James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Appleton, 12 December 1801

From Thomas Appleton, 12 December 1801

Leghorn 12th. December 1801.


No opportunity having presented for the United States, since the date of the enclosed duplicate, has prevented me from addressing the Department of State for more than six weeks; ⟨a⟩ length of time I Confess unusual, even tho’ ⟨no⟩ event of moment should have made it ⟨in⟩dispensable. The panic of peace has so ⟨pa⟩lsied all men in trade in this part of Europe ⟨as⟩ totally to suspend every Commercial negociation, ⟨an⟩d what has greatly tended to increase the evil, ⟨is⟩ the arrival of more american Vessels in this ⟨ha⟩rbour within fifteen days, than at any period ⟨si⟩nce my residence here. The Commerce of Italy, tho’ perhaps not so extensive as some branches pursued by our American Merchants, yet it has been for nearly four years, I may without fear of Contradiction pronounce, the most lucrative. If it has been less followed, it has arisen from that want of information of ⟨the⟩ resources, and the productions of this Country, which are so well calculated for the U: states; and al⟨so⟩ would greatly facilitate our commerce with th⟨e⟩ W: India islands. The principal exports here are Olive Oil of Lucca and Tuscany, marbled Soap, silks of all qualities, writing paper, all the drugs dyes, and gums of the Levant, Copper in Sheets, a⟨nd⟩ as this is the general mart of the Mediterranean, the productions of Sicily, the islands in the adriat⟨ic⟩ and Archipelago, Are purchased at this port: o⟨n⟩ equally Advantageous terms as on the soil where t⟨hey⟩ are produced. As it very frequently happens that seamen Are left in the ports where they arrive At, either from sickness or from choice, and that they travel Afterwards the whole extent of Italy in search of a Convenient vessel to embark in, there being only One american Vice Consul from hence to Naples, and ⟨w⟩ho is totally unacquainted with our language: ⟨m⟩any instances have Occured that these unfortunate men have been forced even to commit Stealth to prevent their perishing by hunger. it is less Sir from a moral view of the crime ⟨tha⟩n of the disgrace which in a great degree falls ⟨on⟩ the Nation, when their Citizens thus violate ⟨the⟩ laws, whether it be from necessity, or depravity. ⟨Al⟩tho’ my duty strictly Speaking is confined to the limits ⟨of⟩ the allegiance in which I reside, yet as the individuals ⟨hav⟩e fallen within my particular care, I have thought it obligatory on me, not to leave it unnoticed to you.

As Etruria, the dominions of the Pope, and the Kingdom of Naples Contain many ports of greater or lesser magnitude; and scarcely any one meriting the whole time of a respectable citizen, it is then with much deference I submit the idea of naming some One person, who should be invested with the powers of Consul General for those three Allegiances; and as he would alone be responsab⟨le⟩ to the Government of the U: states, so would he be aware that the improprieties of his Deputies in the smaller departments would revert on himself. By this mean would be brought into on⟨e⟩ view all our commercial relations with Italy; and by thus Concentrating the whole duty into the ha⟨nds⟩ of an individual, his resources of political information would necessarily increase in the same ratio.

It would be indispensably requisite, that he ⟨s⟩hould be Acquainted with the Italian and french languages, but in an especial manner the latter ⟨as⟩ most of his Official business would be with the Agents of the french Republic, or even when ⟨it⟩ should be with italians in Office, it is the language usually adopted. Were I to dwell any longer ⟨on⟩ the requisites of the persons, or the advantages ⟨w⟩hich would result to the U: states in adopting ⟨t⟩his system it would Appear as if I imagined ⟨to⟩ discover what lay Concealed from your judgement.

With respect to the person who officiates as ⟨co⟩nsul in Sicily, so manifold are his vexatious proceed⟨in⟩gs towards the Citizens of the U: states that I shall ⟨not⟩ undertake to mention even their number, however ⟨we⟩ll Attested those are which have Come within my Knowledge. In Italy every sovereignty from Naples down to the inconsiderable republic of San Marino is repres⟨ented⟩ in the Congress of Amiens—while in the Cis: alpine republic not an order of church of State, or scarce⟨ly⟩ a village but has sent deputies to the Counsel of Lyons at which is to preside One day Buonoaparte. It already seems the general receiv’d opinion, that Murat will be appointed chief of this republic. I inclose you a sketch of the Constitution as proposed; but it ⟨is⟩ in the Counsel I have mentioned above that it will be discussed. The french have not yet retired from any part of Italy they have heretofore occupied, nor indeed do I presume they will, until a ratification of the treaty with England shall ta⟨ke⟩ place. Even then they may remain in Tuscany, and therefore may become masters of Rome, and Naples whenever it shall be expedient.

