James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tobias Lear, 9 September 1801

From Tobias Lear, 9 September 1801

No. 10

Cape François, Septr. 9th: 1801


I had the honor of writing to you on the 30th. ultimo, by the Schooner Talbot, via Baltimore, and enclosed a Copy of a letter which I had received from Citizen Roume, the late Agent of France in this Island, requesting me to go to the Governor and make a demand of his Official Papers and Documents, that he might take them with him to France; and in case of a refusal to deliver them, to make a note of the circumstance, for his justification when he should arrive in France.

In my answer to him, I declined complying with his request, upon the ground of my being a public Officer from a Neutral Country, and therefore ought not to interfere with, or interest myself in any disputes which might exist between himself and the present Government here, adding, that the Interest of France could not be promoted by my becoming obnoxious to the powers here, by any act which my public duty did not impose upon me. I understood that he readily acquiesed in this opinion, and I heard no more of the matter. He has since sailed for New York in the Brig Georgia Packet. As I wished to render him any personal service in my power, I obtained for him, from the Government here, a passport under a name different from his own, in order that if met by a british Cruizer he might not be known as the late Agent, as the British have a strong enmity to him.

This will be handed to you by M. Nogérée, one of the Central Assembly who formed the Constitution, and is now sent to France by the Governor on public business. He visits M. Pichon, which will lead him to the City of Washington, and I have taken the liberty to commit this letter to his charge. He has a wife and family in Baltimore, where he resided some time. He is said to be an amiable and good man. He possesses large property in this Island, and has it in his power to give a true account of the state of things here.

Nothing new has occurred since my last. The Governor is on a visit to the Spanish part of the Island, and is expected back here in about 3 weeks. Two English Ships have been cruizing off this harbour for 4 or 5 weeks past. They examine the papers &c. of the Am. Vessels; but treat them very civilly, so far as I have been informed. What their object is in crizing here I cannot learn. They can have no expectation of making capture of French Merchantmen, for none come here, or at least very rarely—and there are no Fr. Ships of War on this Station.

I enclose the Copy of a letter from the Governor to the Municipality of the Cape, directing them to visit Citizen Roume: also a Gazette contg. an address of the Govr. to the Central Assembly and their answer. The organic Laws, are not yet allowed to be made public, or I should forward a copy. Things of this kind may sometimes be had before they are allowed to be published; but to obtain them costs a few Joes, and I am sure my Government would not be willing to reimburse expenditures of this kind, unless the object should be important to them. With sentiments of high respect and sincere attachment I have the honor to be Sir, Your most Obedt. Servt.

Tobias Lear

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