Writings of James Madison, Volume 3

Author: James Madison

To President Monroe.

MONTPELLIER, December 26, 1823.

DEAR SIR,—Yours of the 20th was duly received. The external affairs of our country are, I perceive, assuming a character more and more delicate and important. The ground on which the Russian communications were met was certainly well chosen. It is evident that an alienation is going on between Great Britain and the ruling powers of the Continent, and that the former is turning her views to such a connexion with this side of the Atlantic as may replace her loss of political weight and commercial prospects on the other. This revolution was indicated by the coaxing speech of Mr. Canning at the Liverpool dinner; and is fully displayed by his project for introducing the United States to a Congress on the Continent. Whilst the English Government very naturally endeavors to make us useful to her national objects, it is incumbent on us to turn, as far as we fairly can, the friendly consultations with her to ours; which, besides being national, embrace the good of mankind every where. It seems particularly our duty not to let that nation usurp a meritorious lead in measures due to our South American neighbors; one obstacle to which was aptly furnished [by] Mr. Rush in his proposal to Mr. Canning, that their Independence should be forthwith acknowledged. Nor ought we to be less careful in guarding against an appearance in the eyes of Europe, at which the self-love of Great Britain may aim, of our being a satellite of her primary greatness.

This last consideration will, of course, be felt in the management of the invitation which Mr. Canning is inviting for us to the expected Congress. A participation in it would not be likely to make converts to our principles; whilst our admission under the wing of England would take from our consequence what it would add to hers. Such an invitation, nevertheless, will be a mark of respect not without a value, and this will be more enhanced by a polite refusal than by an acceptance; not to mention that the acceptance would be a step leading us into a wilderness of politics and a den of conspirators.

Whether any of these hasty ideas ought to be changed by a fuller acquaintance with existing circumstances, or under the influence of others now in embryo only, you can better judge than myself.

If there be no error in the account of the French reception given to the notification of the British Ambassador at Paris, it would almost justify suspicion of some original understanding that, if the British Government would not interfere against the French invasion of Spain, the French would no t thwart the policy of Great Britain with regard to South America. Or must we suppose that France, with the great powers at her back, is ready to defy the united strength of G. Britain and America? She could not surely flatter herself with the hope of reconciling them to the scheme for fixing anew the Spanish yoke on those who have shaken it off.

Events may soon unravel these and other mysteries.


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Chicago: James Madison Jr., "To President Monroe.," Writings of James Madison, Volume 3 in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.353-355 Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DBAAJJQZFVU8AXA.

MLA: Madison, James, Jr. "To President Monroe." Writings of James Madison, Volume 3, in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.353-355, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DBAAJJQZFVU8AXA.

Harvard: Madison, J, 'To President Monroe.' in Writings of James Madison, Volume 3. cited in , James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.353-355. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DBAAJJQZFVU8AXA.