James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Pinckney, 4 September 1805

From Charles Pinckney

Madrid September 4 1805.

Dear Sir,

In my last1 I informed you that the non arrival of Mr. Erving & the departure of Mr. Bowdoin for England, with the alarming captures made by the Spaniards on our Vessels since Mr. Monroe’s departure, had detained me here very much against my inclination to that time—that I had however suffered my sense of public duty to prevail over my private interest & wishes, & while I conceived there was a necessity had in conformity with Mr. Monroe’s opinion remained to keep open the intercourse & prevent this Court taking hostile measures, which would have been the case had I retired before, there being no one with whom I could with the least propriety have left our affairs—during the two last & present Month, a great number of our Vessels have been brought into Spain—this has occasioned a variety of representations & replies—a few of them have, in consequence, been released, & many condemned—in the affair of the United States Gun Boat, captured, I demanded explicitly the punishment of the Captain of the Privateer who took her,2 & he is now in jail to be tried for it. I have had occasion to make such a number of remonstrances on the almost daily captures & condemnations that it has occasion’d the inclosed Letter, to which I immediately sent the answer also inclosed, & am hopeful it will produce a good effect.3

Hearing of nothing of Mr. Bowdoin or Mr. Erving, I am now preparing to set out for Lisbon in a short time on my return, & shall leave Moses Young Esqr. our Consul & Agent (whose arrival I announced to you) charged with our affairs here until Mr. Erving arrives, which I trust the President will approve of, as it is impossible for me to remain longer from home. I have done so for the five last Months much against my inclination, & merely from the motive I mentioned, there not being before any proper person with whom I could leave our affairs. The List of Vessels taken & condemn’d since my last will be forwarded in my next, & I hope to leave this in  4 days for Lisbon.

Please make my affectionate Respects to the President, and believe me Dear Sir, always, Yours truly.

I wrote you from Aranjuez that I hoped I had induced this Court to adopt measures that would put a stop to the injurious attempts many foreigners who had resided a short time in the United States & had become Citizens & then quitted them were making, to buy prize & other Vessels & fit them out under the American Flag, thereby committing the honor of the Flag & the interests of our true Citizens. The orders I induced this Court then to issue, & the short one I sent to our Consuls in the several ports, have, I trust, altogether checked it, & it may be proper for you to say something on this subject to my Successor, enforcing the directions—these foreigners who have become Citizens of the United States & left them after being made such, with intentions most of them never to return, may & will do us great injury, if strict provisions are not made to guard against it. On this subject I have much to say to you when I see you, & which can be better explained verbally than by Letter.

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 6A). RC unsigned; in a clerk’s hand; marked “(Triplicate)” by Pinckney; docketed by Wagner. Day of month not indicated; day assigned based on Wagner’s docket on the enclosures: “Rec’d. in Ch. Pinckney’s 4 Septr. 1805.” For enclosures, see n. 3.

2For the Spanish seizure of an American naval gunboat, see PJM-SS 9:489.

3Pinckney enclosed copies of (1) a 3 Sept. 1805 letter from Pedro Cevallos to the director general of the fleet (1 p.; in Spanish; docketed by Wagner; translation printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:669) stating that if the only reason for the detention of U.S. vessels at Algeciras was that they were carrying English goods, they should be released, since article 15 of the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo recognized the principle that free ships make free goods; (2) an undated letter from Lewis M. O’Brien, vice-consul at Santander, to Pinckney which covered the first enclosure; (3) Cevallos to Pinckney, 3 Sept. 1805 (1 p.; in Spanish; docketed by Wagner), stating that Cevallos had received a note from the minister of marine saying that the reason some of the American ships had been brought in was that they were navigating without the passport required by article 17 of the Treaty of San Lorenzo, and adding that since this explained the detentions of which Pinckney had complained in various letters, it had seemed necessary to inform Pinckney of this so he could direct American captains not to omit carrying the passport, thus avoiding a repetition of similar detentions; and (4) Pinckney to Cevallos (2 pp.), 4 Sept. 1805, stating that he would forward Cevallos’s letter to the United States; that he was sure no American ship ever sailed without a proper passport or sea letter but that the privateers who encountered American ships seized their papers and then claimed the ships never had them; and that the only remedy was for the king to issue an order to all Spanish tribunals that, in cases of American ships brought in without papers, they defer judgment until the captains had time to send to the United States to prove that they had carried them. Pinckney further suggested that copies of the treaty be sent to all maritime tribunals with orders that its injunctions be observed, adding that there were some judges who not only refused to obey it but claimed they did not know there was such a treaty. For articles 15 and 17 of the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo, see Miller, Treaties, 2:328–30, 332–33.

4Left blank in RC.

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