MADISON, James (1751-1836), President. Autograph letter signed ("James Madison") as President, to General John Armstrong (1758-1843), Washington, 14 March 1809. 1 full page, 4to (9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.), integral address leaf, signature underlined at a later date.
MADISON SECURES A GOVERNMENT MAIL VESSEL FOR THE IMPORT OF MERINO SHEEP
In one of his earliest letters as President, written only ten days after his inauguration, Madison instructs the American Minister to France to allow a group of prized Merino sheep to be transported on board a government vessel. Secretary of State Madison was Jefferson's personal choice to succeed him as President and won election by a significant margin. Madison writes: "I am requested by Chancellor [Robert] Livingston to apprize you that the Dispatch vessel Mentor is permitted to bring for him a parcel of Merino sheep which Mr. Vail is to have ready at L'Orient for her return, and to re-inforce his wish that you may not omit to provide the requisite sanction of the French authority." Madison asserts that the sheep are highly valuable: "The value of this breed to our Country is now generally understood, and acquisitions of specimens are acceptable services to the public, as well as an advantage to the Importer. In this consideration you will find a sufficient motive to use your interposition as far as it may be necessary & proper." Chancellor Livingston (1746-1813) was Armstrong's brother-in-law and the previous minister to France.
The export of the very special Merino breed had been forbidden by the Spanish government, but William Jarvis, counsel to Lisbon, had succeeded in purchasing a herd of 3500 sheep during the confusion of the Napoleonic Wars. (Madison's letter of June 1810, noting the safe arrival of these sheep, was sold here 9 December 1993, lot 249, $9,000). After returning from his mission to France in 1810, Armstrong was named Secretary of War, but during the War of 1812 fled Washington in disgrace shortly before British forces entered the city.