be obtained, we might await our own convenience for calling up the casus fœderis. I think it important that England should receive an overture as early as possible, as it might prevent her listening to terms of peace."

If Jefferson was right in thinking that every Englishman's heart yearned toward America, he was unfortunate in delaying his offer of indissoluble friendship until the moment when Sir William Scott delivered his opinion in the case of the "Essex." Madison's scheme was equally unpromising, because he had made a personal enemy of Merry, on whom the success of Madison's tactics depended. Each of the two high authorities felt the weakness of the other, and the secretary even went so far as to hint, in courteous language, that the President's idea was unpractical:—

"The more I reflect on the papers from Madrid, the more I feel the value of some eventual security for the active friendship of Great Britain, but the more I see at the same time the difficulty of obtaining it without a like security to her of ours. If she is to be bound, we must be so too, either to the same thing,—that is to join her in the war,—or to do what she will accept as equivalent to such an obligation. What can we offer to her? A mutual guaranty, unless so shaped as to involve us pretty certainly in her war, would not be satisfactory. To offer commercial regulations or concessions on points in the law of nations as a certain payment for aids which might never be received or required, would be a bargain liable to obvious objections of the most serious kind. Unless, therefore, some arrangement which has not occurred to me can be devised, I see no other course than such an one as is suggested in my last letter." [11]

In this state of things, the remaining members of the Cabinet were asked for their opinions; and in the course of a few days the President received written papers from Gallatin and Robert Smith. Gallatin was annoyed at the results of Jefferson's diplomacy. Emphatically a Northern man, he cared little for Florida; and a war with Spain would have been in his eyes a Southern war. He made no concealment of his opinion that the whole negotiation rested on a blunder; and he told Madison as much, with a bluntness which the secretary could scarcely have relished.

"The demands from Spain were too hard," said he, [12] "to have expected, even independent of French interference, any success from the negotiation. It could only be hoped that the tone assumed by our negotiators might not be such as to render a relinquishment or suspension of some of our claims productive of some loss of reputation. If we are safe on that ground, it may be eligible to wait for a better opportunity before we again run the risk of lowering the national importance by pretensions which our strength may not at this moment permit us to support. If from the manner in which the negotiation has been conducted that effect has already been produced, how to save character without endangering peace will be a serious and difficult question."

These words were written before he had seen Monroe's despatches. When the whole correspondence was put into his hands he read it, and in returning it to Madison made the dry comment that the business had not ended quite so badly as he had previously supposed. [13] The phrase bore a double meaning, for even Madison must have admitted that the business could not have ended much worse.

Gallatin sent to the President a remarkable paper, [14] in substance an argument for peace, and in tenor a criticism of the grounds which Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Livingston, and Pinckney had thought proper to take in their dispute with Spain. Gallatin held that, owing to the "unpardonable oversight or indifference" of Livingston and Monroe in failing to insist on a boundary to Louisiana, the United States government was debarred from holding Spain responsible for the inevitable consequences of its own fault. Neither Spain's qualified refusal to ratify the claims convention of 1802 nor her rejection of the French spoliation claims would justify war. As a matter of abstract justice, war was not to be defended; as a matter of policy, it could not be recommended. The expense and loss would exceed the value of Florida; the political result would entangle America in alliance with England; and, "in fine, a subversion of all our hopes must be the natural consequence." Renewal of negotiation was the proper step, with the Sabine and Perdido as boundaries and a temporary arrangement under the status quo, acceptance of the Spanish condition precedent to ratifying the claims convention, and insistence against the new spoliations which French and Spanish privateers were daily making on American commerce in the West Indies. Pending the result of this negotiation Congress might spend some money on the militia, and might appropriate a million dollars annually to build ships of the line.

In effect, Gallatin threw his influence on the side of Madison against the President's semi-warlike views. The opinion of Robert Smith did not weaken the force of Gallatin's reasoning. Already a perceptible division existed in the Cabinet between the Treasury and the Navy. Hardly three months before the Spanish embarrassment, Gallatin had spoken to the President in strong terms of Robert Smith's administration, and had added,[15]

"On this subject,—the expense of the Navy greater than the object seemed to require, and a merely nominal accountability,—I have, for the sake of preserving perfect harmony in your councils, however grating to my feelings, been almost uniformly silent."

