James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Richard Rush, 20 [ca. 26] August 1815

To Richard Rush

Montpelier Aug. 20. [ca. 26] 1815

Dear Sir

The inclosed letter from Commodore Patterson inclosed to me by Mr. Homans, presents several points on which your advice to him may be useful, so far as the instructions already issued from one or other of the Departments be found inadequate. It seems entirely proper that naval protection if it can be spared, should be employed agst. the Carthaginian Corsairs, in pursuance of the rules lately settled & prescribed.1 The letter also inclosed from Robt. Harrison, to the Secretary of State, merits the attention of the Navy Department.2

The questions arising, on the letter from Govr. Claiborne to the Secry. of State, are whether the armed force of the U.S. naval and military ought to be employed to arrest the enterprizes agst. the Spanish Provinces; and whether a Proclamation from the Ex. of the U.S. be or be not necessary in the case.3 I will thank you to look into the precedents on these subjects, and to ascertain by enquiry in the proper Depts. the precise course to be observed in the event of an interposition by force, and the form of a Proclamation, in case one should be issued. It may be well also to see in the Dept. of State, the last letters from Mr. Monroe to Mr. Onis.4 The latter has renewed his complaints since, with all the point he could give to them.

I must trouble you with another subject which is stated in the letter from the Comr. of the General Land office.5 Is the law which provides for the removal of intruders on the pub: lands by military force, applicable to the case of forfeiture as stated? What is the precise course, proper, in the application of such a force, in relation to the martial and the military officer? The proceedings in the case of the Batture at N. O. will probably answer the latter question; and will be found, in the respective Depts.6

The copy of a letter from Mr. Crawford states another case on which I wish the favour of your opinion.7 Accept my great esteem & cordial regards

James Madison

RC (NHi: Gilder Lehrman Collection, on deposit). Docketed by Rush, with his note: “Received the 29. Acknowledged receipt same day. … Sep: 2. answered fully.” For surviving enclosures, see nn. 2–3 and 7.

1No letter to the Navy Department from Capt. Daniel Patterson dated in the summer of 1815 and having to do with the use of U.S. Navy vessels against South American pirates or privateers has been found. It is possible, however, that JM enclosed Patterson’s 21 July 1815 letter to Benjamin W Crowninshield from New Orleans (DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters; 3 pp.), which stated that the owner of a vessel burned at Barataria by U.S. Navy forces had sued Patterson for damages, had made false allegations with regard to the circumstances of the case, had engaged “American Counsel,” and might prevail in court because the jury would no doubt include “persons more or less connected” with the Baratarian freebooters. Patterson recommended that vessels captured from the Baratarians be sent in future to other ports, where fair and timely adjudication of the cases would be more likely. On 11 Aug. 1815, Patterson informed Crowninshield that owing to legal technicalities, the navy officers and crews at New Orleans who had captured enemy ships during the war had received “no prize money whatever,” and that they planned to appeal this outcome to the secretary of the Treasury and to Congress if necessary (ibid.; 1 p.).

2JM enclosed a 17 July 1815 letter to James Monroe from Robert Harrison (3 pp.; DNA: RG 59, CD, St. Thomas), stating that U.S. ships sailing near St. Thomas were subject to capture by privateers, and that American vessels had recently been sold to foreigners there, complete with flag and papers, for fraudulent purposes.

3JM evidently enclosed William C. C. Claiborne’s 26 July 1815 letter to Monroe (4 pp.; DNA: RG 59, ML; printed in Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends , 6:359–60), reporting that two expeditions against royalist forces in Mexico were being prepared in Louisiana; that despite evidence to the contrary offered by Claiborne, the public believed that JM’s administration secretly supported these efforts; and that federal force would be necessary to put a stop to them.

4For Monroe’s recent communication with Luis de Onís on the subject of illegal incursions into Spanish territory, see Monroe to JM, 14 Aug. 1815, and n. 1.

6For the Batture controversy, see PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 2:34 n. 5.

7The enclosed copy has not been found, but Rush’s 2 Sept. 1815 reply to this letter indicates that it was William Harris Crawford’s 20 Aug. 1815 letter to JM. The fact that Rush did not receive the present letter until 29 Aug. suggests that although JM may have begun it on 20 Aug., he likely finished and mailed it up to six days later, after receiving Crawford’s letter.

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