James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Appleton, 9 July 1801

From Thomas Appleton, 9 July 1801

Leghorn 9th. July 1801.


I had the honor of addressing the department of state on the 18th Ultimo: and now ⟨i⟩nclose you some dispatches from Mr. Cathcart Consul for Tripoli, also the Copy of a Circular from him under date of the 11th. of May.

I am sensible sir, that it may be ⟨ur⟩g’d by some individuals, that the Consuls in laying ⟨an⟩ embargo on all american ships in the ports of the ⟨Me⟩diteranean, have Consulted rather their own judgments in the propriety of this measure, than ⟨an⟩y instructions they may have received from the ⟨go⟩vernment of the U: States; and this is most ⟨a⟩ssuredly true. It were much to be desired, ⟨t⟩hat the paths we ought to pursue in a variety of Cases which frequently occur, were unequivocally pointed out; for as our instructions comprise bu⟨t⟩ the smallest part of our duty, I have Conceived that in all other events, whether of magnitude or of lesser importance, that our judgment must be the only guide that we should follow.

I have considered that not only the safety of the ships and Cargoes would be imminently hazard⟨ed⟩ by suffering them singly to depart; but at the sam⟨e⟩ time that Captives are equally the objects of th⟨e⟩ Bashaw’s desire; to the end, that he may enforc⟨e⟩ his own terms on the U: S. These consideration⟨s⟩ have more than countervail’d in my mind, eve⟨ry⟩ disadvantage that, delay may occasion to the owners of the property in America. We ha⟨ve⟩ now certain intelligence that the tripolitain fleet is out; but we have no information hitherto that any of our Vessels have been Captured by it. We have long hoped for the ⟨a⟩rrival in these seas of Como. Truxton, who, we ⟨le⟩arn is destined for the protection of this ⟨c⟩ommerce. We have not however as yet any ⟨in⟩telligence of him. As I forwarded copies of ⟨a⟩ll the circulars I have from time to time received from Mr. Cathcart, to the ports of Italy, France ⟨S⟩pain, Holland, Hamburg, and London, I am satisfied that in no port of Europe, can ignorance ⟨of⟩ our situation with Tripoli be plead; as an ⟨a⟩pology for hazarding themselves in the Medite⟨rr⟩anean. The political appearance of Italy has experienced no alteration since my last ⟨le⟩tters to you. The King of Etruria is dayly ⟨ex⟩pected; but I have no reason to beleive it ⟨ca⟩n in any way affect our political or commercial Situation. There can scarcely remain a doubt but that Admiral Gantheaume has made good his land⟨ing⟩ of 6000 troops, at the easternmost port of th⟨e⟩ regency of Tripoli, and arrived ’ere this at Al⟨ex⟩andria by the deserts of Bacri—for although t⟨he⟩ Bey would not suffer the french Consul to rem⟨ain⟩ at the Court, (through the intrigues of the British minister at Constantinople) yet he secretly is to permit them to land, firing first a few guns and then surrendering his town for the time necessa⟨ry,⟩ Camels, and provisions having been previously prepared, to facilitate their journey to Egypt. England is exerting all her powers in the Medit⟨e⟩ranean to force from the french this possession which in truth, interests very nearly her commer⟨ce⟩ with India; but its continuance in the hands of th⟨ose⟩ who now hold it, is highly important to the Contin⟨ents⟩ of Europe, and of Africa. By our latest accounts the french have a Strong garrison in Alex. and well supplied. The treaty which the sweedish minister lately concluded with Tripoli, has not been ratified by his Majesty; ⟨an⟩d the bills drawn on the govt: for 250,000. Dollrs. ⟨the⟩ amount of the regaylia, have been protested.

The american Ship Columbia, and ⟨the⟩ Schooner Raven were a Short time since seized ⟨by⟩ the Commander of the City, under the pretext ⟨th⟩at they were english property. On my application to General Murat at Florence, he order’d the Ships papers restored, unexamin’d, on my assurance that they were american property. Two ameri⟨can⟩ Citizens established in Commerce here, had ⟨bee⟩n assessed in the same proportion as the subjects ⟨of⟩ Leghorn, for an sum imposed on the town ⟨as⟩ a punishment on the inhabitants, having, (as is asserted) encouraged Some french Soldiers in ⟨di⟩sobedience of their orders. On Application to ⟨Ge⟩neral Murat the americans were released from the payment of this Assessment. Indeed Sir, in no instance either, with the french Civil, or Military authorities, have I failed in obtaining that justice, I have been so frequen⟨tly⟩ necessitated to demand, in times of disorder, and misrule, as those We live in.

On the Arrival of the french in Tuscany an embargo was laid on all the Ships in the port and it became indispensably necessary, that they should be proved by the Consuls of the different nations they appertained to; that they were bona fide the property of nations in Alliance with the french republic. As all Civil Comm⟨i⟩saries generally here are at variance with the mi⟨li⟩tary authorities, and both, more or less desir⟨ous⟩ of gain; so in this instance it Occasioned in⟨nu⟩merable obstacles even to the clearest eviden⟨ce.⟩ However I had the good fortune to point out ⟨a⟩ mode of proceedure, which Could not with ⟨p⟩ropriety be rejected, and all property belonging ⟨to⟩ allied nations was determined on the principle ⟨I⟩ had indicated. This naturally gave us a priority ⟨to⟩ Justice, and our Ships were liberated and ⟨sa⟩iled before those of any other Nation.

If Sir I mention thus details which perhaps are no⟨w⟩ not of importance, it is only to shew you ⟨t⟩hat our flag is in truth more highly respected ⟨tha⟩n that of any other in the ports of Italy ⟨w⟩hich the french Occupy. In this moment ⟨the⟩ french minister Belleville has inform’d me ⟨of⟩ the arrival of a packet boat from Alexandria ⟨at⟩ Nice, bringing intelligence as far down ⟨as⟩ the 20th. of May, the substance of which ⟨ap⟩pears to be that the garrison are far from ⟨a⟩pprehending any danger from British. This vessel conducted into France three general Officers arrested by Genl. Menou, as having occasioned rather the loss of victory, than the loss of the battle on the 21t. of April, inasmuch as the right wing of the french, were not broug⟨ht⟩ into action, and of Course the left suffered exc⟨eeding⟩ly from that want of Support, which otherwi⟨se⟩ would have prov’d fatal to the british Army in Egypt. I have the honor to be Sir with the most unfeigned respect Your Most Obedient Servant

Th. Appleton

Consul for U:S.A.


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