James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Ezra Davis and Others, 31 January 1811 (Abstract)

§ From Ezra Davis and Others

31 January 1811, Boston. The memorialists, “Merchants & native citizens of the United states, engaged in a lawfull Commerce, with ports & places in the West Indies,” complain that Henri Christophe, the “present Military & civil chieftain of Cape Henry” in Saint-Domingue, has seized and detained “a large amount” of their property. They enclose a copy of Christophe’s 3 Jan. 1811 general order under which the seizures were made and declare that there is no justification “for this plunder of private property.” They also state that on 6 Oct. 1810 Christophe ordered the arrest of the officers and crews of the eleven American vessels then at Cape Henry and would not permit their departure until 4 Jan. 1811. During this period of detention, many of the vessels were damaged and their crews “arbitrarily detained in consequence of which great numbers sickened, & many of them died.” As “Native Citizens,” they look to their government for redress; but since neither the U.S. nor other nations recognize a legitimate government in Saint-Domingue, the “ordinary course of demanding & obtaining redress for wrongs seems to be impeded.” Such a situation “appears to afford just cause for granting Letters of Marque & Reprisal.” The memorialists also suggest that “the presence of a few Frigates” from the U.S. Navy would be “the means of obtaining indemnity” and preventing future violations.1

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 76, Haiti, Misc. Claims). RC 3 pp. Signed by Davis and thirteen others. Enclosure is a four-page printed Ordre général de l’armée (in French).

1It is uncertain whether JM received this memorial in 1811. On the supposition that he did not, another version of it was submitted to him in November 1816, supported by documents specifying the extent of the damages suffered by the memorialists and seeking compensation for those damages (William Patterson to James Monroe, 1 Nov. 1816, Jabez Boothroyd to Monroe, 13 Nov. 1816 [ibid.]).

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