From James Leander Cathcart, 12 August 1805 (Abstract)
§ From James Leander Cathcart.1 12 August 1805, Washington. “I have the honor to enclose Mr. Nissen⟨s⟩; receipt [not found] for security given for cloth taken from me by the Bashaw of Tripoli deposited in his hands by me in order that he might recover the amount upon account of the United States, & likewise his letter to me of the 14th. of January 1805 containing a list of the furniture left by me at Tripoli,2 which with the paper⟨s⟩; & accounts already deposited in the office of the Department of State are incontestable proofs of the validity of the charge⟨s⟩; made by me for loss sustain’d on said Cloth furniture and difference of Exchange amounting in the aggregate to $ 156280/100 which was paid to me by way of advance until I procured the necessary vouchers to substantiate my claim, this being done, I request that I may be exonerated from the above charge as it still remains to my debit in the books of the Treasury. I likewise request you to have the goodness to advance me the remainder of the amount of the balance of my accounts which is stop’d in part payment of Robertsons bill, & to permit the whole amount of said bill $ 338320/100 to remain to my debit until I recover damages either from the Spanish government or the underwriters, in like manner as it h⟨as⟩; been permited to remain since the year 1797;3 by granting my request you will render me a very particular favor & you may be persuaded Sir that I would not be so importunate if circumstances did not dictate the necessity; my acc⟨ts⟩; are all settled of every denomination the bill in question excepted, which is the only sum that will continue to my debit.”
RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Tripoli, vol. 2). RC 1 p. For surviving enclosures, see n. 2.
1. James Leander Cathcart (1767–1843) was born in Ireland of Scots-Irish ancestry. He came to America with a relative and entered on the Confederacy as a midshipman in 1779. He was captured by the British and imprisoned at New York but escaped in 1782. In 1785, while serving on the merchant ship Maria, he was captured and enslaved by Algerians, rising through various positions until he became the dey’s chief Christian clerk in 1792. In 1796, after a peace treaty was signed between Algiers and the United States, he returned to America. He was named consul at Tripoli the following year but stayed in Philadelphia to select tribute for Algiers. In 1798 he went to Tunis with William Eaton to renegotiate the treaty of 1797 with that country, then went to Tripoli, where he remained until the pasha declared war on the United States in 1801. In 1802 he was named consul general at Algiers and in 1803 consul at Tunis, but the rulers of both countries rejected him. He was consul at Madeira from 1807 to 1815 and at Cádiz from 1815 to 1817. From 1818 to 1820 he was naval agent for timber in Florida. From 1823 to 1843 he worked in the second comptroller’s office in the Treasury Department (Cathcart, Captives, iv).
2. The enclosures are (1) a copy of Nicolai C. Nissen to Cathcart, 14 Jan. 1805 (2 pp.), acknowledging receipt of Cathcart’s 27 Aug. 1804 letter announcing his intention to return to the United States; protesting that Nissen’s “few service[s]” merited neither the American government’s “distinghuised [sic] acknowledgement” nor Cathcart’s thanks; stating that the articles Cathcart had left in the American consular house were being used by the imprisoned American officers and could not be disposed of, that some were broken or destroyed by use but that he and William Bainbridge had agreed that the matter could be settled at a peace, or at the arrival of a new consul, and Cathcart paid their value, and that not knowing how long he would remain in Tripoli he was enclosing a copy of Cathcart’s list of the items; and adding “out of Tripoly is the principal, that is like out of prison” and (2) a copy (1 p.) of a “Note of Articles left in the American house,” which listed seven tables; thirty-six chairs and two small sofas; one iron bedstead with silk curtains; two sofas; one calico cover and four pillows, with Nissen’s note “one Pillow was given to Capt. Morris”; one safe and two bottle racks; seven demijohns, with Nissen’s note “must have been stolen as I could not find them;” twenty empty bottles; one roasting jack and trivet; twelve curtain rods and valance; one lustre in the parlor; several mats and “other trifling articles”; and two American flags, with Nissen’s additional note “the Chairs will be broke in great part, being very Bad. The Remainder will remain in great part.” On the verso of the list, Cathcart has written: “From Mr. Nissen Tripoli Jany. 14th recd at Washington July 26th. 1805. This contains an acct. of Furniture which I left at Tripoli, the most valuable are here inserted & cost much more than what I charged govt. for the whole, the reason it does not exactly correspond with my note is in consequence of the hurry Mrs. Cathcart was in when she took the Inventory of them on the eve of our departure but these alone are certainly worth more than $ 280.”
3. In 1797 the Independent, a brig of which Cathcart was part-owner, and John Robertson master, was chartered by the U.S. government to carry presents to the dey of Algiers. It was seized by a Spanish privateer and brought into Cádiz, where it was released by the court. The French consul, claiming the rôle d’équipage was defective, refused to allow the ship to depart until Robertson drew a bill of exchange on Secretary of State Timothy Pickering charged to Cathcart. The money was then paid to ransom the Independent. The ship was seized again on 28 Apr. 1798 and condemned by the French consul at Málaga. Cathcart was eventually reimbursed $10,910.77 (Williams, French Assault on American Shipping, 189).