Contents and Arrangement

Reports Regarding the Spanish Attack in the Gulf of Mexico Against the American schooner Fire Brand, and Steps Taken by the United States Towards the South American Insurrection, 1816 October-December

1 folder

Collection Overview

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.

Collection History

Archival Appraisal Information:

No material was separated during 2012 processing.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Conditions for Reproduction and 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:

Reports Regarding the Spanish Attack in the Gulf of Mexico Against the American schooner Fire Brand, and Steps Taken by the United States Towards the South American Insurrection; French Intelligence Reports on the United States, C1440, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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