James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Appleton, 29 May 1803

From Thomas Appleton, 29 May 1803


Leghorn 29th of May 1803.


I had the honor of addressing you on the 20th. Inst. by a vessel bound to Philadelphia. At that time there appeared little hopes, that I should obtain ⟨e⟩ither a diminution of the quarantine of our vessels or ⟨a⟩void a considerable charge which attended the storing ⟨ce⟩rtain merchandize in the lazzaretto which ccould not ⟨b⟩e purified on ship board. We have in this place three Lazzarettos, where not only are lodged persons arriving from countries infected with contagious disorders, but also certain descriptions of merchze. particularly stuffs manufactured from cotton wool or hair &c. The bales are there opened & exposed during the same ⟨n⟩umber of days affixed for the crew, there ⟨b⟩eing three buildings for their reception, from the different degrees of probability of contagion, which the board of health, determines not simply from the declaration or even patents of the captains, but from the advice they receive from the committes of health ⟨of⟩ various ports of the Mediterranean with whom they are in the habits of corresponding. And for the ⟨Sto⟩ring & purifying in the first Lazzaretto a charge of one pCt. is made & for receiving & purifying in the second ⟨&⟩ third 2 pCt. In the year 1793 on information being r⟨e⟩ceived that the yellow fever prevail’d in Philad⟨el⟩phia, our vessels were compell’d to perform a quara⟨n⟩tine of 40 days & this rigorous measure was reduced af⟨terwards⟩ to 14 days (which is called a quarantine of observation) on the fever subsiding in America. During the last y⟨ear⟩ the board of health of Marseilles signified to the Sani⟨ta⟩ of this Port, the danger of admitting american vess⟨els⟩ subject only to the term of observation, for that a con⟨ta⟩gious fever reigned in Philadelphia, while clean bills of health were brought by the merchantmen from Baltimore & York & other places. From that period our ⟨ves⟩sels have been compelled to a quarantine of 20 da⟨ys⟩ & every species of manufactured goods usually brought here such as Nankeens muslins &c have been subject to a duty of one pCt., a duty I have in some instan⟨ces⟩ known to amount to 1000$ on a single cargo. The yellow fever introduced into Spain two years since & said to be communicated by an american ship, tended to strenthen their fears in conjunction with the continual apprehensions they are under from every neighbor that surrounds them, threw an almost insurmountable barrier to every form of modification I suggested for the relief of our citizens from so vexatious a quarantine & the enormous charges in purification. However ⟨Sir⟩ yesterday I obtained from the Governor who is chief of the Sanita or health office, after months of unavai⟨lin⟩g efforts, that considering the total impossibility of his ascertaining at what time and in what places the yellow fever may exist or subside in the Ports of the U States, that every Captain of vessel who shall be the bearer of a patent or bill of health declaring "that no contagious fever reigns in the town" and certified by the Mayor or first magistrate, by the chief of the health office & by the naval officer of the Port, that then such vessels shall be subject only to the usual term of 14 days, & that the merchandize may remain on board during this period free from the tax of one pCt. but that all vessels not provided with this necessa⟨ry⟩ document shall positively endure the rigour of t⟨he⟩ present existing law. Thus Sir, you readily perceive with how much facility our merchants may avail themselves of the measure the Governor has assented to, in such places where no contagion prevails, & where it is otherw⟨ise⟩ I am persuaded you will at once agree with him ⟨on⟩ the necessity of every measure of precaution. Sho⟨uld⟩ a similar application be made by the American Con⟨suls⟩ in Genoa Naples & other parts of the Mediterranean, th⟨ere⟩ can be no doubt that equal advantages might ari⟨se⟩ from it. On the 29th Inst. his majesty the King of Etruria died at Florence, the Queen is at present regent & will probably remain so until some other mode is adopted for the government of the present monarchical part of Italy, a period I am persuaded not far distant. This day the first act of hostility was committed by the french in this port against the English in the seizu⟨re⟩ of a vessel necessarily left by the British Convoy wh⟨ich⟩ saild from this a few days since. I have the hon⟨or⟩ to be with the highest respect yr. Most Obt. Servt.

Th: Appleton

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