James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eaton, 15 July 1801

From William Eaton, 15 July 1801


Tunis July 15. 1801.


After the 28th. ult. on copy to be filed: “Copy of Letter A. nothing Occurred until the 3rd. inst. when I presented my self at the Palace to demand Satisfaction for an Insult offered our Nation in the person of their Agent on his Passage from Tripoli to Leghorn by a Corsaire of this regency. The Bey not only refused the Satisfaction I demanded but Said he would never consent that Mr. Cathcart should enter his kingdom, because he was an Embrolione, a litigious character. I asked him what document he had to justify this opinion? He did not seem disposed to enter upon any explanation, but repeated that Mr. Cathcart was an embrolione, who should never be permitted to land again In his kingdom. And as to the Insult of which I Complained it was too trifling to form matter of Serious dispute. It was no great offence for his Corsaire to take a few provisions. It was no affront at any rate to the American flag, because done in an Imperial Vessel, and as to Mr. C. he was no Longer Considered as a Consul, having been sent away by the Bashaw of Tripoli. I returned to my office and addressed to the Bey, in french, the Letter B. here with Inclosed. The next morning I received a polite note from the palace Inviting me to an Interview and Promising all the Satisfaction I demanded. I went accordingly, was heard with attention. The Bey promised to Bastinade the Captain (Which he will never do) and as to Mr. Cathcart’s Coming to Tunis he would think further of it. I am Persuaded he will Come into this measure, and was at that Instant prepared to Consent but was with held by a kind of reluctance natural to retraction. And I did not think proper at that Instant, to press the subject. To day I made a Visit of ceremony at the Palace. Nothing of the Past Controversy was revived. I talked of the arrival of our frigates and of Mr. Cathcart without any reserve and without Contradiction. All is tranquil again for the moment: but the details which I have had the honor to transmit to the department of State Since the Commencement of this year show the extreme Capriciousness of this Government, and go to Substantiate an opinion long Since formed & often repeated that nothing will give Stability to our peace here but an Impression of fear.

Since my Interview of the 3rd. I have learned that a bout that time the Bey had received letters both from Tripoli and Algiers Soliciting him not to admit Mr. Cathcart to Tunis. But I am Informed by a Doctr. Tirratti, who has been five years in bondage in Algiers, and a Considerable part of the time in the American house, that the Bey of that Regency would have Inforced his guarantee of our treaty with Tripoli had he not been dissuaded by Bocci & Busnah. This Phisician, it seems, has been very Intimate with those Jews, has gotten himself rich In Algiers, has actually in possession brilliants to the Amt of Thirty Thousand Dollars, is acquainted with all the politiques and intrigues of Algiers, and is a particular friend of Mr. OBrien. He Confirms my Suspicion that those Jews, were the sole cause of Sending the Washington to Constantinople; but that Mr. OBrien was so much opposed to that expedition that he was half resolved to leave the regency and proceed in the Washington to America, and that nothing deterred him from the resolution but an apprehention of the mischief which might result from such extremity to our unalarmed Commerce. If I have been too Severe in my Strictures on that agent’s Support of the projects of those Jews, it will give me more pleasure to render concessions than to establish suspicions by demonstration which have been forwarded on presumptive evidence. Tiratti says the Jews informed him that they Gain’d four hundred P Cent on the Washington’s Cargo. I Cannot Comprehend how this Can be reconciled to a righteous Stewardship This same Doctr. has put into my hands some Interesting articles of Information realtitive to Agiers which Cannot be trusted to a legible Character. My present state of Convalescence does not permit me to reduce it to Cypher. The Docr. has particular recommendations to me from Mr. OBrien (I dont know why) Consequently lodges in my house. I load him with Civilities, and I suspect have used him, malgre lui, to detect the perfidy of his Jew friends. All his Communications are Confidential. I have the honor &c

(Signed) William Eaton

postscript on copy to be filed: P. S. July 18th. Capn. Dale is arrived at Portofarine. The Essex on his way from Gibl. with the Grand Turk. I recieve this intece. a 3 o ck, night, and sett off for Port. farine.


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