James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Fulwar Skipwith, 24 November 1806

Paris. 24th. Novr. 1806


It is my duty to inform you that among the papers, lately inventoried & deposited with a French Notary public, found belonging to the deceased Joseph Miller of Philadelphia, is an original letter from Albert Gallatin, addressed to R. R. Livingston, Minister of the U. S. at Paris, instructing him to secure the payment of a claim of the American Government against said Miller, according to the statement annexed, of

  Principal   $21585.60 
Interest 11656.23 

How this letter with the document annex’d establishing the claim of the U. S. against the deceased came to be delivered into his hands, without the demand being ⟨s⟩ettled, the present Minister of the U. S., or his Predecessor, can best explain. Why the amount of said demand was not witheld by Genl. Armstrong from the great sum paid by him Under the fraudulent transfer made by Miller to Torriss (noticed in my letter t⟨o⟩ you of the 1st. of Augt.) will never, I apprehend, be explained to the satisfaction of an impartial eye, acquainted with the circumstances ⟨a⟩t the time the payment to Torriss took place. An acct. Currt. signed ⟨by⟩ Torriss with Miller, found also among the papers of the deceased, proves, what was not doubted by any one here, that he, Torriss, recd. a compensation of 50,000 Francs for receiving the Transfer.

I wish, Sir, that the particular incident, of the claim of the Government having been delivered over to the deceased, was the on⟨ly⟩ one which appears to me to merit an explanation. By an authentic Cop⟨y⟩ Inclosed of the Inventory & declaration made before me by the Secre⟨tary⟩ of Genl. Armstrong, you will see that the seal of the Legation of the U. S. was, immediately after Millers death, put on his papers, & that, i⟨n⟩ the Inventory, no notice is taken of the papers exhibiting the Claim of the U. S. In no instance, perhaps, where a Consular establishment exists, is to be found an example of a Minister interfering with the concerns of the dead. To Consuls universally does this right appertain; On American Consuls in particular was that duty imposed by the Consular Convention of 1788, & is still expressly enjoined by law. Under all those circumstances combined, & in an affair in which Genl. Armstrong had from the beginning, in my opinion, acted a blameable part, it is extraordinary indeed, that he should have attempted by the inviolability of his seal of Legation to prevent me from doing my duty.

On complaint, however, from one of the Repres⟨en⟩tatives of Mr. Millers Claimants, to the Magistrate of the Section in which he died, the seals of the American Legation have been raised, & as I have before stated, the papers & effects of the decease⟨d⟩ deposited untill the Civil Tribunal shall appoint a Curator to tak⟨e⟩ charge of them. Mr. Miller had by a will, made a little prev⟨ious⟩ to his death, settled about 24,000 Livres per Annum of the Fren⟨ch⟩ Funds on his Wife & Daughters. This will, probably, will be ⟨set a⟩side by the Tribunals here, & would not, I presume, be considered ⟨a le⟩gal Will in the U. S., on account of the Bankruptcy of the ⟨dece⟩ased. The best legal advice, which I have taken, is in favor ⟨of⟩ my opinion, that Mr. Torriss may be compelled to restore ⟨the⟩ sums applied to his own benefit by virtue of his transfer. ⟨I ex⟩pect, therefore, that, were I duly authorized by the Depart⟨men⟩t of Treasury to enter a claim in behalf of the U. S. ⟨for⟩ the sum due them, I should be able to bring it to a success⟨ful i⟩ssue. It is that motive, & that desire, alone, that has ⟨indu⟩ced me thus far to bring the matter to your view. I am ⟨prom⟩ised an authentic Copy of the Inventory of the effects & papers ⟨belon⟩ging to the deceased, Mr. Miller, which I shall forward ⟨to you⟩. Genl. Armstrong, soon after the delivery to him, by his ⟨Prede⟩cessor of the papers generally concerning Claims, informed me of ⟨   ⟩ being charged with the Claim of the U. S. against Miller, ⟨but⟩ untill the light lately thrown upon the subject by the dis⟨closu⟩re of the papers Communicating Mr. Gallatin’s instruc⟨tions,⟩ I had no precise knowledge of the nature & amount ⟨of⟩ the demand. I have the honor to be with high respect Sir, Your Mo. Ob. Servt.

Fulwar Skipwith

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

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