James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bartlet and Others, [ca. 5 December] 1805

From William Bartlet and Others

[ca. 5 December 1805]

To the Honorable James Maddison, Secretary of State of the United States.

The Memorial of the Merchants, of Newburyport and its vicinity respectfully represents.

That while pursuing a just and legal commerce we have suffered great and aggravated losses from unwarrantable depredations on our property by several of the Belligerent powers of Europe.

In conducting our commerce we have endeavoured strictly to conform ourselves to the Laws of Nations & existing Treaties, to the regulations of our own government and to those of the Belligerent powers. Yet nevertheless, our property has, in various instances, been taken from us on the high seas, in a piratical manner, in some others, it has been seized by the cruizers of one Nation, carried into the ports of another, and there embezzled with scarcely the semblance of a trial and in many cases our Vessels and cargoes have been captured, tried and condemned in Courts of Law, under unusual and alarming pretences, which, if permitted to continue, threaten the ruin of our commercial interests.

So far from obtaining redress our grievances by the ordinary modes and processes of Law, we have in most cases been subjected to heavy costs, and suffered embarassing and distressing detention of property even where no pretence could be found to authorize the seizure of it.

In this alarming situation of our commercial affairs, both our duty and interest strongly urge us to embrace the earliest opportunity to communicate to the constituted guardians of our rights such facts and documents, as may enable them effectually to demand indemnification for past losses and security from future aggressions.

You will therefore have the goodness as soon as may be to lay before the President of the United States the enclosed List of Losses sustained by the Merchants of Newburyport and vicinity, together with this Memorial.1

Having sustained these Losses and injuries, in the prosecution of our lawful commerce, & in the exercise of our Just rights, we rely with confidence on the wisdom, firmness, and Justice of our Government to obtain for us that compensation and to grant to us that protection which a regard to the honor of our country, no less than to the rights of our citizens must dictate and require. We have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obedient Servants

Wm: Bartlet } Committee.
Moses ⟨Br⟩own
William Faris
John Pearson
Ebenezer Stocker
Stephen Howard
Edward Toppan2

RC and first enclosure (DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages, 9A–E3); Tr and Tr of enclosures (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 9A–D1). RC in a clerk’s hand. Undated; date assigned based on the date on the certification of the first enclosure. RC and enclosures printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:746–49. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1The first enclosure (3 pp.; certified as a correct copy on 5 Dec. 1805 by notary Michael Hodge) is the 2 Dec. 1805 deposition of William Morris and William Kloot, captain and mate respectively, of the brig Lucretia, that they had sailed from Newburyport for Martinique on 24 Aug. 1805; that on 20 Sept. 1805 they had been stopped by the British privateer Andromeda under Captain Carrol; that the crew of the Andromeda had robbed the Lucretia of naval supplies, food, medicine, and dry goods, and robbed the captain, the mate, and the cooper of their trade articles, and the crew of their clothing; and that they had beaten the captain and several crew members. The second enclosure (3 pp.) is a list of sixteen vessels captured by the British or the French, together with the names of the captains and the owners, the details of the captures, and the value of the properties. The total valuation of the captured ships and cargoes was $283,377.22. Most of the vessels captured by French privateers were carried into Cuba and plundered without trial, while those captured by the British were usually tried in vice-admiralty courts.

2Federalist William Bartlet (1747–1841) began to accumulate property during the Revolution, eventually owning wharves, ware houses, and a fleet of ships. By 1807 he was worth over $500,000. In addition to investing in a woolen mill, a bank, an insurance company, and a turnpike, he donated time and funds to various local charities. Bartlet also served in the Massachusetts state legislature in 1801 and 1802. Federalist Moses Brown (1742–1827) began as a carriage maker who invested in the sugar and molasses trade before the Revolution. After the war he became a full-time merchant and accumulated a fortune second only to Bartlet’s, much of which he lost after the War of 1812. Like Bartlet, he invested in a woolen mill, a bank, an insurance company, and a turnpike. Irish-born Federalist William Faris (or Farris) (d. 1837) came to Newburyport about 1765. He became a ship’s captain, commanded several letters of marque, and invaded Canada with Benedict Arnold. After the war he joined Ebenezer Stocker in a banking and importing partnership which failed owing to losses during the Quasi-War with France. By the time of his death he was dependent for income on his Revolutionary War pension. Merchant and shipowner John Pearson was also an insurance underwriter who owned a wharf and a mill in Newburyport. He served for several years as director of the Newburyport Bank. In 1815 he retired from his retail mercantile pursuits. Stephen Howard (ca. 1764–1825) represented Newburyport in the state legislature from 1806 to 1820 and was joined from 1806 to 1809 by John Pearson. Howard was a shipowner and a director of the Essex Merrimack Bridge corporation. Revolutionary War veteran Edward Toppan became a merchant and shipowner who was also an insurance underwriter. Pearson was a partner in the Merrimack Marine and Fire Insurance Company, as was Howard, and Bartlet, Brown, and Stocker were directors. Bartlet and Pearson were managers of the Merrimack Bible Society. For Ebenezer Stocker, see PJM-SS, 2:286 n. 2. All of the men were active in the town administration and among themselves held many positions over the years. On 30 Nov. 1805 the seven men were chosen at a meeting of Newburyport merchants to serve as a committee “to collect and report a list of vessels and property belonging to this town” that had been captured or detained by the belligerent European nations (Labaree, Patriots and Partisans, 207–8, 212; Currier, History of Newburyport, Mass., 1764–1905, 540, 678, 680–81; Newburyport Herald, 14 Feb. 1800, 6 Apr. 1802, 25 Mar. 1803, 23 Mar. 1804, 27 Aug. 1805, 9 June 1807, 29 Mar. and 15 Apr. 1808, 6 Feb. 1810, 14 Aug. 1812, 22 Oct. 1813, 15 Mar. 1814, 27 Jan. 1815, 9 Jan. 1816, 27 Mar. 1818, 11 Jan. 1820, 31 May 1825; Boston Republican Gazetteer, 12 Mar. 1803; Williams, French Assault on American Shipping, 120, 201, 243, 421, 433, 467; Philadelphia United States’ Gazette, 10 Dec. 1805).

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