James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Henry Lee, 24 April 1812

From Henry Lee

Washington April 24h. 12

Dear Sir

I so reluctantly address you on private business, when I knew that yr. public dutys claim every moment of yr. time, that no consideration short of pecuniary importance could induce me to do it.

Learning from the S of State that Congress might possibly send a present of provisions to the distressed inhabitants of the Carracas,1 I suggested the hope that I might be entrusted with its presentment. I wish no emolument for so doing being satisfied with the welcome which it will be sure to attach to my visit.

You was pleased to tell me that whenever a supplemental law to the embargo law, should pass embracing my case that you would do for me what might be requisite.

This law has I beleive passed2 & a vessel with the cargo contracted for by the Spanish deputys has been prepared.

It is only necessary for me to bring this matter to yr. mind & I will only add my best wishes & deep respect.

H: Lee

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1On 22 Apr. news reached Baltimore of the severe earthquake that had destroyed much of the city of Caracas, Venezuela, in the days following 25 Mar. 1812. The National Intelligencer reported the event on 23 Apr., and on 29 Apr. Rep. Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina introduced a resolution authorizing the president to purchase flour for the relief of the earthquake victims. The desire to send humanitarian aid was not the subject of any disagreement in Congress, but there was some debate over whether any relief measure could be implemented without lifting the recently imposed embargo. A bill authorizing the president to purchase “such provisions as he shall deem advisable, and to tender the same in the name of the government of the United States to that of Venezuela” subsequently passed both houses of Congress by 6 May 1812, and JM signed it two days later. A sum not to exceed $50,000 was appropriated to carry out the measure (Niles’ Weekly Register, 2 [1812]: 131–32, 151–52; Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 226–28, 1348–51, 1366, 1378; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:730; Harold A. Bierck, Jr., “The First Instance of U.S. Foreign Aid: Venezuelan Relief in 1812,” Inter-American Economic Affairs, 9 [1955]: 47–59).

2Lee referred to a bill “authorizing the departure of ships and vessels from the ports and harbors of the United States, in certain cases,” which had been introduced in the House of Representatives on 15 Apr. The bill passed the House on 17 Apr., but at the time Lee wrote to JM it had only been ordered to a third reading in the Senate. The Senate passed the measure the next day (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 211, 212, 1321, 1323).

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