James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 24 October 1806

No. 52.Duplicate

London October 24. 1806.


I have the pleasure to transmit you a copy of some communications which have lately taken place between this government and myself relative to the trial of Captain Whitby, which you will find is postponed till the first of March next to afford an opportunity for the witnesses to attend on the part of the United States. The time allowed is I fear rather short for the ⟨o⟩bject, especially if the parties should be absent, or not prepared to sail withou⟨t⟩ delay. Having used my best endeavours to obtain this arrangement, which cannot be popular with the Navy, I have thought it improper to propose an extension of the time in this stage; nor do I Know that it will be possible hereafter to effect it, as the subject is in many respects a delicate one with this government. A great public object is accomplished ⟨b⟩y the decision to bring the officer to trial and the delay which is allowed to precede it: and it might produce an ill effect if any thing Should be desired on our part which Should be thought unreasonable. My hope therefore is that the utmost effort will be made to Send forward the witnesse⟨s⟩ that they may be here by the first of March. It is asserted with confiden⟨ce th⟩at Captain Whitby was not on board the Leander, when the Shot was ⟨d⟩ischarged from her which Killed our Seaman. Altho’ I was ignorant that ⟨s⟩uch a pretention existed, when I wrote my first note, yet I endeavoured ⟨to⟩ comprize in it, in general terms, every act of aggression that was committ⟨ed⟩ on that occasion at the port of New York, by whomsoever it might have been committed. Having however heard of it afterwards I was still more atten⟨tive⟩ to that object in my Second. The Subject therefore is open to any and ever⟨y⟩ species of charge which those outrages may be thought to deserve. I men⟨tion⟩ this circumstance that if you think proper, as you will have the facts ⟨in⟩ evidence before you, you may give particular instructions on the subje⟨ct.⟩ It is proper to add that I was informed by Mr. Bicknell, the Solicit⟨or to⟩ the Admiralty, that it was indispensible, by the usage which was applic⟨able⟩ to Such a case, for the witnesses to attend; as I had been at an ear⟨ly⟩ stage by Lord Howick that the evidence which I had communicated could only serve to indicate the facts which it was proposed to prove. I am, Sir, with great respect and esteem, Your most obedient Servant

Jas. Monroe

DNA: RG 59--DD-Diplomatic Despatches, Great Britain.

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