MONROE, James. Autograph letter signed ("Jas Monroe"), as Secretary of State, to Henry Fox, Lord Holland (1773-1840), Washington, 5 July 1815. 3 pages, 4to, small chip at one edge.
A FUTURE PRESIDENT CONDEMNS BRITAIN'S "NEW CRUSADE" AGAINST NAPOLEONIC FRANCE: "HAS NOT THAT COUNTRY THE RIGHT TO CHUSE ITS OWN SOVEREIGN, & INDEED TO ESTABLISH ITS OWN GOVERNMENT?"
In September 1806 as Minister to Great Britain, Monroe and William Pinkney had successfully negotiated the Monroe-Pinckney Treaty, which attempted to settle American grievances with Britain over maritime trade. The chief British negotiator had been the young Lord Holland, and, during the negotiations Holland developed a very high opinion of the future President, "a 'sincere republican,'" and a "'diligent, earnest, sensible and even profound man'....Holland's liberal views led to considerable freedom in the political discussions between negotiators" (H. Ammon, James Monroe, p.258). This freedom is still much evident in the present fine letter, written just five months after ratification of the treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. While he welcomes peace, Monroe is quite outspoken in his strictures on the British monarchy's continuing efforts to suppress French republicanism: "Our countries are now at peace and I am satisfied that you will unite with me, in a strong desire, that they may long remain so. I well know the interest which you take, in the preservation of free government in both countries, and indeed elsewhere, wherever it may be possible to maintain it."
"A new storm seems to threaten Europe & perhaps this country," he observes, referring to Napoleon's, escape from Elba in February (Monroe is yet unaware of the climactic battle of Waterloo, fought just two weeks earlier and Napoleon's second abdication). Then, in a highly interesting passage, Monroe strongly voices his republican convictions, chiding Holland rhetorically: "Why this second crusade against France? Has not that country a right to chuse its own sovereign, & indeed to establish its own government? Can this right be denied by any party in Engl[an]d, especially by that which has been long considered the great advocate & support of rational free principles?" Furthermore, he states, it appears that France has clearly demonstrated its strong preference for Napoleon: "[has] the national will not been expressed...in favor of the chief now at the head of France, by the manner of his return & reception, landing almost alone, and advancing to Paris & taking possession of the government, wresting from his competitor the armies and the nation, without a struggle?"
Concerned that he has perhaps overstepped diplomacy in his vigorous condemnation of British policy, he adds "Perhaps I do wrong in touching on these subjects with you, not knowing in what situation your country may be. You will however do me the justice to declare that nothing is more remote from my mind...than to invite a correspondence, to which, by any consideration, you can have the least objection."
The rest of the letter offers a glowing introduction for General Winfield Scott, of whose "gallantry in the late war you will have heard much. His amiable qualities and liberal acquirements will...make him a very interesting acquaintance...."