James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Charles Pinckney, 11 September 1801

To Charles Pinckney

Department of State Washington
11th. Septr. 1801


In a postscript to his letter of the 21st. of April last,1 Colo. Humphreys transmitted a complaint he had received from the Minister of State, that the Spanish Schooner Marcelina had been robbed, about forty leagues westwardly from the Canaries, by a vessel, which on very vague grounds was suspected to be an American. On the 23d. of the same month, Colo. Humphreys returned a provisional answer, in which he promised to refer the complaint to his government, gave assurances that the offender, if found to be an American, would be severely punished and satisfaction made, but insisting upon the inadequacy of the circumstances alledged as denoting the aggressor to belong to us. You may repeat these remarks with the additional assurance, that none of our public vessels were near the scene of the depredation at the time it happened; and that if the government of Spain will enable us to fix the charge upon any private vessel of the United States, we shall be gratified in the opportunity of rendering justice to their complaint. In consequence of my letter of which a copy is enclosed the Chevalier de Yrujo has promised to write to the Governor of Cuba, in favor of our seamen taken on board British vessels.2 You will be pleased to represent both the subjects of the letter to the Spanish government.

The inclosed copies of a letter from Mr. Hulings our Vice Consul at New Orleans and a memorial from the American merchants residing and trading there merit your attention.3 Mr. Daniel Clark has been substituted in the Consulate for Mr. Jones. When I shall have the pleasure to learn that you have procured the recognition of our right to the establishment of a Consulate there, I will if necessary forward a copy of his commission to you, that you may procure the Kings Exequatur. But there would be convenience in permitting either the Governor of Louisiana or the Captain General of Cuba to grant provisional Exequaturs to our Consuls at New Orleans.

The enclosed sketch drawn up by the President when Secretary of State in the year 1790, concerning the navigation of the Mississippi and other collateral points may contribute to enlarge your view of that very important subject.4

In referring you to the enclosed circular,5 which has lately been dispatched to the Consuls and Commercial Agents of the United States, it is necessary that I should say something with respect to the accounts, which they are instructed to settle with you. It is not recollected, that any ordinary service is authorized for which it would be necessary for them to expend public money, except for the relief of seamen. In any emergent cases, they are referred to you for a sanction to their expenditures. You will give it according to your direction,6 having always in view the appropriation laws. They must of course present you with vouchers in all possible cases, and you may according to the practice, which has hitherto been pursued, allow them, if they chuse to ask compensation, a reasonable commission on their expenditures not exceeding five per cent. Your letter of credit will enable you to draw funds to pay these accounts. In your drafts on the Bankers you will specify the purposes for which they are made. With the highest respect &c. &c.

James Madison

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