chapter  4
16 Pages

The Merry Affair

Diplomatic Disunity
WithAllgor Catherine

In the early days of the United States, only a few nations sent along diplomatic officials. During James Madison's tenure as secretary of state, these included the United States' two biggest potential allies and/or enemies, Great Britain and France. In addition, Denmark, Russia, and Tunisia sent diplomats of varying ranks. Even as they concerned themselves with uniting a country and a capital city, Dolley Madison and James had to contend with representatives from outside nations. In 1803, however, Dolley played a supporting role in, and had a front row seat for, the clearest lesson on the consequences of diplomatic disunity in the early republic. The infamous "Merry Affair" had definite consequences not only for present and future US-British relations but for the unity of her country. The Merry Affair could have been much worse—there could have been a declaration of war—but it was disastrous.