US Passport 1796 issued by James Monroe as Ambassador to France

Passport Monroe Ambassador France

OH, HAPPY DAY – to get this treasure into my collection! US passport issued by James Monroe as ambassador to France on April 28, 1796, only twenty years after Independence. 18th Century US passports are extremely rare to find. Monroe will later become the 5th President of the United States.

France is one of the oldest U.S. allies, dating to 1778, when the French monarchy recognized the independence of the United States. French military and economic assistance during the American War of Independence (1775-81) was crucial to the American victory. Since then, relations between the two countries have remained active, despite periods that have tested this extended friendship. The French Revolution began in May 1789 and eventually overthrew the government of Louis XVI. In 1792 Thomas Jefferson stated that the U.S. should “acknowledge any Government to be rightful, which is formed by the will of a nation, substantially declared.” This has been U.S. policy ever since.

Consequently, formal diplomatic relations with France were not broken upon the constitution of new French governments after 1789 (the majority of which occurred during the nineteenth century). Each time this happened, the resident American diplomatic representative usually submitted new credentials to the appropriate authorities. Passport Monroe Ambassador France

France recognized the United States as an independent state on February 6, 1778, when France’s Secretary of His Majesty’s Council of State, Conrad Alexandre Gérard, and American Commissioners Benjamin FranklinSilas Deane, and Arthur Lee signed two treaties in Paris.

The first U.S. consular post was established in Bordeaux, France, in March 1778. Passport Monroe Ambassador France

Diplomatic relations were established on August 6, 1778, when Conrad Alexandre Gérard, presented to Congress his credentials as France’s Minister-Plenipotentiary and Consul-General. Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to France on September 14, 1778, and was accredited by the French Government on March 23, 1779. An American diplomatic mission in Paris was first established on March 23, 1779, when Benjamin Franklin presented to the French court his letter of credence as Minister-Plenipotentiary.

On July 7, 1798, following the so-called “XYZ affair,” the U.S. Congress abolished the treaties of 1778 and a pre-existing consular convention. The French did not accept the abrogation as legally-binding until the ratification of the 1800 Treaty of Friendship and Commerce.

Monroe’s Influence on American Diplomacy

Monroe conducted numerous diplomatic missions addressing the most critical international threats facing his generation. President George Washington appointed Monroe Minister to France in 1794. Jay’s Treaty frustrated Monroe’s efforts to retain cordial relations with the French Government, and he was recalled in 1796. Hence, this must be one of the last passports issued at his post in Paris.

Monroe returned to France in 1803 on a successful mission to assist Robert Livingston with the Louisiana Purchase negotiations. Monroe also served as Minister to Britain from 1803 until 1807, a period complicated by disputes over U.S. neutrality rights. In 1805 Monroe traveled to Spain, intending to win recognition of the U.S. possession of West Florida. The United States claimed the territory as part of the Louisiana Purchase, but Monroe could not gain the consent of the Spanish Government. Passport Monroe Ambassador France

Monroe joined with Special Commissioner William Pinkney in 1806 in the effort to halt British impressment of U.S. sailors and to secure neutral trading rights. The proposed Monroe-Pinkney Treaty, however, failed to address impressments, and President Jefferson, therefore, declined to forward the treaty to the Senate.

While serving as Secretary of State in 1811, Monroe became convinced that a declaration of war against Great Britain was the best option to change aggressive British policies. Along with Madison, Monroe encouraged Congress to issue a war declaration, which came on June 17, 1812. Monroe skillfully managed the expansion of the U.S. military occupation of Florida and served as acting Secretary of War during the War of 1812.

Although there would be no clear victor, the United States emerged from the war with enhanced international prestige. As President, Monroe’s main diplomatic challenges stemmed from the recession of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and Russian Tsar Alexander’s hopes to populate the Oregon Coast. Monroe responded effectively. In 1819 he skillfully managed the total Acquisition of Florida.

Along with his influential Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, which forewarned the imperial European powers against interfering in the affairs of the newly independent Latin American states or potential U.S. territories in the Western hemisphere. Adhering to the intellectual underpinnings of the doctrine, Monroe granted diplomatic recognition to newly-independent Latin American republics. Passport Monroe Ambassador France

US passport issued by James Monroe as ambassador to France on April 28, 1796, only twenty years after Independence. 18th Century US passports are extremely rare to find. Monroe will later become the 5th President of the United States.

James Monroe (1758-1831) was a true American Revolution hero. He was also a staunch anti-federalist. Monroe was the only person to have served as the Secretary of State and War at the same time. He easily won the election of 1816, with 84% of the electoral vote. Finally, his name is forever immortalized in America’s foundational foreign policy code: The Monroe Doctrine. 

President James Madison appointed Monroe as Secretary of State on April 2, 1811. Monroe assumed duty on April 6, 1811, and served until March 3, 1817, with a brief period from October 1, 1814, to February 28, 1815, as ad interim Secretary of State. Monroe had a prestigious military career before embarking upon a distinguished career in public service.

Monroe was born to a plantation family in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He began attending Campbell Academy when he was eleven years old and entered the College of William and Mary at sixteen. In 1775 he enlisted in the Third Virginia Infantry and then fought under George Washington’s command during the Revolutionary War. Monroe was wounded during the Battle of Trenton, and eventually reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Passport Monroe Ambassador France

Following the war, he returned to the College of William & Mary to study law at the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson. Monroe’s election to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782 began a long series of public appointments. Among many other positions, including Secretary of State, Monroe served as a member of the Congress of the Confederation from 1783 until 1786, a U.S. Senator from 1790 until 1794, Governor of Virginia from 1799 until 1802 and in 1811, and U.S. President from 1817 until 1824.

 

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...