Behind the scenes diplomacy was at work, actively seeking to disentangle or to embroil the plot of the culminating drama. Erskine, the British minister, sympathizing with his father Lord Erskine, in good-will to America, hurried from one to another of the officials at Washington, trying to penetrate their thoughts,—an easy task,—and to find a bond of union between them and George Canning,—a problem as difficult as any that ever diplomacy solved. Besides his interview with Jefferson, he reported conversations with the Cabinet.
- "I have had several interviews with Mr. Madison since the arrival of the 'Hope,'" he wrote November 5, "and have often turned the conversation upon the points above mentioned, which he did not seem willing to discuss; but I could collect from what he did say that it was his own opinion that all intercourse ought to be broken off with the belligerents, and that some steps further—to use his expression—ought to be taken. . . . I will just communicate to you the hints which were thrown out by Mr. Smith, Secretary of the Navy, in a conversation which I had with him,—of an unofficial
- Erskine to Canning, Nov. 5, 1808; MSS. British Archives.