To the Senate and the House of Representatives
To the Senate and House of Representatives
of the United States.
By the copy, now communicated, of a letter from Capt Bainbridge, of the Philadelphia frigate, to our consul at Gibraltar, you will learn that an act of hostility has been committed, on a merchant vessel of the United States, by an armed ship of the Emperor of Morocco. This conduct on the part of that power is without cause, and without explanation. It is fortunate that Capt Bainbridge fell in with, and took, the capturing vessel, and her prize; and I have the satisfaction to inform you that, about the date of this transaction, such a force would be arriving in the neighborhood of Gibraltar, both from the East, and from the West, as leaves less to be feared for our commerce, from the suddenness of the aggression.
On the fourth of September, the Constitution1 frigate Capt. Preble, with Mr Lear on board, was within two days sail of Gibraltar, where the Philadelphia would then be arrived with her prize, and such explanations would probably be instituted as the state of things required, and as might perhaps arrest the progress of hostilities.
In the mean while, it is for Congress to consider the provisional authorities which may be necessary to restrain the depredations of this power, should they be continued.
RC (DNA: RG 46, LPPM, 8th Cong., 1st sess.); in Lewis Harvie’s hand, signed and dated by TJ; endorsed by a Senate clerk. PrC (DLC); in TJ’s hand. Recorded in SJL with notation “Marocco.” Enclosure: William Bainbridge to James Simpson, dated 29 Aug. 1803 on board the frigate Philadelphia near Malaga, reporting his capture of the Moroccan cruiser Mirboka and liberation of the American brig Celia, which the Moroccans had taken on 17 Aug. near Barcelona; Bainbridge took possession of both vessels and confined the Moroccan officers on the Philadelphia, who subsequently confessed that their cruiser went to sea “for the sole purpose of Capturing Americans” and with the authority of the governor of Tangier, Abd al-Rahman Ashash; Bainbridge and his prisoners blame Ashash for the affair, and Bainbridge hopes that his capture of the Mirboka will convince the emperor of Morocco “that if he injustly goes to Warr with the U.S. he will loose every large Cruiser he has”; Bainbridge has treated his prisoners with leniency and civility in order to “impress on their mind a favourable Opinion of the American Character”; Bainbridge is anxious to receive Simpson’s reply as well as instructions from Commodore Preble regarding the captured ship (Tr in DNA: RG 59, CD, Gibraltar, at head of text: “Copy”; Tr in DNA: RG 233, PM, in a clerk’s hand, incomplete; PrC in DNA: RG 46, LPPM, incomplete; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Affairs, 2:591-2; Vol. 38:176n).
Bainbridge’s dispatch was forwarded by the American consul at gibraltar, John Gavino, in a brief letter to James Madison dated 1 Sep. 1803, which was received by the State Department on 3 Nov. (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD, Gibraltar; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 5:373-4).
A brief dispatch dated the fourth of september from Edward preble to the secretary of the navy stated that the Constitution was near Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, and would anchor at Gibraltar “the day after tomorrow” (NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939-44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801-1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 3:18).
for congress to consider: the Senate took no immediate action on TJ’s message, but the House of Representatives referred it to a special committee for consideration. On 15 Nov., the committee reported a bill “for the further protection of the seamen and commerce of the United States,” which authorized the president to permit public and private armed vessels of the United States to seize all vessels, goods, and effects of the emperor of Morocco or his subjects. The House passed the bill unanimously on 17 Nov. and sent it to the Senate, where an amended version passed on 28 Nov. A second House committee reported on 1 Dec., but further consideration of the bill ceased after TJ’s message of 5 Dec. announced the reaffirmation of peace with Morocco (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:436-7, 444, 446-7, 461, 465, 467; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820-21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:308, 312-13, 316; A Bill For the further protection of the Seamen and Commerce of the United States, 15 Nov. 1803 [Washington, D.C., 1803; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 5223]; Mr. Samuel Smith, from the committee appointed on “the bill for the further protection of the seamen and commerce of the United States,” reported the following amendments, 23 Nov. 1803 [Washington, D.C., 1803; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 5309]; TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 5 Dec. 1803).
1. Word interlined in TJ’s hand in place of “Boston”; also corrected by TJ in PrC.