James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Anthony Merry, 23 March 1804

From Anthony Merry

Washington March 23rd. 1804.


I have the Honour to lay before You the inclosed Copy of a Memorial1 which has been presented to Lord Hawkesbury, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for foreign Affairs, by several of the King’s Subjects Proprietors of Land in that Part of the Territory of the United States which formerly belonged to His Majesty under the Title of the Province of West Florida, respecting an Act which passed in the last session of Congress of the United States, entitled “An Act regulating the Grants of Land, and providing for the disposal of the Lands of the United States, South of the State of Tennessee,”2 the Provisions of which Act the Memorialists represent as precluding them effectually from the Possibility of substantiating their Claims within the Time limited, and, consequently, as tending to deprive them of their Property.

I flatter myself, Sir, that it will be perceived, upon a Re-consideration of the Law in Question, that the Fifth Section of it will in Fact produce the injurious Effect which is apprehended by the Proprietors—inevitably, in as far as regards the Period assigned for the Admission of their Claims, and eventually, in case their Documents should be lost in the Transmission of them to this Country, particularly in Time of War.

It is, Sir, by the express Orders of my Government, that I have the Honour to represent these Circumstances to you, and to solicit of the Government of the United States their timely Interference to prevent the Injury which will otherwise ensue to several of His Majesty’s Subjects in the Cases above explained, either by deferring to the Suggestions on this Subject stated by the Memorialists, or by adopting such other Measures, as in their Wisdom shall appear more convenient.

It is probable that the injurious Consequences of the Provisions of the Act, with Respect to claimants in the Situation of the Memorialists, had escaped the Notice of the American Legislature, and it is therefore to be hoped that it will be sufficient to point them out to obtain a Remedy for the Evil. At all Events His Majesty’s Government confide in the Friendship and known Justice of the Government of the United States to take such Measures in this Case as shall appear to them the most effectual for affording Redress to His Majesty’s Subjects. I have the Honor to be, with high Respect and Consideration, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

Ant: Merry.

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