Smith's present views tended to confirm Gallatin in his irritation, and to reconcile Jefferson to abandoning his energetic schemes. The Secretary of the Navy said that throughout these negotiations Spain had presumed much on American predilection for peace, and on the want of means to annoy her either by land or by water. He urged the necessity of working on her fears, and advised that Congress be recommended to provide additional gunboats, to put all the frigates in commission, and to build twelve seventy-fours. With these means he was disposed to take a commanding attitude; and if Spain were supported by France, to make an alliance with England.[16]

Gallatin and Robert Smith agreed only on one point,—that the affair had been mismanaged. Both secretaries held that America had made pretensions which she had not strength at the moment to support. Rather than "again run the risk of lowering national importance," Gallatin preferred to submit to the consequent loss of reputation, and return to a true peace-policy. Robert Smith wished to maintain a high tone, and to arm. All Jefferson's instincts were with Gallatin; but the path that Gallatin proposed was hard and mortifying, and although he made it as little abrupt as possible, he could not prevent it from seeming what it was,—a severe humiliation to the President. Not without some inward struggle could a President of the United States bow his neck to such a yoke as Spain and France imposed.

At that moment, the middle of September, arrived Armstrong's letter advising the military occupation of Texas and a cessation of intercourse with Spain. His plan was the first well-considered suggestion yet made for carrying out the policy hitherto pursued; and although contrary to Gallatin's advice, it agreed so well with the President's views that he caught at it with the relief of a man unable to solve his own problem, who hears another explain what to himself is inexplicable. Jefferson seized Armstrong's idea, and uniting it with his own, announced the result to Madison as the true solution of the difficulty:[17]

"Supposing a previous alliance with England to guard us in the worst event, I should propose that Congress should pass acts (1) authorizing the Executive to suspend intercourse with Spain at discretion; (2) to dislodge the new establishments of Spain between the Mississippi and Bravo; (3) to appoint commissioners to examine and ascertain all claims for spoliation."

Here at length was a plan,—uncertain, indeed, because dependent on British help, but still a scheme of action which could be discussed. The President appointed October 4 as the day on which the Cabinet should reunite at Washington to consider his project, but Madison replied that he could not return so soon; and in order that the Cabinet should know his views, he explained at some length the course he advised, which differed widely from that of the President.

"With respect to Great Britain," he said, [18] "I think we ought to go as far into an understanding on the subject of an eventual coalition in the war as will not preclude us from an intermediate adjustment, if attainable, with Spain. I see not, however, much chance that she will positively bind herself not to make peace, while we refuse to bind ourselves positively to make war,—unless, indeed, some positive advantage were yielded on our part in lieu of an engagement to enter into the war. No such advantage as yet occurs as would be admissible to us and satisfactory to her."

In regard to England, therefore, Madison had nothing to propose except negotiation without end. Having settled this point, he went on:—

"At Paris I think Armstrong ought to receive instructions to extinguish in the French government every hope of turning our controversy with Spain into a French job, public or private; to leave them under apprehensions of an eventual connection between the United States and Great Britain; and to take advantage of any change in the French Cabinet favorable to our objects with Spain."

To leave Bonaparte "under apprehensions" was to be the object of Madison's diplomacy at Paris,—a task which several European governments were then employing half a million armed men to accomplish, hitherto without success, but which Madison hoped to effect by civilities to Merry.

After this decision, nothing remained but to mark out a line of conduct in regard to Spain. In the course of the summer Bowdoin, the new minister, had sailed; but on arriving in Spain, and learning the failure of Monroe's negotiation, he went to Paris and London without visiting Madrid.

"As to Spain herself," continued Madison, "one question is, whether Bowdoin ought to proceed or not to Madrid. My opinion is that his trip to Great Britain was fortunate, and that the effect of it will be aided by his keeping aloof until occurrences shall invite him to Spain. . . . The nicest question, however, is whether any, or what, steps should be taken for a communication with the Spanish government on the points not embraced by the late negotiation. On this question my reflections disapprove of any step whatever other than such as may fall within the path to be marked out for Armstrong, or as may be within the sphere of Claiborne's intercourse with the Marquis of Casa Calvo. Perhaps the last may be the best opportunity of all for conveying to Spain the impressions we wish, without committing the government in any respect more than may be advisable. In general it seems to me proper that Claiborne should hold a pretty strong language in all cases, and particularly that he should go every length the law will warrant against Morales and his project of selling lands. If Congress should be not indisposed, proceedings may be authorized that will be perfectly effectual on that as well as other points; but before their meeting there will be time to consider more fully what ought to be suggested for their consideration."

Having brought the government face to face with the government of Spain, in the belief that Spain and France must yield to a peremptory demand,—finding that Spain not only refused every concession, but renewed depredations on American commerce and took an attitude of indifference to threats or entreaties,—Madison proposed no more vigorous measure than to "go every length the law will warrant" against certain Spanish land-grants.

