James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Levett Harris, 25 May 1805

From Levett Harris

St. Petersburg 25 May. 1805.


The foregoing are Copies of what I had the honor last to address you.1 The Originals were sent to Amsterdam under cover to Mr. Bourn our Consul, to whose particular attention I recomended them, and requested he would take an acknowledgement on delivering the latter letter in charge of some attentive American Captain; he has advised me their receipt and mentioned he would conform to my directions. I am without any further intelligence on the Subject, but I trust they have found a safe conveyance to You. In a letter I had the honor to address You Sir, the 1/13 Septr2 I mentioned a conversation I had with the Minister of foreign affairs upon the Subject of a Capture that was made in April 1804. by one of our Squadron under the Command of Commodore Prebble with whom I opened a Correspondence, & of which You have been duly informed. I have since received a letter from his Sucsessor on a Similar Subject, which conducted to [sic] me to a Conference with the Minister of foreign affairs, & I have herewith the honor to inclose you the letter of Commodore Barron, & my reply, which will fully inform You of what has passed on this occasion.3 I have not Since heard any thing further in relation to the mediation of this Court in behalf of the American Prisoners at Tripoli. I have noticed in my above answer to the Commodore, what the Prince de Czartoryski has further mentioned on this affair.

With respect to our navigation here, I am gratified to find that no regulation has been made which operates any wise injuriously to our trade. This Court has deemed it superfluous to institute any measures of consequence in addition to those adopted by Denmark on the subject of quarantine.

The Minister recently assured me “que les reglements que de justes precautions necessiterons pour prévenir l’introduction de toute espèce de maladies épidimiques Seroeint le moins possible genant pour le Commerce de l’Amerique, qui recevroit toujours une protection & un encouragement Suivant Sons importance & l’interêt que l’Empereur porte pour les Etats Unis.”4

I am happy to add, that the Sistem of pacification, which had conducted the Emperor thus far, in the agitations of Europe, he perseveres to maintain, & there is little doubt but He will Stand firm in this exemplary policy. I have the honor to be, with perfect Respect, Sir, Your most obedient Servant,

Levett Harris.

RC, two copies, and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, St. Petersburg, vol. 1). First RC 3 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Harris; docketed by Wagner as received 2 Sept. For surviving enclosures, see n. 3.

1The enclosure has not been found but may have been a copy of Harris to JM, 1 Jan. 1805, 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 , 8:440.

2Harris to JM, 13 Sept. 1804, ibid., 39–40.

3Harris enclosed copies of: (1) Samuel Barron to Harris, 16 Jan. 1805 (two copies, first copy 7 pp.; marked “Duplicate”; docketed by Wagner: “Levitt Harris / correspondence about the capture of a Russian vessel by Capt. Campble [sic]”; signature clipped; printed in Knox, Naval Documents, Barbary Wars, 5:283–86); second copy 8 pp.; marked “Triplicate”; enclosing (2) Capt. Hugh G. Campbell to Barron, 17 Dec. 1804 (3 pp.; marked “A”; printed ibid., 286–87); enclosing (3) the deposition of Oliver H. Perry and two other Americans (2 pp.; Perry’s signature clipped; printed ibid., 287–88); (4) Mr. de Becker, Russian consul general at Sicily, to Barron, [27 Nov. 1804] (3 pp.; marked “B”; printed ibid., 288–89); (5) Barron to de Becker, 3 Dec. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid.; 289–90); (6) de Becker to Barron, [10 Dec. 1804] (1 p.; marked “D”; printed ibid., 290); (7) seaman Antonio Renaud Carcas’s 23 Nov. 1804 deposition at Malta (1 p.; signed also by five others; printed ibid., 290–91); (8) Harris to Barron, 20 Mar. 1805 (5 pp.; two copies, first copy marked “Copy”; printed ibid., 428–30; second copy marked “Tripte.”). In his 16 Jan. 1805 letter Barron acknowledged receipt of Harris’s 18 Aug. 1804 letter to Edward Preble and reported that the Americans had seized the St. Michael, a Russian ship, manned by a Greek captain and crew, that was attempting to violate the U.S. blockade of Tripoli. Barron also expressed his disappointment that the application of the Russian minister at Constantinople to the Ottoman court for aid in obtaining the release of the American prisoners at Tripoli had had no result. In his statement to the Russian consul, Capt. Dede Riga denied attempting to breach the blockade, denied that he had tried to escape capture, and charged the Americans with treating the Russian flag disrespectfully. Barron enclosed Campbell’s letter and his own correspondence with consul de Becker, including the statements of the sailors from both ships, and he refuted Riga’s story point by point. Barron was informing Harris of the incident because he feared the consul had written to the Russian court “in the same spirit of Intemperance & Misrepresentation” that had marked his letters to Barron. In his 17 Dec. 1804 letter to Barron, Campbell explained his reasons for capturing the St. Michael, added that he had pursued the vessel for a day before overtaking it, and enclosed Perry’s statement denying that the Russian ship, flag, or officers had been treated improperly. In his 20 Mar. 1805 reply to Barron, Harris stated that he had met with deputy foreign minister Czartoryski, who initially rejected the notion of legal blockade but eventually conceded the correctness of the American position, lamented the occurrence of the incident, and expressed his disapprobation of de Becker’s behavior. Harris commented that he had expected more Russian aid in bringing about the release of the American prisoners at Tripoli but was now disposed to think that the “vigourous employment” of American forces was the best way to obtain that goal and achieve “a Speedy peace with the Barbarians.”

4“Que les reglements. . .”: We will invoke only those sound regulations to prevent the introduction of all manner of epidemic sickness that will be the least troublesome to American commerce, which will always receive protection and encouragement in accordance with its importance and the interest the Emperor bears the United States.

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