MONROE, James. Autograph letter signed ("James Monroe") as President, to [Richard Rush] (1780-1859), U.S. Minister to Great Britain, Washington, D.C., 16 January 1823. 2 pages, 4to (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.), minorage-toning, otherwise fine.
MONROE ON THE BURDENS OF THE PRESIDENCY: "MY LABOURS, DURING THE SESSION, OF CONGRESS, ARE, AS YOU WELL KNOW, INCESSANT, & VERY BURDENSOME"
A fascinating letter which provides insight into the responsibilities and endless labors of the President of the United States—in the era before the emergence of massive, West Wing staffs. Presidents did a surprising number of executive tasks themselves, and for Monroe, the trials and tribulations of office made him joyful when his final days in the White House neared: "It was with a sense of relief that Monroe turned over the reins of power to Adams" (Ammon, James Monroe, p. 546). Here he expresses his displeasure to U.S. ambassador to Britain, Richard Rush after a difficult Congressional session filled with much rancorous speculation over whether or not he would seek a third term: "My labours, during the session, of Congress, are, as you well know, incessant, & very burdensome." Expounding upon the difficulties of his office, Monroe explains the obstacles he faced: "The Executive of our govt., by which is meant the Ch: Magist:, is, in a peculiar degree the responsible party, in exclusion of the heads of the several departments. He is essentially responsible, for the management of the concerns of every dept., even when they act without his direction which is seldom done. The whole movement takes its impulse from him, as well as its course. In the present state, proceeding from excesses which will...occur to you, I am compelled, to go into details, unusual for the person in this station, which proportionally increases my labours, & this will I presume, continue to operate during the residue of my term." He sadly notes that the labors of his office make it impossible for him to: "enter into many topics, relating to occurrences, on your side of the Atlantic as well as on this, [in] which I should otherwise take much interest." By January of 1823, Monroe had overseen the creation of two important treaties with foreign powers, had endeavored to defeat the Seminole Indians in Florida, endured the economic crisis spawned by the Panic of 1819, and had witnessed the first major sectional crisis engendered by the controversy over Missouri statehood and slavery.
Exhibited: "Documenting the Constitution: A Manuscript History," The United States Supreme Court, Washington, D.C., May 1987-May 1988. Provenance: Malcolm S. Forbes Collection, sale Part I, Christie’s, 27 March 2002, lot 43.