James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Isaac Cox Barnet, 24 December 1801

From Isaac Cox Barnet, 24 December 1801

Bordeaux December 24th. 1801.


I had this honour on the 30th. October, duplicate of which, with vouchers accompanying my last Account against the United States, were inclosed with a few lines under date of the 14th. instant, by Mr. V. Dupont in the Benjamin Franklin, to which I beg your reference.

I must express my regret at not being favoured with a line from the Department of State since the 31st. March 1800. My situation from having been critical has become extremely painful, and my expectations from Government keep me in ⟨a⟩ cruel state of suspense, prevent my establishing in business from the hope of being restored to the confidence of the President which I have never justly forfeited. I must still consider myself in my Country’s service & depending upon it’s patronage ⟨for⟩ support of a large family. I may say that I have served a ⟨f⟩aithful apprenticeship to defend its honour & interests for which Sir, I beg with confidence to refer you to the Documents of your office, to the testimony of my fellow Citizens to the honourable marks of approbation voluntarily ⟨a⟩ccorded me in this Country.

I would wish to avoid importunity. I would gladly ⟨se⟩ek consolation in private life, if my time past had been compensated by the means of subsistence. Permit me, Sir, ⟨to⟩ address you with the feelings of a Son, of a Father of a ⟨n⟩umerous family, and of a pure republican who can ⟨de⟩fy reproach in his public & private conduct through life. ⟨I⟩ invite the fullest investigation. I aspire to your confidence. I solicit your protection and I would submit to be judged by the Severest justice.

My ambition to serve my Country has turned my attention from commercial affairs, and I am still in arrears by defending captured property & by advances to individual⟨s⟩ in that behalf. My political sentiments have never deviated, but my silence on political topics has been misconstrued by violent partizans, whilst prudence & discretion dictated my forbearance, and the duties of my Office demanded an impartial conduct towards all my Countrymen—& without offending the opinion of any Man, I never surrendered my own by collusion.

I know of no other rule of conduct, Sir, for an Agent of a foreign Country, than that which I have invariably pursued; if I have necessarily offended any one in doing my duty & in execution of our laws, I must claim the protection of our Government against the vindictive resentment & calumny of such individuals. Without that support extended to its officers, by our Government, the true interests of our Country cannot be maintained, and the Officer who is placed to watch over those interests, cann⟨ot⟩ connive at abuses practised by some who wantonly trample upon all rights, laws & justice. Such, unfortunately have come under my immediate surveillance & ⟨I⟩ could not compromize with my duty in complaisance to their respectable family connections in America, some of whom I have reason to believe, have sought means to injure m⟨e⟩ in the opinion of republican Citizens.

If I have been accused of any deviation from my du⟨ty⟩ or of any unfair, improper, or unjust act, why should I not be admitted to prove the contrary, to vindicate my reputation which is the dearest prerogative of a Man of honour.

If my political principles or conduct could be disapproved or censured, I might shrink from the enquiry, & content myself like some who have retired from Office, under a conviction of their opinions & sentiments being inimical to those of a Jefferson a Madison & other first patriots of my Country! But on the contrary, Sir, I am & ever have been penetrated with those sentiments which led America to Independence, and under the influence of which she now promises to become prosperous & happy.

I shall take the liberty to send you in a few days, a statement of my advances to captured Americans & disbursements for defending several causes, which Sums are not included in my former accounts against the United States for the relief of Seamen. This amount, though small, is considerable for me. I applied to Mr. Murray on the subject, but he answered that he had no orders for that purpose, & I have applied in vain ⟨to⟩ the individuals concerned, they having generally been covered ⟨by⟩ insurance, abandoned to the Underwriters & became indifferent about the event of the property. The Underwriters I could not know to apply to and various Bills furnished me by the Captains ⟨for⟩ Money advanced them have been returned protested, so that my endeavours & good intentions to serve my Countrymen have, in these instances, by the ingratitude & injustice of the individuals immediately concerned, left me no other course than the justice of a protecting Government. I must beg your reference to the Secretary of State’s letter ⟨t⟩o me under date of 15th. December 1798—and 31st. March 1800, ⟨wh⟩ich I presume authorizes me to expect a reimbursement from the Government for the above sums, particularly as one account of the same kind has already been paid me by the Secretary of State in consequence of an Act of Congress passed to that effect. Permit me also to observe that on my accounts for relief of Seamen, I had not charged Commission or interest, which were gratuitou⟨sly⟩ allowed on one Account by the Secretary of State at that rate of 6 pr. Ct. per annum interest, & 5 pr. Ct. commissions. And indeed, this appears to me fully authorized by the spirit of the “Act concerning Consuls & Vice Consuls.”

We have had so much heavy rain for more than a Mon⟨th⟩ past that it is feared the seed in the ground will be materially injured & should a severe frost suddenly set in, this Country may want a Supply of Grain & Flour in the spring & summer.

I cannot offer you any political news Sir, so interesting a⟨s⟩ that you must receive from the European prints daily arriving in the U.S. and you will doubtless hear of the Brest Fleet’s arrival before this reaches you.

This Market continues very dull and our Merchants who have speculated this way, I am sorry to Say, will be extreme⟨ly⟩ discouraged for some time by the effects of the peace and the heavy losses they will experience by sales here. I am Sir most respectfully, your devoted & obedt. Servt.

I. Cox Barnet

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