James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jacob Wagner, 5 September 1805

From Jacob Wagner

Department of State 5 Septr. 1805.

Dear Sir

I have been honored with your favor of the 2d. Having concluded from that of the 26th. ult. that you would commence your journey homeward early this week I have ceased to forward the letters to you: the arrears are however now enclosed; with the exception of letters from Genl. Hull and Genl. Wilkinson,1 detailing their installation, and some other papers of a secondary nature, which I forwarded to the President, under the expectation that they would be returned at the time of your arrival.

I have advised Dr. Rogers to obtain a certificate from Governor Claiborne of his services to the English invalids at New Orleans, and what they were worth:2 they will thereafter fall within Mr. Merry’s engagement to pay the expenses occasioned by those unfortunate men’s arrival.

Mr. Gray, who handed me the communications from the Norfolk insurance company, will wait here or at Baltimore for the passports.3 He acceded to my advice, that the cargo contemplated to be put on board the Express should be omitted. The passports are alike except the last clause in that to Genl. Turreau. I have a blank which will enable me to furnish one from the Department of State.

No dispatches have yet arrived from Salem respecting Mediterranean affairs, from which I conclude that at least the part of the rumour, which promised them, is unfounded.4 You will find in one of the Charleston papers herewith the arrival of the Eliza from Gibraltar & Malaga, which left the former place on the 25 July & the latter on the 20th. She was informed on the 21st. by a Portuguese 74, that the peace was made. Though I believe the fact of peace, yet it is surprizing that in nearly two months (Rogers’ letter to Degen is quoted as dated 1st. June) it should not have been known at either of the abovementioned places officially and with details. It ought even to have been known at Madrid by the 12 July, the date of Yznardi’s letters. I am inclined to think that fame has done more than justice to Mr. Eaton, and that truth will attribute the event, if at all a reality, to the apprehensions entertained of the attack from our maritime force.

As the enclosed application from Mr. Merry has travelled so much, I regret that it must experience some further delay;5 but this must be excused by the importance of the precedent it involves. No similar exemption from duty is known at the treasury; and as any exemption is a courtesy not every where reciprocated, it does not seem adviseable to extend it. It was refused to Pedersen, until he obtained a formal credential. Yet if Mr. Merry would claim it as for articles imported for the use of his suite or house hold, as the precedent would be avoided, it might well pass. Without such a general claim, it might be inferred that Mr. Foster had the privilege of free importation.

The drought has been felt here and as far Westwardly as Fort Cumberland, but was relieved by copious rains succeeding in a few days those experienced at Philadelphia. We experience an intense heat but without any diminution of the general health. From the knowledge I have of the progress of yellow fever, I despair of Philada. escaping a general visitation this season, in the districts most exposed to its attack from local attractions. I have been informed that you are situated in eighth street between Chesnut and Walnut St. which has generally escaped and which I hope may exclude apprehension during your stay. With my best wishes and respects to Mrs. Madison, I remain, Dr. Sir, With affectionate respect, Your obed. servt.

Jacob Wagner

PS. Barney has presented bills to the amount of 300,000 francs & makes no doubt of the receipt of upwards of 200,000, more under the Convention.6

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Wagner probably referred to James Wilkinson to JM, 28 July 1805, and William Hull to JM, 3 Aug. 1805, both of which were received on 31 Aug.

2For the British invalids from the Hero who were treated at New Orleans in 1804, see PJM-SS 8:304 nn. 2–3, 415 and nn. 1–2. JM wrote to Anthony Merry on 16 Jan. 1806, requesting reimbursement for the charges (letterbook copy [UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 115, 15:7–7v]).

3No communication from the Norfolk Marine Insurance Company to the State Department has been found. On 14 Sept. 1805 the department issued the following passport, signed by JM: “To all to whom these presents shall come Greeting: the bearer hereof Mr. George Lewis Gray, is a Citizen of the U. States of America, and being charged by the Marine Insurance company of Norfolk in Va. to reclaim and recover some property insured by them, which has been recently captured and carried into the West Indies. These are therefore to request all whom it may concern to permit him to proceed in the American Cutter Express—(which is to be unarmed and without any Cargo)—to the Island of Puerto Rico, the City of Santo Domingo, and elsewhere as may be requisite for the object above mentioned, giving to him no molestation, but affording him every aid, protection and facil[it]y he may need. In faith whereof I have caused the seal of the Department of State for the sd. United States to be hereunto affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this fourteenth September AD 1805, and of the Independence of these States the thirtieth” (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15; 2 pp.). On 5 Sept. 1805, notes were sent from the State Department to Anthony Merry, Louis-Marie Turreau, and Carlos Yrujo requesting passports for Gray and the Express (calendared in the index to the State Department notes to foreign legations, DNA: RG 59, Notes to Foreign Ministers and Consuls, vol. 1).

4The 4 Sept. 1805 National Intelligencer carried several reports from Salem and Boston, Massachusetts, dated 28 and 29 Aug., stating variously that William Eaton had achieved a great victory over Yusuf Qaramanli’s army, slaughtering a large part of it; that in a battle at Derne all the Americans had been killed except Eaton, who was wounded; and that Tripoli city had been captured by the forces of Ahmad Qaramanli and Eaton. All the reports agreed that a peace had been made between Tripoli and the United States, with credit for the peace being given both to Eaton and to Tobias Lear; most of the articles reported the release of the American prisoners, and one added that “Several parcels of dispatches, directed to the President, and to the Heads of Department… were lodged in the Post-Office last Evening. They were noted to be of high importance and ordered to be forwarded to the seat of government, without delay.” The National Intelligencer also printed a 22 June 1805 letter from Frederick Degen at Naples stating that Samuel Barron had resigned command of the squadron to John Rodgers and adding that the latter had written Degen on 1 June 1805 that peace with Tripoli had been concluded on terms “most advantageous and honorable to the United States.” Degen also gave credit for the peace to Eaton’s military activities.

5The enclosure has not been found, but for Merry’s request for an exemption, see Albert Gallatin to JM, 31 Aug. 1805.

6For Joshua Barney’s claim against France, see PJM-SS 7:170 and n. 3, 240–41, 565, 8:276, 9:117.

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