Such a course pleased no one, and threatened to create new dangers. Monroe and Armstrong urged that a supposed devotion to peace on the part of the President weighed heavily against him with Spain and France. Jefferson approved their proposed aggressive policy, as he wrote to Madison, chiefly because it would "correct the dangerous error that we are a people whom no injuries can provoke to war." [19] He shrank from war, except under the shield of England, and yet he feared England for an ally even more than Spain for an enemy. His perplexity ended in helplessness. The Cabinet meeting was held October 4; but he reported to Madison that nothing came of it: [20]

"The only questions which press on the Executive for decision are whether we shall enter into a provisional alliance with England, to come into force only in the event that during the present war we become engaged in war with France, leaving the declaration of the casus fœderus ultimately with us; whether we shall send away Yrujo, Casa Calvo, Morales; whether we shall instruct Bowdoin not to go to Madrid till further orders. But we are all of the opinion that the first of these questions is too important and too difficult to be decided but on the fullest consideration, in which your aid and counsel should be waited for."

Again Madison wrote back his opinion. More than six months had elapsed since the President, March 23, despaired of Monroe's mission; every alternative had been repeatedly discussed; every advice had been taken. Congress would soon meet; something must be decided,—in reality delay was itself a decision; yet the President and Secretary of State seemed no nearer a result than they had been six months before. Meanwhile the European packets brought news that put a different face on the problem. Sir William Scott's decision in the case of the "Essex" arrived; seizures of American ships by England began; Pitt's great coalition with Russia and Austria against Napoleon took the field, and August 27 Napoleon broke up the camp at Boulogne and began his long-intended movement across the Rhine. Upon Madison's mind this European convulsion acted as an additional reason for doing nothing:[21]

"Considering the probability of an extension of the war against France, and the influence that may have on her temper toward the United States, the uncertainty of effecting with England such a shape for an arrangement as alone would be admissible, and the possible effects elsewhere of abortive overtures to her, I think it very questionable whether a little delay may not be expedient, especially as in the mean time the English pulse will be somewhat felt by the discussions now on foot by Mr. Monroe."

Accordingly the Secretary advised that Morales, Casa Calvo, and Yrujo should be ordered out of the country, while Bowdoin should remain in England,—and so left it.

Madison's measures and conduct toward Europe showed the habit of avoiding the heart of every issue, in order to fret its extremities. This mark of Madison's character as a diplomatist led him into his chief difficulties at home and abroad; but the Spanish imbroglio of 1805 first brought the weakness into public notoriety, and he recovered from the subsequent revelation only after years of misfortune. The same habit of mind made him favor commercial restrictions as a means of coercion. So he disregarded Armstrong's idea of seizing Texas, but warmly approved of his passing suggestion as to an embargo:[22]

"The efficacy of an embargo cannot be doubted. Indeed, if a commercial weapon can be properly shaped for the Executive hand, it is more and more apparent to me that it can force all the nations having colonies in this quarter of the globe to respect our rights."

This mental trait was closely connected with Madison's good qualities,—it sprang from the same source as his caution, his respect for law, his instinctive sense of the dangers that threatened the Union, his curious mixture of radical and conservative tastes; but whatever its merits or defects, it led to a strange delusion when it caused him to believe that a man like Napoleon could be forced by a mere pin-prick to do Jefferson's will.

Jefferson himself was weary of indecision. He had rested his wish for an English alliance on the belief that Napoleon meant to make peace in Europe in order to attack America; and this idea, never very reasonable, could have no weight after Napoleon had plunged into a general European war. No sooner did he receive Madison's letter of October 16, than he again changed his plan.

"The probability of an extensive war on the continent of Europe, strengthening every day for some time past, is now almost certain," he wrote October 23 to Madison.[23] "This gives us our great desideratum, time. In truth it places us quite at our ease. We are certain of one year of campaigning at least, and one other year of negotiation for their peace arrangements. Should we be now forced into war, it is become much more questionable than it was whether we should not pursue it unembarrassed by any alliance, and free to retire from it whenever we can obtain our separate terms. It gives us time, too, to make another effort for peaceable settlement. Where should this be done? Not at Madrid, certainly. At Paris! through Armstrong, or Armstrong and Monroe as negotiators, France as the mediator, the price of the Floridas as the means. We need not care who gets that, and an enlargement of the sum we had thought of may be the bait to France, while the Guadalupe as the western boundary may be the soother of Spain; providing for our spoliated citizens in some effectual way. We may announce to France that determined not to ask justice of Spain again, yet desirous of making one other effort to preserve peace, we are willing to see whether her interposition can obtain it on terms which we think just; that no delay, however, can be admitted; and that in the mean time should Spain attempt to change the status quo, we shall repel force by force, without undertaking other active hostilities till we see what may be the issue of her interference."

