James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Anthony Merry, 26 February 1805

To Anthony Merry

Department of State February 26th. 1805.


I have had the Honor to receive your letter of the 23d instant stating that you have been informed that the Ship British Queen having been captured from British Subjects and carried to Charleston (S.C.) Measures have been taken to sell her there by the French Persons who have charge of her. The Collector of the Customs of that port has in Consequence been directed to ascertain whether she be a Prize Vessel,1 and if he find it so, to refuse her a Clearance in any other Character, as well as to intimate, as Occasion may require, to those who may have purchased her or are disposed so to do, and also to the French Persons having Charge of her that such Sale is considered by the President to be illegal. I have the Honor to be &c.

(Signed) James Madison

Tr (UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 5, 45:77–78); Tr (DNA: RG 59, NFL, Great Britain, vol. 5); letterbook copy (UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 115, 14:22–23). First Tr enclosed in Merry to Lord Harrowby, 4 Mar. 1805 (UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 5, 65–66). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1On 1 Mar. 1805 JM wrote to James Simons informing him of Merry’s complaint and adding: “As by the 25 Art: of the Convention with France of the 30 Septr. 1800, the enemies of France are prohibited from ‘selling their prizes or in any manner exchanging them in the United States’—and as impartiality requires that the same prohibition should be applied to prizes made by the French, such sale would in the opinion of the President be illegal. You will therefore make enquiry into the allegation of the British Queen being a prize Vessel, and if found so, intimate as occasion may require, both to the sellers & purchasers, the above opinion of the President, & further that you are instructed to clear her only as a prize vessel, a direction which you will accordingly observe both by expressing the fact in the clearance and withholding every document relative to or founded on any pretended change of property at Charleston” (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 14; 2 pp).

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