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James Monroe's Letters to Edmund Randolf

About the Letter

Link to Transcription

This October 16, 1794 letter is dominated by two specific themes: the French commercial system and French concerns over espionage. The letter begins with Monroe complaining about the embarrassments Americans are suffering as a result of the French commercial system. He notes how the “commerce of France” is run by government bureaucrats and that all private trade is strictly forbidden. Monroe then offers his own opinion and analysis into the reasoning behind such measures. Monroe explains how he thinks the commercial system is about to return to the private sector and become a free market enterprise. Halfway through the letter, Monroe abruptly changes the subject and begins to discuss French concerns of potential spies. More specifically, Monroe highlights some explicit worries expressed by the French Commissary of Foreign Affairs that there may be several American citizens working as spies for England. The French government even claims to have some these spies in confinement. The letter closes with Monroe’s updates on the war in Europe and details Holland's vulnerability to French attack. Furthermore, he expresses that Austria, Prussia, and Spain are actively seeking peace and wish to withdraw from the war.