James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tobias Lear, 24 August 1801

From Tobias Lear, 24 August 1801

No. 8.

Cape François, August 24th: 1801.


Since I had the honor of writing to you on the 17th. & 19th. inst. by Dr. Stevens, I have received a letter from the Governor (a Copy of which is enclosed) informing me that his residence would be established at Port Republican, and requesting that I would obtain instructions from my Government to fix myself near him.

In my answer, I informed him that I would hasten to communicate his wishes on this subject to my Government, and in the meantime, if the interest of my Country, in its commercial relations with this Island, should demand it, I would not hesitate to make a journey to Port Republican; but that my place of permanent Residence must be determined by the President of the United States.

I mentioned in my last letter, that the Governor had determined to fix his residence at Gonaïves. This he had repeatedly declared to me was his determination, and had urged me very strongly to make a commercial establishment there, and to invite other Citizens of the United States to do the same. His letter was the first intimation I had of his having changed his resolution. And as I know the instability of measures here, I shall not take any steps until I see that they have actually established the seat of Government. In the mean time, if I should find it necessary for the interest of my Country to go to Port Republican, or elsewhere in the Island, by way of an excursion, I shall not hesitate to do it, however inconvenient or expensive it may be to me; for, as I observed in a former letter, the public interests would be my primary object, I shall not fail to attend to it while I hold the place; but I must candidly declare, that, to do my duty as a faithful servant to the public here, I must devote my whole time to it, and give up all thoughts of commercial emoluments. How long I shall be able to do this, with the heavy expences which are unavoidable here, I cannot tell; but while I remain in the public service its interests shall not be neglected.

I am in daily expectation of hearing from you, and I pray, that if it be possible for you to give me any special instructions for my conduct here, that you would have the goodness to do so; or that it may be said in your letter that I must act according to my best of my judgement in cases where the usual instructions will not apply.

I received a letter a few days ago from Mr. Ritchie the Consul at Port Republican, informing me that he should sail shortly for the United States, and expected to be absent about two months; and should leave a Mr. John Linn charged with his affairs. You will observe that the Governor mentions in his letter that he had heard of the departure of Mr. Ritchie. I think Mr. Ritchie should have given him formal notice thereof, or at least have let me known that he had not done so, which perhaps might have been better; and I shd. immediately have announced his intentions. It is reported here that a person is appointed to take the place of Mr. Ritchie; but I have had no information of it, but by common report.

I have this moment recd. a letter from Mr. Corbet, the British Agent in this Island, and inclose a Copy of it. The passports which accompany it have the signature of himself and the Governor of St. Domingo. I shall therefore deliver them to such Vessels as apply for them upon the principle mentioned in my former letters. With the highest respect & most sincere Attachmt I have the honor to be Sir, Yr. mo. Ob. St.

Tobias Lear.

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