James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Neilson, 15 May 1805

From William Neilson

Marine Insurance Office
May 15h. 1805.


On the trial of several vessels, taken on their voyage from this port to Curracoa, the inclosed certificate from Admiral Duckworth,1 was adduced as Evidence of the blockade of that Island, and had, without doubt, great influence in their condemnation: it is proper to say that no such blockade was ever promulgated or known here, neither was it, as is usual in such cases, communicated to the masters of these vessels but on the contrary, they were taken possession of and sent to Jamaica and there condemned as “Enemys property.” As our public Offices are deeply interested in these decisions <it becomes nec>essary for us to k<now whether this communication> was ever made to our Government, and if so, in what light it was received or considered,2 for on this will our success, on the appeals, depend, and that you may have a correct view of the business we cover you the masters protests of the Five vessels wherein we are more immediately concerned3 from which, the facts, herein stated, will appear and on which we request your advice and opinion for our Government in accepting or rejecting some overtures made us by the Captors, & on this subject it is proper to add that when successful in an appeal we sustain great injury from the sale or valuation of property—this arises from forced sales or appraisement of goods not adapted to the market, and is a subject well worth the attention of the Government, we will illustrate this grievance by a recent case, a Vessel worth 7000 dollars was lately sold in Jamaica for 1000, of course our recovery is limited to this sum. <We are> with great respect<, > S<ir, > The Marine Insce. Compy of Nyork by

W. Neilson Prest.

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages, 9A-E3); Tr and Tr of enclosures (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 9A-D1); RC, Tr, enclosures, and Tr of enclosures were included with Jefferson’s 17 Jan. 1806 message to Congress. Tr and Tr of enclosures printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:727, 760–64. RC docketed by Wagner, with his note: “Blockade of Curaçao.” Extensively damaged at folds; words in angle brackets have been supplied from the Tr. For enclosures, see nn. 1 and 3.

1The enclosure (1 p.) is a copy of Adm. Sir John Thomas Duckworth’s 30 July 1804 certification that Merry had informed the U.S. government of the establishment of a blockade of the port of Amsterdam on Curaçao.

2For Duckworth’s 2 Mar. 1804 announcement of the blockade, see Anthony Merry to JM, 12 Apr. 1804, and JM to Snell, Stagg & Co., 8 Oct. 1804, PJM-SS, description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 7:38, 8:135–36.

3The enclosures (32 pp.) are originals or copies of the depositions, certified by New York notary public Edward W. Laight, George Kinkead, or consul William Savage, of Capt. John Bell of Abraham S. Hallett’s brig Bulah Maria, Capt. Hezekiah Pinkham of Hallett’s schooner Favourite, Capt. Lemuel Bourne of Snell, Stagg, & Co.’s brig Lapwing, Capt. Isaiah Smart of Jacques Ruden’s schooner Performance, and Capt. Thomas Brown of the schooner Bethia owned by James Parker, Joseph Marsh, and Cortlandt L. Parker of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. In many cases the mates and supercargoes of the ships deposed also. All the vessels but the Bethia sailed from New York; all were bound for Curaçao laden with foodstuffs, wines, dry goods, tobacco, or lumber. All were owned by American citizens and sailed between October and December 1804. All were seized off Bonaire during November and December 1804, and January 1805; three by the Franchise, Capt. John Murray, and two by the Diana, Capt. Thomas James Maling, and the Pelican, Capt. John Marshall. They were taken into Kingston and Port Royal, Jamaica, and condemned by the vice-admiralty court at Kingston. Also enclosed are sworn statements certified by Laight, by Hallett, Ruden, and Thomas Stagg Jr. that their vessels were wholly owned by Americans.

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