Pistols

Pistols
by James Monroe 3D
on Sketchfab

Musuem Object File Information:

Accession Number: JM76.213

Collection: Laurence Gouverneur Hoes Collection

Category: Armaments

Subcategory: Firearm

Description: One of a pair of flintlock pistols presented to President James Madison as a gift from Argentina in 1816. Made with silver capped handles and inlaid in an intricate scrolling design of silver on the handles and barrels.

General Ignacio Alvarez, Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, sent “a specimen of the first essays of the Manufacture of arms established in the Provinces of Buenos Ayres and Tucuman under the auspices of a free government, as an homage due to the Chief Magistrate of the United States of North America.”  [James B. Rhoads, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., to Daniel Milton, U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, TLS, June 22, 1962.  James Rhoads examined the Department of State records from the 1815-1816 period to verify this gift of pistols.  A copy of this letter is in the Curator’s Files, “JM76.213”].

As the U.S. government had not yet officially recognized the independence of the United Provinces of the River Plate, Madison was somewhat embarrassed by the gesture.  He instructed the Chief Clerk of the Department of State, John Graham, to handle the gift in a quiet manner.  “The present of Pistols may be deposited in the Department of State with a simple expression of the proper sensibility to it” [Rhoads to Milton, June 22, 1962, 2].

It is unclear how Monroe obtained the pair. It has been suggested that President Madison gave the set to him as a gift in honor of Monroe’s bravery during the War of 1812, since Monroe was the last member of Madison’s cabinet to leave Washington — just as the first British troops approached the Capital City in August of 1814.  [Observations and discussion between John N. Pearce, Director, James Monroe Museum, and Lee Langston-Harrison, Curator, May 1997].   It is also possible that Madison gave Monroe the brace when he took the oath of office as the fifth President of the United States. Or possibly that Monroe accepted the pistols in 1823 when the U.S. officially recognized the independence of Argentina.

There is no official record of the set being removed from the Department of State, and a 1962 search for the pistols given to Madison came up with nothing [Rhoads to Milton, June 22, 1962, 2], suggesting that this set is the one now at the James Monroe Museum.

Date: 1815-1816

Condition: Fair

Length: 11.500 in

Width: 2.000 in

Provenance: James Monroe his younger daughter Maria Hester Monroe and her husband, Samuel L. Gouverneur, Sr. then to SLG and his second wife, Mrs. Mary Digges Lee Gouverneur -1868 by order of the Orphan’s Court of Loudon County, VA to Mr. Samuel L. Gouverneur, Jr. and his wife, Mrs. Marian Campbell Gouverneur.  Following Mrs. Gouverneur’s death to her daughter,  Mrs. Rose Gouverneur Hoes who willed it to her youngest son,  Mr. Laurence G. Hoes and his wife, Ingrid Westesson Hoes.  Gift to the James Monroe Memorial Foundation by the Hoes family.  Deed of Gift to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Collector: James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library

Originally Owned By: James Madison, James Monroe

Place of Origin: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Material: Steel/Silver

Citation: “Pistols.” JM76.213. James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library.

Object Bibliography: 

James B. Rhoads, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., to Daniel Milton, U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, TLS, June 22, 1962.  James Rhoads examined the Department of State records from the 1815-1816 period to verify this gift of pistols.  A copy of this letter is in the Curator’s Files, “JM76.213.”

Observations and discussion between John N. Pearce, Director, James Monroe Museum, and Lee Langston-Harrison, Curator, May 1997.

Image Gallery:

Pistols
Pistols. Photo by James Monroe Museum.