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- France. Ministère des affaires étrangères
- French Intelligence Reports on the United States
- Manuscripts Division
- Permanent URL:
- 1 box and 0.4 linear feet
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box 1
At the start of the 19th century, the tumultuous events of Europe and the new government of the United States prompted the government of France employing agents to report on American politics, economics, diplomacy, geographic expansion, and military affairs. This collection consists of thirty-eight confidential, anonymous reports from French agents in the United States over a period of forty years, from the period immediately following the Louisiana Purchase into the early 1840s.
Collection Description & Creator Information
This collection consists of thirty-eight confidential, anonymous reports from French agents in the United States describing American political, economic, and military conditions over a period of forty years, from the period immediately following the Louisiana Purchase into the early 1840s. These lengthy, detailed, and significant reports, penned in neat diplomatic script, were apparently compiled by French agents in the United States for the benefit of the foreign ministry in Paris. They comprise original observations and analysis of American affairs, as well as transcriptions from the American press on major political events and policies. Many of the reports relate to French interests in the Americas, such as the situation in Haiti, naval disputes between French and English ships, commercial, economic, and banking issues, as well as relations between the United States and France's rivals in Europe. Other reports discuss American political events, such as the election of 1840, and consider their impact on relations and trade between the United States and France.
The reports are numbered, though not in a distinct sequence, perhaps reflecting the fact that those in this collection came from various agents or locations (several were written in Philadelphia), each with a discrete numbering system. Many of the reports are addressed "Monsieur le Ministre," indicating that they were compiled either for the French ambassador to the United States, or directly for the French Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The earliest reports date from May, 1804, and discuss the capture of the French schooner l'Africaine by the English ship, Garland, in Charleston Harbor. Other reports from this period deal with the tumultuous situation in Haiti, which would have been of particular concern in Paris. Reports from the years just after the War of 1812 assess America's military strength, including one report that contains a chart of available United States military units at various locations along the coast and on major waterways. Other reports discuss the likelihood of war between the United States and Spain in the late 1810s, developments in the revolutionary movements in South America, and an insurrection in the Brazilian region of Pernambuco. One report (June 14, 1816) details Haitian ruler Alexandre Petion's assistance to Simon Bolivar in South America, and another report (June 13-14, 1816) relates a potential plot to liberate Napoleon from St. Helena. A brief report of early 1817 discusses the election of President James Monroe, and his attitudes toward the recently restored House of Bourbon.
Later reports in the early 1840s, analyze key American political conflicts such as the battle over the Bank of the United States, the effects of the depression of 1837, and the relationship between capital and labor in the United States. A twenty-three page report of 1841 discusses the election of 1840, and the repercussions of the loss by Martin Van Buren and the Democrats to the Whigs, led by William Henry Harrison. Reports that follow analyze, in detail and at length, John Tyler's State of the Union message of 1841, the political war over the tariff, and American reaction to the death of the heir to the French throne, the Duke of Orleans, in 1842. There are also transcriptions of relevant articles from American newspapers, including the National Intelligencer.
These topically grouped reports are arranged chronologically.
- Collection Creator Biography:
France. Ministère des affaires étrangères
At the start of the 19th century, the tumultuous events of Europe and the new government of the United States prompted the government of France employing agents to report on American politics, economics, diplomacy, geographic expansion, and military affairs. This collection contains French agents' reports in 1804 with Napoleon as Emperor of France, from 1816 to 1817 with Louis XVIII as King of France, and from 1841 to 1842 with Louis-Philippe as King of France.
The United States, during these times, were generally recovering from wars, developing economic policies, undergoing political transformations, and establishing international relationships. Of particular interest to the French was America's interactions with the United Kingdom, Spain, Haiti, and South America. In addition, the French were interested in how France was perceived by the Americans; and agents reported on the Bonapartes arrival in New Jersey, plots to liberate Napoleon from St. Helena, how the newly elected President Monroe responded to the Bourbon Restoration, and how Americans responded to the unexpected death of Prince Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans, who died at age 32 in 1842.
France was also interested in the turbulent economy of the United States in 1816 and 1817 following the War of 1812 and in the early 1840s following the Panic of 1837. President John Tyler's presidency resulted in a great divide between the President and both the Whig and Democratic parties, with much speculation regarding tariffs, national banks, and political stability.
This collection was purchased from William Reese Company in 2013.
No material was separated during 2012 processing.
- Processing Information
This collection was processed by Holly Mengel in 2013. Finding aid written by Holly Mengel in 2013.
Access & Use
- Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
- Conditions Governing Use
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
French Intelligence Reports on the United States; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Permanent URL:
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box 1
- Subject Terms:
- Bank of the United States (1816-1836)
Intelligence officers -- France -- 19th century.
Tariff--United States--History--19th century.
- Genre Terms:
- Manuscripts, French -- 19th century
Reports -- 19th century.
- United States. President (1817-1825 : Monroe)
United States. President (1841-1845 : Tyler)
Monroe, James, 1758-1831
Orléans, Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Charles-Henri, duc d', 1810-1842
Tyler, John, 1790-1862
- France -- Foreign relations -- United States -- 19th century.
France -- Ministère des affaires étrangères -- 19th century.
Haiti -- History -- Revolution, 1791-1804.
United States -- History -- 1783-1865 -- Sources.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1783-1865 -- Sources.