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James Monroe's Letters to Edmund Randolf

About the Letter

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This November 7, 1794 letter provides an interesting account into some the early problems facing Monroe as he skillfully attempts to resolve the trade issues between France and the United States. Monroe illustrates some of the difficulties and “embarrassments” he has observed thus far during his short time in France. More specifically, Monroe describes his observations of the seizure of foreign goods aboard American ships by French government authorities. This results in Monroe raising several unique questions over the measures he should take in response towards these issues. For example, Monroe contemplates whether it is in the best interest of the United States to encourage private trade among French enterprises. Monroe expresses a belief that private trade would be beneficial to both France and America. The letter then transitions into a few brief and interesting topics, including Monroe’s attempt to get the French government to pay the money for allowing St. Domingo immigrants to settle in America they had promised to the U.S. government. Another minor reference includes some ambiguous affairs taking place in Algiers. Perhaps most notable is Monroe’s observation and correspondence with Thomas Paine and Madame Lafayette. Monroe expresses concern for the prisoners and summarizes his meeting with them, during which, he expresses America’s support for their release. The letter closes with Monroe's update of the state of military affairs and informs the Secretary that the French have captured Koblenz and Pampeluna.