James Madison

Special Message

January 03, 1811

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate to Congress, in confidence, a letter of the 2d of December from Governor Folch, of West Florida, to the Secretary of State, and another of the same date from the same to John McKee.

I communicate in like manner a letter from the British charge' d'affaires to the Secretary of State, with the answer of the latter. Although the letter can not have been written in consequence of any instruction from the British Government rounded on the late order for taking possession of the portion of West Florida well known to be claimed by the United States; although no communication has ever been made by that Government to this of any stipulation with Spain contemplating an interposition which might so materially affect the United States, and although no call can have been made by Spain in the present instance for the fulfillment of any such subsisting engagement, yet the spirit and scope of the document, with the accredited source from which it proceeds, required that it should not be withheld from the consideration of Congress.

Taking into view the tenor of these several communications, the posture of things with which they are connected, the intimate relation of the country adjoining the United States eastward of the river Perdido to their security and tranquillity, and the peculiar interest they otherwise have in its destiny, I recommend to the consideration of Congress the seasonableness of a declaration that the United States could not see without serious inquietude any part of a neighboring territory in which they have in different respects so deep and so just a concern pass from the hands of Spain into those of any other foreign power.

I recommend to their consideration also the expediency of authorizing the Executive to take temporary possession of any part or parts of the said Territory, in pursuance of arrangements which may be desired by the Spanish authorities, and for making provision for the government of the same during such possession.

The wisdom of Congress will at the same time determine how far it may be expedient to provide for the event of a subversion of the Spanish authorities within the Territory in question, and an apprehended occupancy thereof by any other foreign power.


James Madison, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/205005

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