James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Murray Forbes, 8 October 1806


Hamburg 8th. Octr. 1806.


It is only Since a few days that I have heard that a certain Captain Peter Turner of Ship Horace of Portsmouth (N. H.) had threatened to make some remonstrances to you on the Case of an American Seaman whom I had forced him to receive on board his Ship with the Sum of Ten dollars allowed by law. I must misconceive the Spirit of our Government, and Surely Could never have known your liberal mind if I could, for a moment, apprehend that any measures would be taken on such a remonstrance without Previously giving me an opportunity of Vindicating myself. I forbear, therefore, making any official Communication on the Subject until I am Called upon. It will be sufficient to my Present Purpose to State from recollection Some General Circumstances of the Case. The Seaman in question, was ⟨o⟩ne Barnes who came in the Lewis William, Captn. O Brien, from Philadelphia where he had left a destitute family. When here, he absented himself from the Ship without leave and, of course, had forfeited his Wages, he went on boar⟨d⟩ the Ship extremely intoxicated and in a quarrel with t⟨h⟩e rest of the Crew received a Wound which disabled him from doing any duty, thus had Capn. O Brien on every grou⟨nd⟩ the right of throwing him on my hands and without any ⟨Wages,⟩ the Lewis William, was going to New Orleans. the Horace was bound to Philadelphia. I had only to Choose between Placing this Seaman in the hospital at the expence of the ⟨U. S⟩ for a month or two and then, at a less favorable Season of the year, to force some other Captain as relucta⟨nt⟩ as Turner, to Carry him home or to effect a Comprom⟨ise⟩ with O Brien and Send Barnes at once to his fami⟨ly⟩ without any expences to Government. I preferred the la⟨tter⟩ and Prevailed on O Brien to make an equitable allowance of Wages and out of the balance I paid h⟨is⟩ Passage with Captn. Turner. Barnes’ situation was ⟨by⟩ no means dangerous and he was able to do enough to have Paid his Passage, without the money given there was therefore no great hardship in the Cas⟨e⟩ as it applied to Turner and the Clamor raised from Personal Pique and from that Pitiful Spirit of Contention which our Captains often mistake f⟨or⟩ a just Sense of right. They are certainly the ⟨most⟩ troublesome Class of our Citizens to deal with and I should very much doubt the integrity of ⟨my⟩ Public Conduct if I was not often obnoxious to them. They have no idea that, under any Circu⟨mstances a⟩ Consul has any latitude of discretion beyond the very ⟨fe⟩w Cases embraced in the Provisions of the Written ⟨La⟩w, and are always as much disposed to resist the exercise of ⟨au⟩thority when they are it’s objects as they are unreasonable ⟨in⟩ demanding it’s intervention to facilitate or sanction ⟨the⟩ injuries they are disposed to attempt on their Crews. I have no fear that Government will be disposed to foster the vexatious remonstrances of Such men and feel assured that under your influence my Conduct ⟨w⟩ill never be unfairly judged. I have the honor to be, With great Respect, Your Excellency’s Much obliged Friend and Obedient Servant

J: M: Forbes

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

Index Entries