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    James Monroe Historic Autograph Letter Signed: Appointed by Federalist President George Washington to be U.S. Minister to France during the Reign of Terror, Anti-Federalist Republican James Monroe writes his friend St. George Tucker that "I hope my mission will not prove altogether useless to the republican cause." His pro-Republican speeches in France against Federalist policies led to his recall in 1796.

    Signed: "Jas. Monroe", one page, 7.5" x 9". Chesapeake Bay, June 22, 1794. To St. George Tucker. In full: "Dear Sir I was so engaged in the arrangement of my private affrs, after I had dispatched those of a publick nature, that I had not a moment from the period of my appointment to that of my departure to devote to my friends. From the capes I look back to bid farewell to yoself and a few others. How long I shall be absent is incertain, but I hope my mission will not prove altogether useless to the republican cause. I sincerely wish you well & shall always be happy to hear from you. Your information of the state of our affrs extended to what passes within yr view, will be useful & highly grateful to me. I will give you what may be worth yr attention from the other hemisphere - with great sincerity, I am dear Sir yr friend & srvt. Remember me affecty. to Mr. Nelson & Mr. Prentis." Integral leaf addressed by Monroe to "The honble/St. George Tucker/Williamsburg/Virginia" and is docketed, possibly by Tucker, "Col. Monroe/June 22d 1794."

    James Monroe had attended William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1776 and left to enter the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. Appointed a Lieutenant in the Third Virginia Regiment, he participated in numerous engagements. In 1780, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel by Governor Thomas Jefferson. After the war, Monroe served in the Continental Congress (1783-1786) and ran unsuccessfully against James Madison for a seat in the First Congress. In 1790, he was elected to the U.S. Senate as an anti-administration advocate of Jeffersonian policies to fill a vacancy. In the Senate, Monroe opposed the foreign policy of Federalist President Washington and was in the minority when he voted against the appointment of Gouverneur Morris as U.S. Minister to France. While Senator, he worked with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Congressman James Madison in organizing the Republican Party which became the Democratic-Republican and then the Democratic Party. After the United States demanded the recall of the French Minister, Citizen Genet, on August 2, 1793, the French, in retaliation, demanded the recall of Morris on April 9, 1794. President Washington offered the post to James Madison and Robert R. Livingston. Each declined. In a message to the U.S. Senate dated May 27, 1794, President Washington wrote, "The Executive Provisory Council of the French Republic having requested me to recall Gouverneur Morris, our Minister Plenipotentiary in France; I have thought proper, in pursuance of that request, to recall him. I therefore nominate James Monroe, of Virginia, as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, to the said Republic." Monroe resigned from the Senate on May 27th and was succeeded by Stevens Mason who had served in the Revolutionary war as an aide to General Washington at Yorktown. The Senate consented to Monroe's appointment on May 28th and the new 36-year-old U.S. Minister, who favored friendly relations with the French, rode with his wife and their seven-year-old daughter, to Chesapeake Bay to sail to France. It was from Chesapeake Bay that Monroe wrote letters of farewell to his friends, including this one to St. George Tucker.

    St. George Tucker (1752-1827), born in Bermuda, moved to Williamsburg to study law at the College of William and Mary in 1772. He was admitted to the bar in 1774. Tucker resumed his practice of law after the Revolutionary War in which he was a Colonel in the militia, later holding the Chair of Law at William and Mary. In 1803, Tucker published Blackstone's Commentaries: with Notes Of Reference, to the Constitution and Laws, of the Federal Government of the United States; and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The following year he resigned his professorship to become presiding Judge of the Virginia Court of Appeals. In 1813, President Madison appointed Tucker Judge of the U.S. District Court of Virginia; he served until 1825. In an article about Tucker in the March, 2006, issue of The Journal of the Historical Society titled "The First Modern American Law Professor," Craig Evan Klafter writes that Tucker "set much of the standard by which American law professors have been judged for the past 200 years."

    In his postscript, Monroe sends regards to Mr. Nelson and Mr. Prentis. Hugh Nelson (1768-1836), a 1780 graduate of William and Mary, had served in the Virginia State Senate from 1786-1791. He served in Congress from 1811 until his appointment as U.S. Minister to Spain by President Monroe in 1823. He served until 1824. Joseph Prentis (1754-1809) studied at William and Mary in 1777 and was a Judge of the General Court of Virginia from 1789 until his death in 1809.

    Monroe arrived in France on July 31, 1794, three days after Robespierre and his followers were guillotined, putting an end to the Reign of Terror. He presented his credentials on August 15, 1794, succeeding Gouverneur Morris who was still at his post. While in Paris, Monroe constantly worked to tighten the Franco-American alliance, favored by Republicans, which angered the Federalists at home. When the French requested information about Jay's Treaty, Monroe assured them that it would not concern new trade obligations, not knowing that Federalist John Jay had been given power to negotiate commercial concerns. The treaty resulted in closer economic ties with Britain, encouraging trade between the two nations. It was ratified over Republican opposition led by Jefferson and Madison. France had been at war with England since 1793. Over the coming years, France rolled back many of the protections it had awarded U.S. merchants in retaliation for Jay's Treaty. Monroe faced growing criticism at home from Federalists as well as in France. Opponents felt he was acting more as a Republican party spokesman than as the representative of his government. On September 9, 1796, President Washington appointed Federalist Charles C. Pinckney of South Carolina to succeed Monroe who presented his recall on December 9, 1796. In the Spring of 1797, Monroe returned home to Virginia. Pinckney was not received by the French Directory and he immediately returned home. There was no U.S. Minister to France until 1801 when Robert R. Livingston presented his credentials. In 1803, President Jefferson sent Monroe back to Paris to join Livingston as Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to enter into a treaty with Napoleon "for the enlarging and more effectually securing our rights and interests in the river Mississippi." Monroe and Livingston's negotiations resulted in the Louisiana Purchase.

    This historic letter is in extra fine condition and was written at a turning point in the life of the ambitious, energetic young Virginian as he was about to embark with his family on his first trip abroad to, as he put it in this letter, "the other hemisphere." From the Gary Grossman Collection.

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