MONROE, James. Autograph letter signed ("Jas Monroe") as Secretary of State, [to Dr. Charles Everett], Washington, D.C., 23 March 1812. 2 pages, 4to (9½ x 7¾ in.), minor holes along folds, small repairs, integral leaf restored.
MONROE TAKES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST A NEPHEW OF THOMAS JEFFERSON FOR ABUSING A SLAVE, DECLARING THAT GOD "MADE THE BLACK PEOPLE, & THEY OUGHT NOT TO BE TREATED WITH BARBARITY"
Just before the onset of the War of 1812, Monroe reports the failure of diplomatic efforts and expresses his moral outrage over abusive treatment of a slave. In 1810, Monroe had agreed to lend Daniel, one of his few slaves, to Joseph Brand and Thomas Jefferson, Jr., a nephew of the President. When Daniel returned, Monroe learned that the man had been badly treated, and promptly filed a successful lawsuit against Brand and Jefferson in Albemarle County.
Here he instructs his neighbor, Dr. Everett, to arrange for a settlement of the case and stated his personal position on the treatment of slaves: "In the case of Brand I give you full authority to adjust it as you think fit. I want no money, the just judgement expressed by a respectable jury...decided against such an act, affords me great satisfaction. The god who made us, made the black people, & they ought not to be treated with barbarity. Settle it as you think proper & I will be quite contented." In a subsequent letter to Everett, Monroe confirmed that he only filed the suit in order to express his "disapprobation" of such treatment by a slave-holder.
In the rest of his letter, Monroe responds to Everett's request that, since the U.S. is building up its army in case of war with Britain, a Captain Robertson should receive a military commission. The Secretary of State confesses that his influence in military appointments is limited, and warns Everett that appointments will be difficult to obtain: "Each district has a company, to which the officers are appointed. Seven other companies are to be raised, & the officers, are to be chosen thro the whole state, and these from what the Secretary of War states, long since decided on." In conclusion, Monroe grudgingly admits that war is becoming more likely: "I fear that affairs must grow worse before we can hope for a change. There is no prospect of a revocation of the British orders in council."
On June 1, President Madison asked for a declaration of war against the British which he received from a deeply divided Congress on June 18.
Provenance: Dr. Max Thorek (ownership stamp) -- Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 3 June 1980, lot 991).