James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William D. Patterson, 15 September 1805 (Abstract)

From William D. Patterson, 15 September 1805 (Abstract)

§ From William D. Patterson. 15 September 1805, Nantes. “I had this honor on the 18th. May last inclosing my official returns. I have now Sir to inform you that all Seamen on board American vessels, who may have been born either in France, Holland Italy or Genoa, are immediately taken out of their vessels and put on board Ships of War without any respect being paid to their Protections or the length of time they may have lived in America, I have always claimed them, and made many representations to the Marine office of this place, of the article in our Treaty, which protects American Seamen,1 but have been answered, that there is a peremptory order of the Emperor’s which they will always obey, the pressing of men of all kinds who may be useful on board of Ship, is here extremely severe.

I am informed that the Government of the United States, have resolved to grant no more Papers to ships purchased abroad, this resolution is necessary as it is impossible under the present regulations to prevent fraudulent Sales. I have used every precaution in my power and have exacted that the means of purchase and mode of payment should be exhibited to me supported by the testimony of the houses who had paid the money, yet have frequently entertained strong suspicions, that the Property still continued foreign, although unable to produce any positive fact to prove it, and American citizens think they have a right to take vessels under their name and when thier demands are refused they make loud complaints, which cause many embarassments, I therefore hope that Govt. will be pleased to adopt some regulations on this subject.

“I have had several visits from a Genl. Humbert the officer who commanded formerly the expedition to Ireland2 he has much importuned me to offer his services to the United States, to which I have made him no answer he has repeatedly requested me to inclose an application to you, which I have equally declined but have sent a letter from him to Genl. Armstrong, he is one of those, who are out of favor, and proffers the services of many others who are in the same case.

“I took the liberty in my last to request a renewal of my commission to the Emperor, a want of which, prevents my obtaining an exequatur, although I meet no interruption in performing all my official functions, permit me to repeat this request.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD, Nantes, vol. 1). RC 3 pp. Damaged by removal of seal.

1Patterson referred to article 14 of the Convention of 1800, which agreed that free ships make free goods and extended the condition “to persons, who are on board a free ship” and who were “not to be taken out of that free ship, unless they are soldiers and in actual service of the enemy” (Miller, Treaties, 2:468).

2Jean Joseph Amable Humbert (1767–1823) enlisted in the National Guard at the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. By 1792 he was a lieutenant Colonel and participated in the pacification of the Vendée. He was made brigadier general in 1794 and the following year accompanied general Louis Lazare Hoche in fighting Royalists in Brittany. In 1798 he led an invasion of Ireland that ended in defeat. He accompanied Charles-Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc on the disastrous French invasion of Saint-Domingue in 1801. He was stripped of his rank and exiled to Brittany on his return to France in 1802. In 1812 he received permission to depart for the United States, and by August 1813 he had left Philadelphia for New Orleans, where he fought under Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. In 1816 he participated in filibustering expeditions against Mexico in company with José Álvarez de Toledo y Dubois. He disbanded his troop of volunteers in 1817 after the collapse of Toledo’s revolt and returned to New Orleans, where he taught at a French college (John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography [24 vols.; New York, 1999], 11:458–59).

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