James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Lee, 8 September 1805 (Abstract)

From William Lee, 8 September 1805 (Abstract)

§ From William Lee. 8 September 1805, Bordeaux. “Should Mr Hammond of New York, or Capt. marner, commanding his ship Susan & Sarah make any complaint to you, of my official conduct I beg you will do me the favor to peruse the pieces accompanying this, relating to their improper discharge of Geo: Bender, the mate of the said Ship.1

“It is one of the many cases, I have every week to decide on, and I should not have troubled you with it, had not the above mentioned Gentlemen shewn particular acrimony, in this affair, and frequently expressed their determination of attacking me on it, in the United States. This appears to be the mode of revenge of every unprincipled person, to whose views I have been hostile.

“Permit me to observe that Mr Hammond & marner have protested against me for having detained as they state their Ship when the fact is she has been expedited from my office for these four days past and I find they have not yet left this City.

They have also offered to take their mate on board the Ship after he had been shipped ten days on board of another Vessel and after they had forced him by depriving him of lodging & sustenance to quit the Susan & Sarah on the 18th. August and to remain on shore nineteen days.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Bordeaux, vol. 2). RC 2 pp. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Lee enclosed copies of (1) his 24 and 27 Aug. 1805 summary judgment (9 pp.) in the disagreement between Capt. Richard Marner and mate George Bender of the Susan and Sarah, stating that Bender had complained to Lee on 18 Aug. that Marner had locked Bender out of the cabin and stateroom, locked up all Bender’s clothes and other possessions, told the crew to ignore Bender’s orders, fired him as mate, and refused to pay him the wages due him. On 24 Aug., Marner accused Bender of neglect of duty, sleeping on watch, getting drunk, refusing to paint the ship’s trim, being absent from the ship without leave several times, and finally deserting the ship. He acknowledged doing what Bender accused him of but said it was because of Bender’s own actions. Four members of the crew testified that although Bender had refused to paint the ship, it not being his duty, he had said he would have it done; that he sometimes lay down for an hour or so after dinner, and spent several nights on shore but always returned early enough to distribute work to the crew; that he would sometimes arise early, give the crew their tasks, and return to bed until breakfast; that they had never seen him drunk; and that they could not state that they had actually seen him sleeping on watch. In his 24 and 27 Aug. judgment Lee said that since the testimony did not uphold Marner’s charges, and since Henry Hammond and Marner refused to have Bender back, Marner should pay the funds due into the consulate, after which he would be free to appeal the case in the courts of the United States; (2) Marner to Lee, 3 Sept. 1805 (1 p.), repeating his charges against Bender; (3) Lee to Marner, 4 Sept. 1805 (1 p.), enclosing an account of the funds due from Marner to Bender, stating that until the amount was paid, he would not release the papers for the Susan and Sarah, and asking Marner to point out any errors that existed; (4) an undated detailed account (1 p.) of the funds due Bender, those already paid, and the remainder; (5) a 30 July 1805 letter from Marner to Bender (1 p.) enclosing Lee’s passport for Bender to be on shore and mentioning that it was only good for twenty days; (6) Lee to Bender, 27 Aug. 1805 (1 p.), stating that he had rendered judgment on the differences between Bender and Marner, that Bender could request a copy or read it in the consular records, and that Bender was free to sign on any vessel he could find, and if it was bound to the United States, Bender would receive, over and above his wages due from Marner, two months’ pay; (7) Hammond’s 5 Sept. 1805 protest before a local notary (3 pp.; in French) that he and Marner had done all that was required in offering to take Bender, the mate who had deserted, back on board, that Lee was acting contrary to U.S. maritime law in absolving Bender of everything and ordering Marner to pay the wages due to Bender plus three months’ more, that because neither Hammond nor Marner would agree to this, Lee had refused to return the ship’s papers, which were necessary for a safe voyage, that if Lee continued to refuse them, the ship would sail without them, and Lee would be responsible for anything that might happen to the ship because of the absence of the papers; the notary added that a copy of the protest had been left with a servant at Lee’s home; and (8) Richard Marner’s 6 Sept. 1805 declaration before another French notary (4 pp.; in French) claiming that Bender had been absent without leave from the Susan and Sarah, that he had neglected his duties, that he drank so much as to deprive himself of reason, to which the entire crew could attest, that once Bender left the ship, Marner had no desire to pursue him, that Marner was surprised, when he called on Lee to recover his papers, to learn that Lee demanded money for Bender, that he told Lee U.S. law exempted him from paying anything to a deserter, that to put an end to the disagreements he had claimed Bender’s return to the ship, that Lee refused this and continued to retain the ship’s papers until the money for Bender was paid, and that Marner was now holding Lee responsible for any losses because of the delay in the ship’s departure and the payment Marner was forced to make for Bender. For sections 3 and 4 of the 28 Feb. 1803 “Act supplementary to the’act concerning Consuls and Vice-Consuls, and for the further protection of American Seamen,’” requiring ship captains to pay three months’ wages to the consul for each seaman discharged in a foreign country, two months of which was for the seaman and one month of which the consul was to deposit into a fund for the transportation and care of such seamen, see U.S. Statutes at Large, 2:203–4.

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