James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Zebulon Hollingsworth, 28 August 1804

To Zebulon Hollingsworth

Department of State, August 28th. 1804.


I have the honor to enclose extracts of a communication lately received from the British Minister alluding to irregularities alledged to have been committed by the officers of the French Frigate Poursuivante in the Port of Baltimore,1 affecting both the peace of the City and the neutrality of the United States. This being the first official intimation upon the subject I request you,2 with the assistance of the Collector of the Customs, to make a scrupulous enquiry into the truth of the allegations and report the result to me as soon as possible, together with your opinion, whether any individual who may remain within the reach of judicial process has subjected himself, thro’ any participation he may have had in the occurrances, to prosecution and in what Court? I am &c.

James Madison.

Letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 14).

1JM referred to Anthony Merry’s letter to him of 15 Aug. 1804. On 8 Sept. 1804 Jacob Wagner wrote to Hollingsworth transmitting JM’s letter and stating that as JM had not returned Merry’s letter, Wagner could not enclose the within-mentioned extract. He added that the irregularities of the French navy to which JM referred “are those connected with the note of Mr. Sotin, published and discussed not long ago in some of the public papers at Baltimore” (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 14).

2Zebulon Hollingsworth (ca. 1762–1824), a member of a Baltimore merchant family, had been appointed U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland in 1792 (Boston Columbian Centinel, 18 Aug. 1824; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 1:125, 126; Papenfuse et al., Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1:448–49).

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