James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Montgomery, 5 August 1805 (Abstract)

From Robert Montgomery, 5 August 1805 (Abstract)

§ From Robert Montgomery. 5 August 1805, Alicante. “I have the honor to hand you herewith Copy of a letter received this morning from Algiers;1 I have Given every assistance and support to Capn John Allen of the Schooner Jane of Boston Captured by the Piratical Vessel mentioned in Mr Mountfords letter and sent him and his Mate to Malta where it is probable the Jane may have been sent to as I am well informed that the owners of the Cruiser live there and will be forced to make restitution.2

“The Jane was on her Voyage from Boston to Marseille and on the Coast east of Valencia was hailed by a Vessel under Barbary Colours, the Master apprehending she was a Tripoline abandoned his Vessel and they Carried her off, when I learned this business I concluded the cruizer must be An Algerine as the Others had very little Chance of geting Clear of Our Blockade, in consequence I detained Capn Allen here and wrote Mr Mountford, who reply’d nearly as containd in his letter of which you have herewith Copy and I trust that Allen will find his Vessel altho much plundered.”

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, CD, Alicante, vol. 1). RC 2 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received 15 Oct., with his note: “Transactions at Algiers.” For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The enclosure (7 pp.; docketed by Wagner) is a copy of Timothy Mountford to Montgomery, 28 July 1805, in which Mountford acknowledged some previous correspondence between himself and Montgomery about the Jane and stated that the British consul at Algiers said the ship had been captured by the British polacre Two Brothers, Captain Cock, or Cook, of Malta, and had probably been sent to Sardinia. The captain and the crew were thought to be pirates and had been arrested and jailed by the British. It was believed there were several such ships in the Mediterranean, disguised as vessels from the Barbary regencies; an Imperial polacre had been reported taken by the same means. Mountford stated that the Jewish merchant [Naphtali] Busnach had been murdered by a Turkish soldier on 28 June, that the next day, soldiers had killed every Jew they met and plundered their houses, that they had been in rebellion since then, and that the whole country of the Moors, from Tlemcen to Constantine, had risen against the Turks. Tlemcen was taken by the Moorish army, and Oran was said to be unable to hold out much longer. Mountford added that every vessel that went to Oran was held by the dey in preparation for flight to Turkey when the city at last fell. The city of Algiers had relieved Oran with grain but could do so no more, since it, too, was running short. After Oran had fallen the Moors would send all their troops to the city of Algiers, so all grain in the vicinity was being ordered to Algiers. On 25 July the Turkish soldiers marched out of town against the dey’s orders, conferred for three hours, and returned; on 27 July they held another conference, the result of which was unknown. The dey and the divan feared for their own safety.

It was believed the soldiers intended to destroy the dey because he had ordered two soldiers strangled for the Jewish massacre, and to “create a new set of Rulers.” The palace guard was doubled and all the street gates closed at sunset, which only happened in times of real danger. Mountford commented that Algiers was beset within and without by its own subjects, and “a scene of horror” would occur in a short time. He had been told Lear had concluded peace with Tripoli and so should be returning to Algiers where the scene about to unfold would require his presence to take steps in the American interest. Mountford asked that copies of his letter be sent to JM and to Lear, whose whereabouts were uncertain, adding that Montgomery was his only mode of conveyance, since the current state of affairs had caused the dey to “look sharp” that few letters got out of port. The sudden arrival and departure of a Spanish courier had left him unable to write to JM and Lear. In a postscript he suggested sending a copy to John Gavino also, so Gavino could give information to all Americans bound up the Mediterranean but without giving them any more than would put them on their guard against freebooters. He added that all the Algerian corsairs were in port except a xebec of 32 guns and 400 men which it was thought had been taken by the Portuguese or Neapolitans. He stated further that he was alone, with not another American in the entire regency.

2On 26 Sept. 1805 Jacob Wagner wrote Benjamin Lincoln that Joseph Pulis, the American consul at Malta, had informed JM that the Jane, on its voyage from Boston to Marseilles, had been chased by a British privateer, and the Jane’s crew, supposing the pursuers to be Tripolitan, had abandoned ship, leaving only a Russian on board. Wagner said the Jane had been carried to Malta and asked Lincoln to notify the owners so they could make a claim (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15). No letter to JM from Joseph Pulis about the Jane has been found.

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