Venice shews an uncommon example of detestation ⟨to⟩ their present Masters, for no possible degree of liberty can ever remain in a province of the Empire of Germany held on similar terms; and their arbitrary military tribunals Know no law but the bastonade, while the most trivial offence ⟨is⟩ most inhumanly punished. The Concile held ⟨in⟩ Paris seemed to have inclined the first Consul, ⟨ra⟩ther to Conciliate the Affections of the Pope, ⟨t⟩han to irritate them, from whence I am led to ⟨be⟩lieve he will Confirm to him, all his temporal power, notwithstanding the three legations of Bologna, Ferara & Romana were seriously menaced. It has probably been thought more Consistent with actual policy to sacrifise the Advantages which ⟨m⟩ight result by taking that extent of territory from the papal dominions, than to hazard the evil of popular prejudices which ever oppos⟨e⟩ any abridgement of the priviledges of the chur⟨ch.⟩

The treaty concluded between Buonaparte, and the pope, Could not have been more effectua⟨lly⟩ Concealed, had it even been fabricated in the inquisitorial tribunal of Rome. After all it may Arise only from that general desire of the Church of Rome to envellope all their proceedings under the veil of mystery. The tranquil temper of the King of Etruria scarcely Admits of giving any opinion of his administration, for excepting t⟨he⟩ nomination of a few Ceremonial Officers of State, such as Magior domo’s, Chamberlains &c. his reig⟨n⟩ has not been signalized by any royal Act. The french authority (as I have ever imagined it would) still prevails, for it was easy to imagine that thos⟨e⟩ who Created the King would Create the laws; he patiently submits, for in truth there is no remedy.

Naples has not changed its political appearance during some time past, and the King neither governs more or less than heretofore, for ⟨in⟩ lieu of the Caprices of the Queen, and the ⟨am⟩bition of Acton which threatned the overthrow ⟨of⟩ the monarchy, it is now directed by the Cabinet ⟨of⟩ Paris, and the will of the french General. ⟨In⟩ short sir, from Turin to Naples, may with much truth be counted among the provinces of ⟨Fr⟩ance, and so Vile have been for centuries, their various forms of government, and so debased their citizens and subjects, that any change whatsoever cannot but ameliorate their situation, should it not Correct their depravity.

Captain Barron in the U. states Ship Philadelphia arrived in these roads on the 25th. of November Convoying six american and two sweedish ships. A⟨s⟩ I presume that by this Conveyance he will inform you of his future destination, it will suffise to say that it appears his intention to cruize off Syracuse and Malta in search of any tripolines which may have escaped the Vigilance of the rest of the Squadr⟨on.⟩

Suffer me Sir to request your Attention to the last part of the inclosed duplicate.

I am well aware of the tediousness of Consular letters in general but I have prefered mentioning many things which may in effect be Useless than to omit any thing that either my duty pointed ⟨out⟩ or might tend to inform you of the state of Italy. I have the honor to be with the highest Consideration Your Most Obedient Servant

Th. Appleton

Consul for U:S.A.


P.S I have obtained through a friend at Smyrna intelli⟨ge⟩nce, that the Agents of the Bey of Tripoli had purchased an ⟨id⟩riot Ship, and were arming her with 20 guns to ⟨cr⟩uize against the Commerce of the U: S. I have received ⟨so⟩ minute a description of this Corsair; and having forwarded ⟨a⟩ Copy of it to Como. Dale, that I think little can be ⟨ap⟩prehended from her. From Como. Dale I have receiv’d ⟨of⟩ficial information that the squadron of the U: states ⟨ac⟩tually blockades Tripoli, requesting I would give it every ⟨ne⟩cessary publicity. In order more fully to notify it to all ⟨tho⟩se it may Concern, I have made it Known under the ⟨for⟩m of a Circular to the Consuls of the various nations ⟨w⟩hich reside in Leghorn.

Additional paragraph on the second copy of the postscript

16th. December 1801.

The Vessel that will Convey this to you having delayed its departure, I inclose you sir the Copy of a letter I have just receiv’d from Mr. O.Brien Consul at Algiers, and this as you will observe by his request. This day the U: states ship Philadelp⟨hia⟩ Capt. Barron sailed from these roads on a cruise off Syracuse, Malta &c. On the 4th. inst. died at Sarsanna Mr. Henry De Butts an american Citizen, and principal of the house of De But⟨ts⟩ and Purviance who were charged by the secreta⟨ry⟩ of the Navy with the supplies of the ships of the U: states in this port.

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