James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John M. Forbes, 30 June 1803

From John M. Forbes, 30 June 1803

June 30th. 1803


Since writing the foregoing I am honored with your Circular of 9th. April last with Copy of the Act of 28th. February, by the wise provissions of which the embarrasments incident to the duty of foreign Consuls are almost entirely done away. Some cases have already occurred not foreseen by the Legislature. One is that of Seamen who from ill usage, or other reasons may demand their Discharge, and propose to relinquish the extra Wages. In such cases I presume the general controul over these Discharges given to the Consuls will authorize them to exact in all cases the ten dollars which remain to the United States fund for relief of Seamen. If your Opinion should be different from mine, will be much obliged by your instructions, in the mean time shall act on my own Construction of the Law. The King of England as Elector of Hannover having refused to ratify the Capitulation concluded between the Regency of that Electorate and the french General Mortier, it is this day asserted that the french Army has crossed the Elbe at Lauenburg, with a determination to make the Hannoverian army Prisoners of War. They have retired in conformity with their Capitulation to Ratzeburg, where it is said they are determined to oppose to this new attack, a desperate but probably an ineffectual Resistance. We have the most solemn and reiterated assurances from France and Prussia, that the territory and trade of this City shall remain inviolate. Yet so uncertain are all military movements which depend in any degree on the wavring policy of the northern cabinets that our position is still painfully precarious; I shall advise you by every opportunity the events of importance that may come to my knowledge.

I am promised by the Sindic a second answer from the Chargé d’Affaires of his Britannic Majesty, in which I understand an advantage will be taken of the want of legal evidence of the injury complained of, being founded on Letters from the Captain and a Passenger on board. In consequence I have issued Instructions to the Captains as they sail from this. Copy of these instructions you have also inclosed. I have the honor to be very respectfully, Dr. Sir, Your obedt. Servant,

John M. Forbes

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