James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Murray Forbes, 4 December 1807


Hamburg 4th. December 1807


Regarding, as I do, the total suspension of our trade as an almost inevitable consequence of the present rival vexations of the belligerents, I should visit the U. S. this fall, but, the crisis which our commerce is experiencing in this vicinity renders it highly incompatible with my professed fidelity that I should abandon my post at such a moment. Besides, I flatter myself, that whatever may be the turn of events, I may have an opportunity of promoting the views of Government either here or in some other situation in Europe; in which case I hope Your Excellency is assured at least of my zeal and sincere patriotism. For the details of my deportment, under the most difficult circumstances, I could invoke the testimony of all here, with much greater confidence than I should dare to refer Your Excellency to the communications I have had the honor to make. The one would prove my zeal, while the others betray an inability, which I trust only that my motives will vindicate to the known Candor of Your Excellency. From the general circumstances of this City since I have held the Consulate, joined to the manner in which I have performed its Duties, I find myself in a State of pennyless poverty which I am far from being ashamed to avow. In thus exp⟨osing⟩ my situation to Your Excellency, my only hope is, th⟨at⟩ the benignity of Your character will magnify my humble claim on the protection, and that it may m⟨eet⟩ the views, of Administration, either to continue me he⟨re⟩ with a Salary competent at least to my support, or to honor me with some other appointment in whi⟨ch⟩ I can more acceptably serve my country and with gr⟨eater⟩ personal advantage. It is now impossible for m⟨e⟩ to fix on any other Consulate, as they are all filled, an⟨d⟩ it would be highly indelicate in me to anticip⟨ate⟩ the intentions of Government. Besides, a change of circumstances may render this more eligible. Of this, ho⟨wever,⟩ there is little hope during the present war. I shou⟨ld⟩ wish to have the option to accept an other or retain th⟨is⟩ or if I can have a temporary employment elsewhe⟨re⟩ retaining this place I can confide its duties to a pers⟨on⟩ of competent ability and discretion, and would, on the shortest notice, obey any new destination Government might be pleased to give me. Should Government decide on attaching Salaries to Consulates, it should be observed that this is the most expensive residence in Europe, not even excepting London.

I have too often and now too long occupied Your Excellency on my personal situation but, craving Your indulgence, I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Your Excellency’s very obedient Servant

J. M. Forbes

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

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