James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Anderson, 22 June 1806


Havana 22d: June 1807.


I have had the honor to write You more than once since my arrival in this City, and flatter myself, that some of my letters have been received.

It is with sincere regret that I find myself obliged to trouble You, Sir, with disagreeable complaints. Our Captains on their arrival in this port, give themselves very little trouble to comply with the Laws of the United States, respecting the deposite of their Registers in the Consular Office. Days pass away before they call; and when gently told of their neglect, answer, and some times not very politely, that they could not find time to come sooner to the Office. The conduct of our Seamen is not more regular. They unfortunately get intoxicated very often, and some of them are pick⟨ed⟩ Up by the Soldiers and carried to prison, where they remain until I can persuade some of our humane Captains to take them on board t⟨heir⟩ Vessels; but I have been obliged in some ca⟨ses⟩ to compromise for the expences incurred in ⟨   ⟩ by paying the Captains the ten dollars allow⟨ed by⟩ Law for the passage of Seamen, and they pa⟨y⟩ the rest of the sum due by the Seaman, whi⟨ch⟩ some times amounts to six or seven dollars. I cannot, Sir, act otherwise in my present ⟨situa⟩tion, for our Captains and the Consignees o⟨f⟩ their Vessels and Cargos, know too well that ⟨I⟩ have not the power in this place to compel th⟨em⟩ to comply with the Laws of the United Sta⟨tes⟩ upon the subject of Seamen & Registers. ⟨I⟩ shall endeavour, Sir, upon every occasion, to ⟨me⟩rit Your approbation, and should it happ⟨en⟩ at any time that I do not fulfil the stric⟨t⟩ duties of my Office, it will be owing to the want of power and not inclination.

The port of Matanzas about seventy ⟨miles⟩ to the Northeast of this, is growing every day ⟨more⟩ into importance. A considerable quantity of pr⟨operty⟩ consisting of Brown & White Sugars, Molasses & ⟨   ⟩ is shipped from thence to the United State⟨s.⟩ To procure a Certificate of property, which is aff⟨ixed⟩ to the bill of lading, the Merchants are oblig⟨ed⟩ to come here, at some expense, and the Vess⟨els⟩ detained four or five days after being loaded. ⟨In s⟩ome instances, I have granted to well known persons, blank Certificates with my signature, making them take oath that the property is bona fide American property. Though this mode is not regular, it is the best that can be adopted to give facility to our trade. I am fully persuaded, Sir, that were You to appoint a good, steady Young Man as Agent to that port, it would be an object worthy of his attention, particularly so, if he had or could make friends, to give him the preference in recieving and shipping their Cargos. I would undertake with great pleasure, Sir, though contrary to my interest, and perhaps powers, to appoint an Agent until Your pleasure should be known, but I am unacquainted with the Inhabitants of Matanzas, and do not know a single Soul there, in whom I could place a trust of so much importance.

Private letters lately received from Cadiz mention, that a Royal decree has passed, laying 11 P Ct: additional duty on all articles imported into this Island, and 2 P Ct: on all articles exported; with an extra duty on the tonnage of foreign Vessels. Fortunately for our Merchants this decree has not been received Officially, and cannot be put into execution until then; when they will have to pay 38 P Ct: inwards & 12 P Ct: outwards, a cruel tax, it being a well known fact, that for the last ⟨   ⟩ Months very bad Voyages have been made from the United States to this City, and I am surp⟨rised,⟩ Sir, at the continuance of the trade upon su⟨ch⟩ an extensive plan as it is now carried on.

The scarcity of dollars and smaller coi⟨n is⟩ so great in this City that, an emission of pap⟨er⟩ Money is much talked of, and by some peop⟨le⟩ thought inevitable.

A Gentleman of my acquaintance ha⟨s⟩ favoured me with a small piece of bark, which⟨h⟩ possesses great Qualities for dying of Silk, &Ca. ⟨I⟩ have taken the liberty, Sir, to send You one ha⟨lf⟩ of it by this opportunity, reserving the other ha⟨lf⟩ for an other occasion; flattering myself tha⟨t⟩ the discovery will prove an object of great utility ⟨to⟩ our Merchants and Manufacturers. With the highest Respec⟨t⟩ I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient Serva⟨nt⟩

James Anderson

DNA: RG 59—CD—Consular Despatches, Havana.

Index Entries