DescriptionIn 1804, on his way to negotiate Spain's cession of Florida to the United States, awaiting a reply to his letter requesting Napoleon's assistance, James Monroe writes to the U.S. Minister in Paris
Historic James Monroe Autograph Letter Signed "Jas. Monroe" as U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain and Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to France and Spain, one page, 7.5" x 9.5". Bordeaux, December 18, 1804. Although the recipient is not named, this letter is to John Armstrong who had presented his credentials in Paris as U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to France on November 18, 1804, succeeding Robert R. Livingston. Matted with a color portrait of Monroe and three metal plaques and ornately framed to 40.5" by 24.75". The frame has minor chips, and the glass is slightly scratched. One metal plaque bears Monroe's name, years of birth and death, and presidential term, another details the events relating to this letter, and the third bears a transcription of the letter.
In full: "I arrived here on friday last, & set out today for Madrid, at which place I expect to arrive in abt. 10 days, as I have had a relay of mules established thither from Bayonne. I shall not delay a moment on the route that I can avoid. I hope that the French gov't will not hesitate to give us all the aid in this business wh. we have hither to expected of it. I enclose you the papers wh. you were so good as to give me to be copied before my departure. Not being able to do it in Paris I brot. them here for the purpose. Shod. you receive any answer from Mr. Talleyrand, you will be so good as communicate to me the substance as soon as you can in cypher, as also to our government."In a postscript, Monroe adds: "Make my best respects to yr. Lady & family as also to Mrs. Livingston, to whom you will be so good as make the affr. of business my apology for not calling to bid her farewell before my departure."
On January 12, 1803, the U.S. Senate approved President Jefferson's nominations of "Robert Livingston to be Minister Plenipotentiary, and James Monroe to be Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, to enter into a treaty or convention with the First Consul of France (Napoleon), for the purpose of enlarging, and more effectually securing, our rights and interests in the river Mississippi, and in the territories eastward thereof." Monroe's assignment was to obtain land east of the Mississippi. His instructions allocated up to $10 million for the purchase of New Orleans and all or part of the Floridas. If this bid failed, Monroe was instructed to try to purchase just New Orleans, or, at the very least, secure U.S. access to the Mississippi and the port. When Monroe reached Paris on April 12, 1803, he learned from Livingston that a day earlier, French Foreign Minister C. M. Talleyrand had told him that France was willing to sell all of Louisiana. On April 30, 1803, they reached an agreement that exceeded their authority - the purchase of the Louisiana territory, including New Orleans, for $15 million. The acquisition of approximately 827,000 square miles would double the size of the United States.
On November 8, 1804, President Thomas Jefferson presented his Fourth Annual Message to Congress, which mentioned disagreements with Spain. On that same day, James Monroe wrote to French Foreign Minister Talleyrand informing him that he was on his way to Madrid, reminding him of the assurance which the Government of the United States had received, that Napoleon would use his good offices for the attainment of the objects desired in their negotiation with Spain, calling attention to the subjects in controversy: the boundaries of Louisiana, indemnity for spoliations, and the cession of Florida. Relating to Florida, Monroe hintedof war with Spain if negotiations weren't successful. In part: "To Spain, it is presumed that the territory is of but little importance. In itself, it is of none, as it is a barren tract. If she retains it, it must be as a port for troops, to be placed there in opposition to us; a measure which tends to provoke hostility and lead to war." Monroe concluded by requesting the fulfillment of Napoleon's previous promise "to support with his good offices any negotiation which the President might commence with the court of Spain for the acquisition of Florida; as also on the firm belief that the attainment of that object, with the amicable adjustment of all subsisting differences between the United States and Spain, must be advantageous to France, that his good offices have been, and are now, requested in support of that negotiation."
In the November 18, 1804, letter offered here, Monroe tells Armstrong that should he "receive any answer from Mr. Talleyrand, you will be so good as communicate to me the substance as soon as you can in cypher, as also to our government". The use of cypher, or secret code, was frequently used in diplomatic correspondence.
On December 21, 1804, in a letter to John Armstrong, Talleyrand replied to Monroe's letter, that Louisiana, as ceded by France to the United States, did not include any part of West Florida and, instead of the good offices promised the United States in their pending negotiation with Spain, he expressed, very strongly, the decision of Napoleon against the general objects, as well as the specific measures, of the United States. Talleyrand wrote, in part, "His Imperial Majesty (Napoleon) has, moreover, authorized me to declare to you, that, at the beginning of the year 11 (September 1802), General Bournonville was charged to open a new negotiation with Spain for the acquisition of the Floridas. This project, which hasnotbeen followed by any treaty, is an evident proof that France had not acquired, by the treaty retroceding Louisiana, the country east of the Mississippi." Napoleon felt that the United States, in their actions to obtain Florida, seems "to avail themselves of their treaty with France as an authority for their proceedings."
Napoleon would not help the United States in negotiations with Spain. James Monroe's mission failed. During the next 15 years, fugitive slaves from southern states took refuge in Florida as did outlaws pursued by the law. Florida's Seminole Indians made frequent attacks in Georgia. In 1818, General Andrew Jackson led an army in pursuit of Seminole Indians into Florida and the United States took possession of part of the territory. Finally, in 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the United States by treaty. The U.S. President at the time was James Monroe!
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