Lot #5007
James Madison

Just ten days after taking office, Madison addresses “the idea of going to war with France and of course taking sides with England”
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Estimate: $10000+

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Just ten days after taking office, Madison addresses “the idea of going to war with France and of course taking sides with England”

ALS as president, one page both sides, 8 x 9.75, March 14, 1809. Letter to Elbridge Gerry, the recently unseated governor of Massachusetts. In part: “I have looked over attentively your observations at the Cambridge Meeting and tho’ I do not enter into the aptitude of all your observations, I perceive in them a very interesting view of our public affairs. On the question whether a publication of them would be useful, I am certainly less able to judge than yourself so far as relates to the states of the public mind in your quarter. In the other parts of the Union particularly the Southn. & Western, the estimate which seems to prevail of the comparative wrongs of the two great Belligerents is not favorable to the idea of going to war with France and of course taking sides with England. The honest impression seems to be that the latter is the prior as well as the greater aggressor, and consequently entitled to an equal degree at least of forbearance. The surprise is equally sincere that the calculating & commercial spirit of N. England, should not be more alive to the disadvantage of renouncing the trade with all the world beside G. B. for the portion which her single market would afford. The time certainly has been when the Eastern interest was viewed in a very different light. I see with pleasure that pains are taken now by your Legisi: to purge themselves of all intentions leading to a dissolution of the Union. I infer that such a scheme wd be unpopular with all parties. In the mean time appearances have done and are like to do much mischief abroad…The Union, the last Dispatch vessel, has at length returned. The advices by her leave our foreign relations pretty much in status quo. Two other vessels one to G. B. the other to F. will sail in a few days. They will of course convey the proceedings or Congs. and the state of things In N. England.” In fine condition, with mounting traces along right edge of reverse.

Madison took office amidst ongoing conflict at sea with Great Britain and France, and as a result Congress had passed the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 which continued the embargo of American shipping bound for British or French ports. The embargo affected different parts of the country in different ways—for example, it especially hurt New England as it was a center of the American shipping industry. Gerry’s letter to Madison had forwarded resolutions put forth at a meeting in Cambridge supporting the embargo, declaring that raising the embargo would inevitably lead to war. The Republicans put forth these resolutions, but the Federalists voted them down. Gerry would later become Madison’s vice president in his second term, making this an even more interesting letter.

Ex. Joe Rubinfine, November 13, 1984; sale 79, lot 16. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Everett Fisher Collection
  • Dates: March 10 - March 17

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