James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Fitzsimmons, 18 February 1808

Philada. Chamber of Commerce February 18th. 1808


There has Just been published here, a decree of the Emperor and King, dated at Milan, on the 11th. of December last, which (altho Unauthenticated) taken in Conniction with his decree of November 1806, and other Circumstances, is beleived to be substantially Correct It has had the effect of Creating great Anxiety Among the Merchants of this City, particularly those Concerned, in the trade to India, as it is understood to Subject to Capture all ⟨   ⟩ Vessels, bound to or Coming from any of the British Possessions

The property at Risk, to and from Ports, beyond the Cape of Good hope is that Which is likely to be most Affected by this decree. It is very large on most of it now on its return home. The ships are without the means of defence, and the Captains unapprized, of any danger, from French Cruizers

Under these circumstances, the Members of the chamber of Commerce have requested me, to obtain a List of the Vessels now on Voyages from this port, to Calcutta & China, with an estimate of their Value And to transmit them to you for the purpose of being laid before the President of the US.

I have in conformity had such lists prepared And now transmit them praying that You may take an Early Opportunity, of Laying them before the President During the last Summer the Secy. of the Treasury had Communicated, to him, a List of the Vessels of the United States, then on Voyages, to ports beyond the Cape of Good Hope A Reference to those lists will shew the Magnitude, of the Object, and will I trust be a Sufficient apology for the expectation entertained, that it would engage the Attention of Government

It may not be unusefull to remark that altho the China Vessells do not appear to be Implicated, by the terms of the decrees, as published Yet Serious apprehensions are entertained that under the present Aspect of affairs, they would be detained under an expectation, that Subsequent events, would sanction their Capture Should they even be released after capture the plunder and detention Consequent would be Ruinous to the American owners.

The principle danger apprehended is from privateers, fitted out from french, & Spanish Colonys, The Numbers of or force of which are not at present considerable but will no doubt be Considerably augmented, in Consequence of these decrees.

Anxious as the Merchants undoubtedly are for the fate of this Immense property, they do not presume to do more than to submit thier Case, to the Government Consoling themselves with the hope, that such Measures will be adopted, as the Nature of the Case, and the state of public affairs, will warrant

Should any Cooperation on their part be deemed Necessary, they will most cheerfully, afford it

And will be thankfull for any Information You will please to Communicate, on Account of this application I am With respect Sir Yr ⟨   ⟩ hble Servt.

Thos FitzSimons
Presidt. Philada. Chamber Commerce

DNA: RG 59—ML—Miscellaneous Letters.

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