James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George W. Erving, 7 December 1805

From George W. Erving

No. 3.

Madrid December 7th. 1805.


I had the honor to write to you (No. 2.) on the 20th. Ulto. by way of Bordeaux, and to inclose copies of my notes to Dn. Pedro Cevallos on the case of the “Recovery, Adams,” the cargo of which vessel was condemned at Algesiras as being English property, and on that of the “Hudson, Bailey,” condemned at Cadiz for want of papers, which as it appears, were taken from her by the Commander of a Privateer.

The inclosed are translations of the answers which I received to those,1 and copy of another note on the case of the “Recovery” which I thought it my duty to make in reply to that of Dn. Pedro;2 this last was transmitted yesterday after an interview which I had with the Prince of Peace. My object in waiting upon the Prince, who, considering his situation, is frank & communicative, was to learn something more of the dispositions of his Government than I could expect to collect from any official correspondencies with the Secretary of State.

He received me with his usual attention; but though he was not wanting in friendly professions to the United States, yet, I was concerned to find that he would not give me reason to believe that any favorable change had taken place in the policy of his government towards us, and I came away in the full conviction that at this moment it stands upon precisely the same ground where the negotiations were broken off—somewhat confirmed by the late successes of France.

I herewith transmit minits of all which occurred in the conversation, of importance;3 and have the honor to be, Sir, With perfect Respect & Consideration, Your very obedient Servant

George W. Erving

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 10). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Erving. For surviving enclosure, see n. 2.

1Enclosures not found.

2The enclosure (5 pp.; marked “(Triplicate)”) is a copy of Erving to Pedro Cevallos, 6 Dec. 1805, in response to Cevallos’s 21 Nov. 1805 reply (not found) to Erving’s 14 Nov. note about the Recovery (see Erving to JM, 20 Nov. 1805, and n. 2). Cevallos had apparently informed Erving on 21 Nov. that orders had been given to the tribunals at Algeciras and elsewhere to adhere strictly to treaty provisions when judging seizure cases, to which Erving replied on 6 Dec. that if the orders had been obeyed, there would be no grounds to complain or to request the annulment of the decree on the Recovery. Cevallos apparently also stated that the owners of the ship had the right of appeal to the Council of War and that the king wished justice for all who were entitled to it, to which Erving replied that it was his knowledge of the latter that had caused him to appeal to Cevallos in the hope that Cevallos shared those sentiments and would immediately repair the injury done and that Cevallos’s referral to the Council of War implied that there was a possibility that the condemnation might be upheld. He added that a decision that was unjust and in violation of a treaty could not be sanctioned by any tribunal and, should the council uphold the decree, he would have to appeal to Cevallos again, thus accumulating the grievances and expenses of delay. He continued that Spanish professions of friendship could not fail to impress the U.S. government, particularly if they resulted in the reversal of unjust decisions such as the present one. He concluded that he could not advise the captain to appeal to the council but instead to the American government because the case involved the neutrality of the American flag and fidelity to treaty terms.

3Not found.

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