A similar letter was sent on the same day to Gallatin; and the next day Jefferson wrote to Robert Smith, suggesting the same idea, with some characteristic additions.[24]

Jefferson's idea that Napoleon would require two years of war seemed reasonable; for how could Jefferson know that Ulm had already surrendered, that Austerlitz would be fought within six weeks, and that peace would be restored before the new year, with the Emperor Napoleon more terrible than ever? In truth Jefferson only reverted to his policy of peace which he had seemed to abandon, but to which he really clung even when most earnest for a British alliance. His conduct in that sense was at least consistent. So much could hardly be said for Madison, even though the President apparently yielded to the secretary's advice. Of all the points on which Madison, and Monroe in obedience to his orders, had most strongly insisted, even to the extent of offending Talleyrand, the strongest was that under no circumstances should the Florida negotiation be turned into a bribe to France. As late as September 30, in writing the opinion intended to guide the Cabinet, Madison asked authority "to extinguish in the French government every hope of turning our controversy with Spain into a French job, public or private."[25] The President's suggestion of October 23 avowedly turned the controversy with Spain into a French job, which must inevitably become private as well as public.

Madison made no protest. He soon returned to Washington, and there, Nov. 12, 1805, a Cabinet meeting was held, whose proceedings were recorded by the President in a memorandum, probably written at the moment. This memorandum closed a record, unusually complete, of an episode illustrating better than any other the peculiarities of Jefferson and Madison, and the traits of character most commonly alleged as their faults.[26]

"1805, Nov. 12. Present, the four secretaries; subject, Spanish affairs.—The extension of the war in Europe leaving us without danger of a sudden peace, depriving us of the chance of an ally, I proposed we should address ourselves to France, informing her it was a last effort at amicable settlement with Spain, and offer to her, or through her, (1) A sum of money for the rights of Spain east of Iberville, say the Floridas; (2) To cede the part of Louisiana from the Rio Bravo to the Guadalupe; (3) Spain to pay within a certain time spoliations under her own flag, agreed to by the convention (which we guess to be a hundred vessels, worth two millions), and those subsequent (worth as much more), and to hypothecate to us for those payments the country from Guadalupe to Rio Bravo. Armstrong to be employed. The first was to be the exciting motive with France, to whom Spain is in arrears for subsidies, and who will be glad also to secure us from going into the scale of England; the second, the soothing motive with Spain, which France would press bona fide, because she claimed to the Rio Bravo; the third, to quiet our merchants. It was agreed to unanimously, and the sum to be offered fixed not to exceed five million dollars. Mr. Gallatin did not like purchasing Florida under an apprehension of war, lest we should be thought in fact to purchase peace. We thought this overweighed by taking advantage of an opportunity which might not occur again of getting a country essential to our peace and to the security of the commerce of the Mississippi. It was agreed that Yrujo should be sounded through Dallas whether he is not going away, and if not, he should be made to understand that his presence at Washington will not be agreeable, and that his departure is expected. Casa Calvo, Morales, and all the Spanish officers at New Orleans are to be desired to depart, with a discretion to Claiborne to let any friendly ones remain who will resign and become citizens, as also women receiving pensions to remain if they choose."

  1. Jefferson to Madison, March 23, 1805; Madison MSS.
  2. Madison to Jefferson, March 27, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  3. Jefferson's Writings (Ford), viii. 350.
  4. See p. 8.
  5. Madison to Jefferson, Aug. 2, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  6. Jefferson' s Writings (Ford), viii. 374.
  7. Jefferson to Madison, Aug. 7, 1805; Works, iv. 583.
  8. Jefferson to Madison, Aug. 17, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  9. Madison to Jefferson, Aug. 20, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  10. Jefferson to Madison, Aug. 27, 1805; Works iv. 585.
  11. Madison to Jefferson, Sept. 1, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  12. Gallatin to Madison, Aug. 6, 1805; Gallatin's Writings, i. 237.
  13. Madison to Jefferson, Sept. 1, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  14. Gallatin to Jefferson, Sept. 12, 1805; Gallatin's Writings, i. 241.
  15. Gallatin to Jefferson, May 30, 1805; Gallatin's Writings, i. 233.
  16. Robert Smith to Jefferson, Sept. 10, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  17. Jefferson to Madison, Sept. 16, 1805; Works, iv. 587.
  18. Madison to Jefferson, Sept. 30, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  19. Jefferson to Madison, Sept. 18, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  20. Jefferson's Writings (Ford), viii. 380.
  21. Madison to Jefferson, Oct. 16, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  22. Madison to Jefferson, Sept. 14, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  23. Jefferson's Writings (Ford), viii. 380.
  24. Jefferson's Writings (Ford), viii. 381.
  25. Madison to Jefferson, Sept. 30, 1805; Jefferson MSS.
  26. Cabinet Memoranda; Jefferson's Writings (Ford), i. 308.