James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tobias Lear, 20 January 1803 (Abstract)

§ From Tobias Lear

20 January 1803, Washington. The House of Representatives having referred to JM the memorial Lear laid before them1 stating the losses he sustained as U.S. commercial agent at Saint-Domingue during the destruction of Cap Français, he encloses a statement of the fees he received for the execution of his official duties and the amount of his expenditures during his residence there, “including House rent, Clerks hire, passage out and home &c. &c.—and also the amot. of the property, as nearly as I can ascertain it, belonging to me, which was plundered or burnt when the City was destroyed.”2 Cannot be as correct regarding the latter as the former, “because I was not fortunate enough to save the Invoices or documents which would ascertain the amot. with precision,” but is “fully confident” the sum of $4,500 is “much below the real loss” sustained. “For my time, or any services which I may have rendered my fellow Citizens at that critical period, out of the line of my Official duty, I make no charge; for no pecuniary compensation could induce me to pass through similar scenes.”3 JM is well acquainted with “the peculiar & delicate circumstances” in which Lear was placed by events that took place during his residence in Saint-Domingue. Will make any further communications JM may deem necessary in the business. Also encloses an account of sums paid for the relief of distressed American seamen4 and credits the U.S. for a bill he drew in favor of Clement Biddle for $100. “The Vouchers for the payments made before the destruction of the Town were consumed in my house: for those paid afterwards I have the receipts. Should the forms of Office not allow the Account to be passed without the Vouchers, I must suffer the loss.”

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