James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Walter Jones Jr., 20 July 1805

To Walter Jones Jr.

Department of State, July 20th. 1805.


I enclose a certificate from the Consul at London1 of an oath made before him, by Richard Christie, late mate of the Schooner Commerce of Alexandria, of which John Harper was Master, wherein it appears as from the Captain’s confession that he maliciously represented at Cowes, that Wm. Gray, a Citizen of the U.States, and one of his Crew, was a British Subject in order to his impressment into the British service, and that in consequence he was actually so impressed. Though no criminal prosecution can perhaps be sustained upon the case for the principal act, yet he may be prosecuted under the 5th. & 6th. Sections of the Act of Congress of the 28th. May 1796 for not transmitting his protest, if he has returned; and if the Seamen in question was entered upon the list of his crew to be deliver’d to the Collector in virtue of the 1st. Section of the act of the 28th. Feby. 1803, his bond may also be sued for not bringing him back. Considering the enormity of Capt. Harper’s conduct, I request you to confer with the Collector as to facts, and if these or any other penalties or prosecutions have been incurred in the case & its incidents to take the proper steps for making an example of the Offender.2 I am &c.

James Madison

Letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15).

1See George W. Erving to JM, 20 Apr. 1805 (second letter), PJM-SS, 9:265.

2Walter Jones Jr. (1776–1861), who was educated by a Scottish tutor and read law with Bushrod Washington, was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1796 when he was not yet twenty. He was named U.S. attorney for the District of Potomac in 1802 and for the District of Columbia in 1804. He resigned this federal position in 1821 and went on to have a long and distinguished career in private practice, arguing, among other cases, McCulloch v. Maryland. In his cases he joined with such famous contemporaries as Luther Martin, Edward Livingston, Francis Scott Key, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay. During the War of 1812, he fought in the Battle of Bladensburg; in 1821 Monroe appointed him brigadier general of militia; eventually he became major general of the District of Columbia. He was a founding member of both the American Colonization Society and the Washington National Monument Society and was strongly opposed to the secession movement that led to the Civil War.

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