James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 26 November 1806

Lisbon 26 Novr. 1806


I was honored three days since with Mr B Smiths letter dated 15 Septr. last from the department of State, inclosing a Statement of some observations purporting to be made by George Johnstone relative to the manner in which he obtained his protection. After a lapse of two years & a half it will not be expected that I can minutely recollect all the observations made at the time of granting a protection, a piece of duty commonly attended with so few circumstances which are likely to impress themselves on the memory; of course an Officer, may often, at such a distance of time, be put to a non plus to refute the assertions of the unprincipled & designing & will be obliged to resort to the rules which he may have laid down for the regulation of his Official conduct to clear himself from charges of th⟨at⟩ nature. Immediately after I entered i⟨nto⟩ Office the necessity of being very circu⟨m⟩spect as to the protections I grant⟨ed⟩ forcibly impressing itself on my mi⟨nd⟩ made me establish it as a rule to ⟨ex⟩amine the Seamen closely. Th⟨is⟩ rule I have strictly adhered to & wh⟨en⟩ I had reason to suppose any deceptio⟨n⟩ I have invariably refused to grant ⟨   ⟩ protection; but where the answers ⟨of⟩ the Seamen were clear & satisfactor⟨y⟩ I have required the evidence of tw⟨o⟩ American Citizens in proof of the app⟨li⟩cants Citizenship; and in addition ⟨I⟩ have invariably sworn the party claiming the protection as to A⟨mer⟩ican Citizenship. I need probably only appeal to this very constant p⟨rac⟩tice to clear me of any suspicion ⟨of⟩ intentional deception & to destroy ⟨the⟩ force of the purported assertions of ⟨John⟩stone; but fortunately so remarkab⟨le a lo⟩ss as that of the Apollo & Convoy, has left the impression of some of the circumstan⟨c⟩es on my memory. I recollect that a number of Seamen applied to me about that time, some with protections & others ⟨w⟩ithout; the latter generally stating that theirs had been lost with their ap⟨p⟩arel. This must be allowed was no ⟨i⟩mprobable tale; still, it appears by my ⟨r⟩egister Book that I only granted a protection to the Seaman in question ⟨&⟩ another to John Foster. Johnstone brought as proof George Nelson whose protection was granted at Philadelphia 5th. Novr. 1803 No. 4326 & Richd. ⟨   ⟩tter, whose protection was granted at the same place the 9th. Septr. 1803 No. 9235. ⟨(T⟩here appears to be some error in the numbers of the protections, probably owing to a mistake of my Clerk in copying one or the other into the books, probably the latter was 4235)Foster brought as proof John Warner, whose protection was ⟨g⟩ranted at Cowes 9th. Aug. 1803 & John Ellis whose protection was grant⟨ed⟩ at New York 9th. April 1799 ⟨No.⟩ 4556. Now Sir will it not ap⟨pe⟩ar somewhat unaccountable to every impartial person that if I h⟨ad⟩ granted protections with so muc⟨h⟩ facility as is represented in the Stat⟨e⟩ment, I did not grant them to ⟨all⟩ that applied on that occasion which I will venture to ⟨   ⟩ was at least a dozen? But I mu⟨st⟩ be allowed to say, that this forb⟨ear⟩ance would not be wanted ⟨to⟩ carry conviction to the mind of any one, who had coolly examin⟨ed⟩ the stated testimony in question, of ⟨its⟩ untruth; for it carries falsehood ⟨on⟩ the face of it. The statement sa⟨ys⟩ that said Johnstone informed me "that he was born in Engl⟨and"⟩ and that my reply was "that h⟨is⟩ having served six months i⟨n⟩ the States Service entitled him ⟨to⟩ the protection" he then receiv⟨ed.