James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Robertson, 1 July 1803

From John Robertson, 1 July 1803

Antwerp 1st. July 1803.


I profit of the oppy. of the ship New Jersey, (the first direct conveyance that has offered since the affair of the Ship Mac) which Cleared this day 1st. July for Philadelphia, to inform you of Mr. Isaac Cox Barnet’s absence from this place since the 29th. May last, on which day he repaired to Paris where he has been nominated, One of the Commissioners on American Claims, by the Ministers Plenipo⟨ry⟩. and extraordinary ⟨Messrs.⟩ Livingston & Monroe, in consequence of the late cession of the Louisiana to the United States, which cause of his absence I have duly noted in the Book of Record of this Agency according to Mr. Barnet’s directions as per extract inclosed in his letter of the 13th. June and Copy of his Substitution to me under date the 29th. May approved by Mr. Livingston the 7th. June for the time of his absence from Antwerp; Since which your pacquet addressed to him, containing the appointment for Havre de Grace, reached this place the 15th. June only, and was duly forwarded to him.

In the present state of things I retain the Seal of this Agency under Mr. B’s Commission, confirmed by the said Minister Plenipotentiary Mr. Livingston until the arrival of his successor. I have the honour to transmit you, inclosed, Copy of the Register of Entries and Clearances from the first of January last, to the 30th. June as also Mr. Barnet’s account of Disbursements against the Ship Mac of Charleston arrested by him the 12th. May last, then dismantled, her riggings Stored and Crew discharged, the Ship having previously been brought into Dock by said Mr. B’s Directions as per the Vouchers he addressed you by his dispatches of the 13th. June, going by the same conveyance as this, to which, for fuller explication, and particulars, I beg leave to refer you.

The account of Disbursements enclosed amount to $659.84 independent of the warehouserent of the riggings, the Customary wages agreed to be given to the Guardian on board, the Account of the Experts for Visiting the Ship and verifying the Inventory of her riggings, which is not yet produced and that of the Broker which I thought proper not to pay finding it overrated.

By his subsequent Correspondence Mr. B advises me to cause the Ship Mac to be examined by proper experts, her present value ascertained and also what she might be worth in Six months hence; that, in case she should suffer much in dock and lose in value, I should apply to the Tribunal of Commerce of this place to have her put at Publick auction for the account of whomever it might concern and that if she should not be found to lose much in value, I was to sell part of her Riggings to reimburse him if found most adviseable, all which I communicated, also in consequence of Mr. B’s directions, to an able Lawyer who being against the measures proposed, I postponed every further Step until Mr. B, or the Minister’s Ulterior decision, and the more readily, as I joined in the Lawyer’s Opinion concerning the impropriety of applying to a Court of Justice, the Tribunal of Commerce, to Authorize the Publick Sale of a Ship under an official arrest Without a Previous Sentence of some Legal Court or a final Confiscation being pronounced and ratified by the french Governmt. & that, in the event of a Private Sale or any mode of sale adopted without the concurrence of the Tribunal of Commerce it could never stand good unless being duly enregistered according to the french Laws, when the Captain or any other owner, or pretended such might make an opposition to the enregistering founded on the want of the above formality and thus strike the Sale with nullity. The only Idea of compromising in the Least the authority of Mr. B, or any other Commercial Agent of the united States must suffice in my opinion to forbear Acting, in which resolution I am fixed both by Mr. B’s leavg: it to my discretion and by my principle of abstaining where there can be the least doubt as to the Propriety of acting.

Since writing the above I have received avice from Mr. Barnet that he had just received his exequatur for Havre from the Minister of the Exterior Relations, of which he desires me to inform you. The first Consul is expected here in 2 or 3 days; the Preparations which are making are really Grand. You have, no doubt, Sir, been apprized of the late arrêté of this Government by which all american or neutral Property is to be attested by the french Consuls in foreign Countries for want of which formality, it shall be admitted only on Condition that an equal value of the Goods imported in france shall be exported in french manufactured Goods. I have not yet Seen the arrêté, but having it from good authority do not hesitate in giving you this intelligence.

The original Inventory of the Ship Mac’s riggings having not accompanied the papers transmitted you by Mr. Barnet’s Letter of 13th. June, I have thought it proper to forward it inclosed, After having had it copied in the Register, as also Copy of my letter to the Captain of the Port, and his proces Verbal after having complied with my request.

The local news that can be given at present are limited to the late hopes entertained that Peace might be restored again soon, since which the mutual measures of defense and destruction leave a sad impression on every mind and recall the Idea of Rome and Carthage. Prosperity, Peace and Gloryattend the Just and upright Governments, Destruction to the others! I have the honour to be most respectfully & with a sincere Esteem Sir Your most obedt. & Devoted Servant

J. Robertson

Deputy Conl. Agt. US

(in haste)

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