James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James McGreggar, 13 August 1807

St. Thomas 13th. August 1807


I had the Honor of addressing you on the 21st. ulto ⟨infor⟩ming you of my arrival here, a Triplicate of which is enclosed ⟨I⟩ have several times visited the Officers of this Government ⟨with⟩ a view of cultivating a good understanding with them. I find ⟨that⟩ a Consul cannot be acknowledged here untill he is first ⟨ac⟩knowledged in Denmark, which might be easily accomplish⟨ed⟩ by informing his Danish Majestys Charge D’Affaires ⟨of the⟩ appointment and requesting him to notify his Govern⟨me⟩nt of the same.

The Commerce of the United States is ⟨ma⟩terially affected by the very enormous Charges of Protests and Surveys, which are not permitted to be executed by me. A Protest ⟨wil⟩l cost from Thirty two to Sixty four Dollars. The Notarys fees ⟨   ⟩ not authorised to administer an oath. It will cost nearly ⟨the⟩ same sum if sworn to before the Judge, he being the ⟨only⟩ person authorised to administer an oath. To call a ⟨Su⟩rvey & extend a Protest regularly with the necessary ⟨do⟩cuments, will amount nearly to the value of a small Vessel.

The situation I am at present placed in, is extremely disag⟨ree⟩able, not having it in my power to make a remonstrance ⟨to⟩ this Government if necessary, as I am not considered as a Public Character.

A circumstance took place yesterday w⟨hich⟩ much excited my sensibility, an American Seaman, w⟨ho⟩ had been impressed in the British service on board the B⟨rig⟩ Geolan, Lieutenant Clement Commander, being on sho⟨re⟩ with the Boat of said Brig, came to my Office, produc⟨ed⟩ his protection (of which the enclosed is a true Copy) an⟨d⟩ claimed my interference in getting him released from Brit⟨ish⟩ Slavery, I immediately waited on Commandant Von Scholten with the protection, and informed him of ⟨the⟩ Circumstance, assuring him that the said Seaman was American, and regularly protected by the United Sta⟨tes⟩ and requested him to be surrendered to me. The Commandant informed me that he had already given th⟨e⟩ Commanders of British Men of War on this Station the assurance, that every deserter, of whatever Nation he mig⟨ht⟩ be (except Danes) should not only be given up when demanded, but that he had ordered the Police Officers to arrest & put them in Confinement till called for, and tha⟨t⟩ as I had already acknowledged to him, that the Deser⟨ter⟩⟨ was⟩ in my possession, he should consider me responsible for ⟨the⟩ delivery of him on board his Vessel. I returned much ⟨cha⟩grined, took a Copy of his protection, and requested him ⟨to retur⟩n to the Boat, assuring him that I would see his ⟨Com⟩mander, and make a demand of him, the Seaman ⟨went⟩ to the Wharf, where he left the Boat, but she was gone ⟨I⟩ went in search of the Officer, and on my return to my ⟨Office⟩ I found the said Seaman there in custody of a Police ⟨Offic⟩er; who took him out of my Office, and conducted him ⟨to the⟩ Fort. Lieutenant Clement came on shore in the afternoon I was the first who gave him information respecting said ⟨Sea⟩man, and at the same time I made a demand of him as a ⟨Citizen⟩ of the United States, he made use of the expressions that Officers of the English Navy are accustomed to, that he ⟨knew⟩ him to be an Englishman, and that he had bought ⟨the pr⟩otection since he came on shore, that he could purchase ⟨as ma⟩ny as he pleased for Two Dollars, &Ca, and that I might ⟨ask⟩ a higher price, for by God he would not deliver him up.

I then waited on the Commandant with Lieutenant ⟨Clem⟩ent & there had the mortification of seeing an Ameri⟨can⟩ Citizen delivered up to a British Officer as a Deserter

I assure you, that nothing but strict observance ⟨of⟩ my standing instructions, and your Circular of the 1st: July 1805, prevented me from expressing the Sentiments that flowed from my heart on the occasion

This day Captn: Tallman of the Schooner Governor McKean of Philadelphia, lately captured and carri⟨ed⟩ to Tortola for adjudication, called and informed me that he had three of his Seamen impressed at Torto⟨la⟩ Vizt Thomas Maccumber, John Galeway and Pete⟨r⟩ Lewis, who were all Citizens of the United States, an⟨d⟩ that they were on board his Britannic Majestys ⟨   ⟩ Port. I have the Honor to be very Respectfully Sir Your M. Obt. St.

James McGregg⟨ar⟩

DNA: RG 59—CD—Consular Despatches, St. Thomas.

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