James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Davis, 30 May 1806

May 30, 1806.

On the 30th, Mr. Devoise, the French consul, concluded the contract for the liberation of the slaves of St. Pierre’s one hundred thousand Spanish dollars.

It thus far concerns the Government that the claim of William Eaton, Esquire, for seventeen thousand piasters of Tunis, paid for the ransom of one of His Sardinian Majesty’s subjects, will be brought to an issue. In the instructions left me by Mr. Eaton, I am directed to place that demand to the account of the United States; I have done so, and, as their representative, presented my claims to the agents concerned in the purchase. Were I acting as the private agent of Mr. Eaton, it certainly would be perverting his views and intentions by adhering to the laws of Barbary, which authorize me to hold the ransomed as a slave; but, as that of a Christian Government, it would be disgracing my country, and can only tend to destroy that respectable footing I at present hold among my colleagues. No exertions shall be wanting to procure the reimbursement; when I am satisfied my hopes are groundless, I trust the Government will acquiesce in the propriety of my making a virtue of necessity, in abandoning the claim.

Printed Source--American State Papers. 38 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1831-61)..

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