James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tobias Lear, 17 August 1801

From Tobias Lear, 17 August 1801

No. 6.

Cape François, August 17th: 1801


This will be handed to you by Dr. Stevens, who embarks tomorrow, with his family, on board the Brig Amphitrite for Philadelphia. As Dr. Stevens intends going on to the seat of Government immediately on his arrival, I shall say but little more in this letter than to refer to him for the detail of the present state of things here.

In my letter of the 27th. ultimo I mentioned that the official Conduct of Dr. Stevens in this Island, so far as I could learn, and observe, has been faithful and beneficial to the Commerce of the United States. I have yet had no cause to change the opinion I had then formed; and I have but little doubt of his being able to do away any calumnies which have been cast upon him in the execution of the duties of his Office. That he has not accumulated the fortune which it was reported he had acquired, I beleive is certain. He has been in a manner obliged to live at a very great expence. His bounty to the distressed Inhabitants of this Island has been extensive—and I have reason to beleive that he has suffered heavy losses in his dealings with persons here. From this latter cause he may speak with more asperity of things here than they deserve; but I have no doubt but he will speak as he feels and thinks. He tells me that to our Government he shall give a faithful and true Statement of affairs in this Island; but that he Shall, on no account, speak harshly of the ruling powers here to other persons. I have received from him a Copy of the Convention between Genl. Maitland, Genl. Toussaint &c. and of Genl. Maitlands Instructions to Colo. Grant. And I shall this day receive a statement of the steps which have been taken to recover the claims which Am. Citizens have upon the Government here, and of the correspondence on the subject. These, together with the correspondence which I mentioned to have received, respecting the regulations of commerce, will, I presume, comprehend all the public documents of any importance which he may have.

The Governor has not been in this place since I had the honor of writing to you last. Every thing remains tranquil here at present, and there appears to be no immediate prospect of any convulsion. The Organic laws, for carrying into effect the Constitution (which I had the honor to forward to you) will be published in a few days, when I shall send you a copy of them. It is possible that Dr. Stevens may obtain a Copy before he sails.

I have as yet heard nothing directly from Mr. Corbet the British Agent, who has been in Port Republican for some weeks past. I know that he is acquainted with my being here, and I shall therefore leave it to himself to make advances, if he has anything to communicate respecting the affairs of this Island.

I have not received from the Governor any passports with the signature of the British Agent, but he has delivered to me some with his own signature, requesting that I would add the note which you will see in the enclosed passport, and also give my own passport on the back.

I received a letter from Mr. Dandridge a few days ago, dated the 23d. of July, in which he mentiones that the British capture such Am. Vessels as they meet with on the South side of the Island, and think valuable enough to be an object for them. Several valuable Cargoes from Aux Cayes have lately been carried into Jamaica. I have not heard of any captures having been made within the limits agreed upon, vizt. from Monte-Christ to Petit Goave. And no interruptions have lately been given to our Vessels between the U. S. and this place that have come to my knowledge.

I have heard of no instance of piratical aggression, save the one mentioned in my last.

The number of Vessels from the United States, which have crowded into this port since I have been here (84 sail) has reduced the price of all Articles of import, and raised that of colonial produce. The shippers will make bad voyages; but I hope they will not therefore be discouraged from sending their Vessels again; for they may be assured, that such is the attention now paid to the cultivation of the Island beyond what it has been for some years past, that the produce will be very considerable and I have no doubt much lower than in any other Island in the W. I. Of the produce of the Island, the Imports & Exports, for some years past, Dr. Stevens can give an accurate account.

Enclosed is another Copy of the Constitution—the form of a Coasting passport—and a duplicate of my letter No. 5. With the highest respect & most sincere Attachment I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most Obedt. Hble. Servant

Tobias Lear.

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