⟩ Is it not Strange that I shoul⟨d⟩ have required the affidavit ⟨of⟩ two American Citizens, not ⟨only⟩ to his Citizenship but even to the place of his Nativity, if ⟨a⟩ simple assertion of his havi⟨ng⟩ served six Months in the Serv⟨ice⟩ of the United States was sufficient to obtain a protection? This Sir certainly is too palpable an inconsistency to gain the smallest Credit. I am likewise as Satisfied as I can be of any thing which took place at such a distance of time, that I not only examined Johnstone as to the place of his birth but swore him to the fact: and I beg you to be assured Sir that he never mentioned to me that he was born in England, for had he, I certainly should not have granted his protection. Can it be beleived, I must repeat it, that at the moment I was demanding a public Solemn Oath, formally administered on the Bible, as to the Citizenship & Nativity of Johnstone, from two indifferent Men that he should have informed me that he was born in England, or if he had that I would have allowed the Men to have taken the Oath? Honor, Morals, Religion, even common appearances forbid it. ⟨If⟩ it is meant to be inferred from the expression of my having Ke⟨pt⟩ him, that he lived in my Hou⟨se⟩ ten days, it is an absolute untr⟨uth⟩ and I see nothing else that ⟨can⟩ be inferred from it, as I find by a reference to my Books that ⟨he⟩ did not make his appearan⟨ce⟩ at the Office till the 10th. of Apr⟨il⟩ & that out of the number of Seam⟨en⟩ who came to the Office on that ⟨day⟩ I advanced Johnstone & Foster & ⟨March⟩ others with American protecti⟨ons⟩ one hundred & forty reis each ⟨for⟩ their diet. No farther Sums bei⟨ng⟩ advanced I conclude that Joh⟨n⟩stone the next day, went on b⟨oard⟩ the Schooner in which he wen⟨t⟩ to London; and am confirm⟨ed⟩ in this opinion from findi⟨ng⟩ that the only American Schoo⟨ner⟩ which sailed from hence to th⟨at⟩ port, from the early part of ⟨March⟩ to the latter part of May, was ⟨the⟩ Schooner Maria of Norfol⟨k⟩ Wm. Curran, Master, that she cleared the 14th. April & being loaed with lemmons & oranges must have sailed the day following, so that Johnstone could not have remained longer than five days in Lisbon at most, & probably as before observed only the day he reached here, if he went to London in a Schooner as is asserted. Beside Sir for me to maintain destitute American Seamen either in or out of my House when the United States have made so liberal a provision for them is unnecessary: so far from it that I have made it an invariable rule immediately on their application to send them on board Vessels bound home, when there was no Ameri⟨c⟩an Vessels wanting hands, both to ⟨pr⟩event their getting into bad com⟨p⟩any & to save as much of the pub⟨l⟩ic money as possible: but I ima⟨g⟩ine that I might have spared my⟨s⟩elf the trouble of declaring that ⟨I⟩ did not maintain them, as the Government which has made ⟨th⟩e complaint could hardly beleive that I should have car⟨r⟩ied my patriotism so far as to put myself to so considerable a⟨n⟩ expense with a view to save it ⟨to⟩ the public. It is true that from motives of humanity, I have o⟨n⟩ several occasions allowed dest⟨i⟩tute invalid Seamen, whom ⟨I⟩ was fully Satisfied were Citize⟨ns⟩ of the United States, although th⟨ey⟩ could not produce proof suff⟨i⟩cient to satisfy the Law, of cour⟨se⟩ were not entitled to this provisi⟨on⟩ of the Law, to remain in my H⟨ouse⟩ a few days to prevent their Star⟨ving⟩ but never that I recollect did ⟨a⟩ Seaman that was able to wor⟨k⟩ eat beyond one meals victual⟨s.