James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Anthony Merry, 6 September 1804

From Anthony Merry

Philadelphia September 6th. 1804.


In the Letter which I had the Honor to receive from you of the 7th. July1 you transmitted to me Two Documents which were said to testify Irregularities committed by His Majesty’s Ship Driver in the Impressment of Three Passengers and a black Mariner, believed to be a Citizen of the United States, out of the American Ship Young Factor, and of the further Impressment of Three Passengers, and Two Seamen (one of them having a Family in New-York), who had been shipped as American Citizens, out of the American Ship Diligence. In my Reply to your above-mentioned Letter, under Date of the 15th. of August,2 I had the Honor to acquaint you that His Majesty’s Ship Driver had proceeded to Halifax, and that I had not as yet received an Answer from the Captain on the Subject of your Complaints against him.

I have now, Sir, the Honor to transmit to you inclosed the Extract of a Letter from the King’s Consul General at New York3 inclosing to me the Affidavits (of which I also forward a Copy inclosed) of the Officers of the Driver,4 together with the Attestations of Cornelius Farrell, Alexr. Macleod, David Hoy, John Brady and James Higgins, all declaring themselves to be His Majesty’s natural born Subjects, by which Extract and Affidavits you will perceive, Sir, 1st. that the black Mariner has acknowledged himself to be a British Subject and a run-away Negro from the Island of Jamaica, 2ndly. that Robert Kelly, both by himself and by his Wife at New York, has been acknowledged to be a British Subject, 3dly. that Cornelius Farrell has likewise declared himself to be such, and to have been formerly a Soldier in His Majesty’s Service, and, finally, that the other Individuals whose Names are not noticed in your Letter, or in the Depositions which accompanied it, though in the latter they are expressed to be Aliens, have in like Manner confessed themselves to be the King’s natural born Subjects, and to have been formerly Soldiers in His Service. I do not trouble you, Sir, with Copies of the Attestations alluded to, not to render my Correspondence still more Voluminous, hoping that the Documents which I have the Honor to inclose will be sufficient in themselves to prove that all the Persons impressed out of the American Ships before mentioned are His Majesty’s Subjects, and, therefore, that there has been no Irregularity in the Proceeding. I have the Honor to be, with high Respect and Consideration, Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

Ant: Merry.

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, NFL, Great Britain, vol. 3). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Merry; docketed by Wagner as received 9 Sept. For enclosures, see nn. 3–4.

1PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 7:427–28 and n. 1.

2Ibid., 7:601–8.

3Merry enclosed an extract (3 pp.; docketed by Wagner) of a 30 Aug. 1804 letter to him from Thomas Barclay enclosing the depositions, received from Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell, of Capt. William Lyall, 2nd Lt. James Gordon, and Master James Cunningham of the Driver together with the attestations of five passengers impressed from the American ships Diligence and Young Factor. Barclay stated that the deposition completely refuted the allegations of Captains Rowland Crocker and Amiel Gardner and added that Robert Kelly’s wife had called on him admitting that Kelly was Irish and not a U.S. citizen and requesting permission to go aboard ship with Kelly, who had joined the crew of the Leander.

4Merry enclosed a copy of the joint deposition (9 pp.; docketed by Wagner), sworn to before Nova Scotia notary public Richard Uniache on 1 Aug. 1804 by Lyall, Gordon, and Cunningham, stating that on 25 and 26 June 1804 Gordon and Cunningham had boarded the Diligence and Young Factor bound for New York from Dublin and Galway, respectively, to find that all the passengers on the former and five on the latter were British subjects and that the American captains had no permits to carry British soldiers or seamen abroad. Two sailors and three passengers on the Diligence, former British seamen or soldiers, were impressed; three passengers on the Young Factor, together with one Brown, a runaway from Jamaica with a sister in Halifax, were impressed. All the impressed men had since admitted to being British subjects and were serving in the British army or navy. Gordon and Cunningham denied that there had been any incivilities on either their or the Americans’ part during the two incidents.

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