James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Peter Muhlenberg and David Gelston, 20 July 1805

To Peter Muhlenberg and David Gelston

Department of State⟨,⟩; July 20th. 1805.


I request that hereafter you will cause to be endorsed on the packets of Gazettes intended for the Ministers in Europe the words “not to be put in a Post office,” taking care as often as practicable & necessary to arrange with those who take charge of them the means of otherwise conveying them to their destination after the arrival of the Vessel. Whenever the Vessel is bound to a port where we have a Consul (and such ports ought generally to be preferred) those means may be confided to them.1 I am &c.

James Madison.

Letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15). Addressed “To the Collectors of Philada. & N. York.” RC (1 p.) sold at Swann Auction Galleries, 19 May 1949, lot 17 (American Book-Prices Current [1949] 55:ix, xxv, 483).

1JM probably wrote this in response to a 30 Apr. 1805 letter from George W. Erving to Jacob Wagner (DNA: RG 59, CD, London, vol. 9; 2 pp.), reporting that dispatches he received from the State Department often had for cover only “one sheet of thin paper, which worn away at the Edges has sometimes left them so open, as that the inclosures might have been Easily taken out & restored without injury to the seal.” Erving also complained that packages of newspapers sent to the consuls were sometimes directed “to be put into the Post Office,” which on occasion led to postage charges as high as three, four, or even ten pounds, causing him to refuse delivery; he suggested that they be labeled as JM instructs here.

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