⟩ Having now pretty fully gone through that part which rela⟨tes⟩ to myself, I must observe th⟨at⟩ I cannot perceive what is mea⟨nt⟩ to be inferred from that which ⟨re⟩lates to Mr. Lyman. In acknowle⟨dg⟩ing my Signature he has done ⟨no⟩thing more than it is customa⟨ry⟩ for every Civil Officer under all Governments to do; nor is it custo⟨mary⟩ where such authentication is r⟨e⟩quired to examine into the f⟨acts⟩ set forth in the document, ⟨but it is⟩ always taken for granted that this ⟨w⟩as done by the Officer issuing the same. The thing is done every day in Gt. Britain. Having now pretty fully replied to the particulars in this statement, I hope a few observations that occur & which I conceive ⟨a⟩re not inapplicable to the sub⟨j⟩ect will not be deemed amiss. It is ⟨c⟩ertain that many of the Officers of the British Navy to whom I have made applications for impressed Amer⟨ic⟩an Seamen, have conducted them⟨s⟩elves in a manner perfectly civil⟨,⟩ ⟨ca⟩ndid, upright & Gentlemanly, with⟨o⟩ut losing sight of their duty to their Country; but it is equally true that ⟨I⟩ have found in many instances ⟨s⟩uch rudeness disingenuity, prevari⟨ca⟩tion & evasion, clearly indicating ⟨a⟩ determination to hold the Seamen ⟨ri⟩ght or wrong. To prevent the inju⟨stic⟩es resulting to our Countrymen ⟨fro⟩m Officials of the latter character, ⟨it⟩ appears to me not unworthy ⟨of the⟩ justice of the British Government, ⟨to⟩ have all such evidence or decla⟨ra⟩tions as are intended to effect for foreign Nations, taken before some Civ⟨il⟩ Magistrate in the presence of the Cons⟨ul⟩ or agents of such Nations; when it ⟨is⟩ to be presumed the deponents would be unbiassed either by hope or fear. ⟨I⟩ think it is a rule established in Bri⟨tish⟩ jurisprudence that witness⟨es⟩ shall be examined & evidence take⟨n⟩ in the presence of the party whom ⟨it⟩ is meant to affect; and surely the righ⟨ts⟩ of for⟨eign⟩ Nations & their Citizens & subjects are ⟨en⟩titled to as much respect as the lowest British subject. Withou⟨t so⟩ candid & fair a mode of proceedi⟨ng⟩ it cannot be expected that the ⟨   ⟩est attention will be paid to Sta⟨te⟩ments which are liable to the m⟨is⟩representation of the parties giving them & to the prejudices & partialit⟨y⟩ of those at whose instigation th⟨ey⟩ are taken; much less will it be ⟨ex⟩pected that an unsigned declara⟨tion⟩ should gain the least credit, wh⟨en⟩ the party whom it is stated has ta⟨ken⟩ the same, may find misrepresentati⟨ons⟩ & mistatement of facts necessary t⟨o⟩ justify improper conduct; becau⟨se⟩ if such Statements were admitted ⟨to⟩ defeat the claims for Citizens or Se⟨amens⟩ protections nor no other vouchers would afford them Security. Indeed I cannot suppress the expression of my ⟨s⟩urprise that any Government, particularly that of Gt. Britain, should have condescended to have made use of a Statement so evidently contradictory, absurd, partial & evasive, in a question effecting the rights of a Citizen of a friendly Nation & in ⟨ge⟩neral the whole maritime part ⟨of⟩ the community.

Since the foregoing of the 19th. Instant, which went by the Schooner Osborne, Captn. Churchill via Plymouth, nothing that relates to this Kingdom has taken place & no news has reached here that will not have got the U. S. some time before this. Lord Strang⟨   ⟩ the former Secy. of Legation & Charge d’Affs. has been appointed British Minister to this Court With the most perfect Consideration I have the honor to be Sir yr Mo. Ob. Servt.

William Jarvis

P. S. Also will accompany this His Excy. Mr de Araujo Note of the 25th. Novr. relative to discharge by Bi⟨ra⟩.

DNA: RG 59--CD--Consular Despatches, Lisbon.

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