James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Francis Mercer, 16 February 1802

From John Francis Mercer

Council Chamber Annapolis February 16 1802


Samuel Chase, Esquire, Agent for the recovery of the Bank Stock of Maryland, in the British Funds, has transmitted to the Executive of this State, the letter which you favoured him with of the 13 Instant;1 intimating that the British Ministers had discovered a design to exclude this subject from the Negotiation pending between the two Governments, with an intention of remanding it to their Courts of Justice.

Sensible as this Executive are of the deep interest of the State in this Communication and of the implicit confidence, which the Legislature have always reposed in the Government of the United States, it has not failed to excite the strongest solicitude. A sensibility will be felt here from this disappointment, proportioned to the sanguine expectations of success, which the communicated progress of the Diplomatic Agency has from time to time excited; and its failure at the moment of its expected completion, from the inconstancy of a foreign Nation, may give rise to conclusions unfavourable to the Administration of our own.2

Under these impressions, the Executive of Maryland, feel an unimpaired confidence, that the Government of the Union will never abandon this Claim of their State, more especially if the[y] consider that the loss of time consumed in this Negotiation altho’ a serious disadvantage, is of little moment when compared to that of the favorable conjunctures which have passed away, never probably to recur—the one when to the pressure of a foreign War so formidable as to threaten the national existence of Great Britain, and which rendered highly desirable every amicable adjustment of differences which might increase her Enemies; has now succeeded the security and confidence of a general peace—the other when Motives of prudence as well as honour which gave pointed force to the Claims of this State on the British Government, which they were urging against us, the doubtfull demands of their own Citizens, are now or will be silenced by complete success on their part. With what prospects, under these circumstances, may we be permitted to ask, will the State of Maryland re:appear in British Courts of Justice with the implied discountenance of their Government and the manifest desertion of our own?

The Executive of Maryland cannot for a Moment indulge the belief, that the President will ever consent to the abandonment of a Claim, the Justice of which he so strongly urged when placed in the department you now fill.

Permit me Sir, to solicit your serious attention to the foregoing general considerations, and to refer you to the particular observations made by Mr. Chase, in his letter to this Executive, Extracts from which I do myself the honour to inclose,3 and receive the assurances of the profound respect with which I am Your Obedient Servant

John. F. Mercer

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