James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 20 September 1805

To James Monroe

Department of State September 20th. 1805


The Ship Huntress Capt Stinson,1 loaded with Naval and Military stores and provisions for the supply of the squadron in the Mediterranean was taken about the beginning of June last, shortly after she left the Capes of the Chesapeake by a French or Spanish Privateer. Whilst the Captors had possession of her she is [s]tated to have been recaptured by two British Letters of Marque near the Bermudas Islands and to have been carried to and to have arrived at some port of England. As, besides the usual marine papers, she was provided with a special passport under the signature of the President and seal of the United States and the passports of the British and French Ministers, she could not at the time of the recapture have been in circumstances from which a danger of condemnation could be presumed, nor on that or any other account liable to pay salvage, she ought to have been liberated without being carried so far from her destination. This forced deviation is the more inexcusable as the operations of our squadron depended in a great measure upon the safe and timely arrival of the supplies in the Mediterranean. Inclosed are the usual documents2 to support a claim which you will be pleased to cause to be made in the name of the United States to the cargo, if an application to the Ministry does not produce a summary restitution. Should no person be present to represent the owners of the vessel it may be well to include her also in the judicial claim. So censurable has been the conduct of the recaptors in carrying the property to England and so clear are the principles which forbid their claim to salvage that should a decree of the Court of Admiralty have ordered it before this letter comes to hand, I request you to cause an appeal to be prosecuted from the adjudication. I have the honor to be Sir, with my great respect your most Obt Sevt

James Madison

RC, enclosures, and letterpress copy of RC (DNA: RG 76, Preliminary Inventory 177, entry 180, Great Britain, Treaty of 1794 [Art. VII], British Spoliations, ca. 1794–1824, box 3, folder H); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, IM, vol. 6). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by JM.

1For an earlier mention of the seizure of the Huntress, see JM to Yrujo, 11 June 1805.

2The enclosures are JM’s 2 Oct. 1805 certification “that the writing hereto annexed contains a true copy of a passport issued under the signature of the President of the United States and the seal thereof for the ship Huntress therein mentioned, and also of the sailing orders, charter party bill of lading and invoice of the same vessel given at the time and applicable to the voyage also therein mentioned”; copies of Jefferson’s 18 May 1805 passport for the Huntress (printed in Knox, Naval Documents, Barbary Wars, 6:21); the 18 May 1805 charter party between Alexandria merchant William Hodgson, agent for Robert Elwell of Wiscasset, and the Navy Department for the Huntress to go from Washington to the Mediterranean (printed ibid., 73–74); the 18 May 1805 invoice of goods shipped on the Huntress; a second copy of JM’s certification of the enclosed documents; a second copy of the charter party; a second copy of the invoice; Robert Smith to Capt. John Stinson of the Huntress, 15 May 1805, ordering him to proceed to Malta with the ship and goods; Samuel Sterett’s 11 Oct. 1805 certification of the copy of the insurance policy on the Huntress; and a copy of the 21 May 1805 policy with the Maryland Insurance Company. Also filed with the other documents is a copy (1 p.; printed ibid., 278–79) of the 12 Sept. 1805 decision of the Admiralty Court for “Restitution of the Ship and Cargo decreed upon payment of the Recaptors Costs.”

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