James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Peter S. Du Ponceau, [23 October] 1805

From Peter S. Du Ponceau

Wednesday, [23 October 1805]

Mr Du Ponceau presents his respects to Mr. Madison, & is very happy that any of the Books that he is possessed of can be useful to him, & by his means to our Country, whose interests he has to Support. Mr. Madison is welcome to make such use of them & as long as he pleases. Mr D. thinks it may be acceptable to add to the other Books Ompteda’s Litterature of the Law of Nations or Catalogue of Writers on that Subject.1 As Mr Wagner understands German he may point out some useful Books to Mr. Madison.

Mr. D. takes the liberty to enclose an attempt at a more correct Translation of the passage in the 9th. Chapter of Bynkershoek in which he has tried to reconcile the idiom & the sense.2

He wishes to Mr. Madison a Safe & pleasant Journey, & begs leave to present to Mrs Madison his respects & wishes for her Speedy recovery.

RC (DLC). Undated; conjectural date assigned based on JM’s departure from Philadelphia for Washington on Wednesday, 23 Oct. 1805.

1Du Ponceau referred to Dietrich Heinrich Ludwig von Ompteda’s Literatur des gesamten sowohl natürlichen als positiven Völkerrechts (2 vols.; Regensburg, 1785). Ompteda (1746–1803) was born in the Hoya region of Hanover and became a bureaucrat after completing his education in 1767. In 1783 he was minister plenipotentiary to the Bavarian court and representative to the diet at Regensburg for George III, posts he held until his death (Stolberg-Wernigerode et al., Neue Deutsche Biographie), 19:535.

2Du Ponceau enclosed the following note:


Non licit igitur advohere ea &c. & quorum praecipuus in bello usus, milites; quin & milites variis gentium pactis excepti sunt &c.


It is not therefore (referring to his preceeding Argument) to carry those things &c. nor soldiers which are particularly useful in War; nay, Soldiers have been (expressly) excepted by various Treaties &c.

Du Ponceau omitted a word in his transcription and his translation. The phrase might better be translated: “It is not therefore allowed to carry those things &c. nor those which are particularly useful in War, soldiers; nay & soldiers have been expressly excepted by various Treaties &c.” JM quoted this in full in his pamphlet An Examination of the British Doctrine, Which Subjects to Capture a Neutral Trade, Not Open in Time of Peace (Madison, Letters [Cong. ed.], 2:244 n.).

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