James Madison Papers

From James Madison to DeWitt Clinton, 3 May 1806

Department of State, May 3. 1806.


The Memorial addressed to the President by the Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council of New York, on the 28th. April has been duly received; as has your letter of the 26th. to the Department of State, enclosing the depositions of Jesse Pierce and Hozekiak Pratt.

The melancholy incident which has excited so much sympathy, has not failed to mingle itself with the indignation felt by the President at the violations committed by the foreign Ships of War both on our trade and our Territory. The danger of such insults, had not escaped his attention, and he had accordingly given order for the employment of a full proportion of the means appropriated by law in the defense of the Harbour of New York. No time will be lost in carrying these orders into effect.

I cannot equally authorize an expedition of the defensive force in frigates, which forms the more immediate object of the memorial. The limits assigned by Law to the naval establishment for the current year, and the absence of the greatest part of the force beyond the Atlantic, make it impossible to station for the defence of the trade of New York, a force adequate to a conflict which might result from it.

In the mean time the President has thought proper to gives effect by proclamation, to the provisions made by an act of Congress of 3d. March 1805, for the more effectual preservation of peace in the Ports and habours of the United States, and in the waters under its jurisdiction. A copy of the proclamation is enclosed, with a request that you will please to have the blanks filled with the names of the Commanders of the Cambrian and Driver Ships of War, and inform me immediately of those inserted. The Proclamation may be made public as soon as you have filled the blanks.

It is presumed that if the homicide should have taken place within the jurisdiction of the State of New York or of New Jersey, that the proper state Court will be employed in the prosecution of the author of the crime. Should it be found that the case falls within the jurisdiction of the United States, the District Attorney at New York will of course institute prosecutions under their authority.

From a conversation with Mr. Merry, I learn that four Officers belonging to the British Ships of War off the Harbour, were in the City without a possibility under actual circumstances, of returning to their Ships, and that this circumstance had prevented the departure of the Frigates. You will observe that it will import with the Proclamation of the President that they be not restrained from the means of returning. I am &c.

(signed) James Madison.

DNA: RG 59—DL—Domestic Letters.

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