James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Robert Smith, 26 July 1810

To Robert Smith

Montpelier July 26. 1810

Dear Sir

I return herewith the letters from Vanderhorst,1 & Bernabeu.2 It would have been better if Lowry had more carefully concealed his destination.3 The case of the Spanish Goods landed from the French privateer, must be decided by the result of the judicial enquiry into the character of the latter.4 If equipped from our jurisdiction, the capture gives a claim to restitution. If not so equipped, the law as it stands in relation to prize goods brought into the U. S. must decide on the course to be pursued. It would seem proper to transmit the representation of Bernabeu, to the Collector & the District Attorney, with a request to the latter to do what may be right in the cases.

I find by a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, that another insult to our National Flag, has been offered by a British Commander. I have desired him to communicate to you the circumstances of the case; on which you will please to found whatever instruction to Mr. Pinkney, they may render proper. Accept my respects & best wishes.

James Madison

RC (DNA: RG 59, ML). Docketed by John Graham, with his notation: “write to Mr P touching the affair of the Vixen.”

1Elias Vander Horst had been consul at Bristol since 1792. JM had probably been reading his 24 May 1810 dispatch to the State Department, reporting on a growing grain shortage in Great Britain as well as on the efforts of American merchants to trade with Great Britain in both American and Spanish goods (DNA: RG 59, CD, Bristol).

2Juan Bautisa Bernabeu to Robert Smith, 17 and 18 July 1810 (DNA: RG 59, NFL, Spain).

3In his 17 July letter, Bernabeu—the Spanish consul at Baltimore—referred to rumors that JM had appointed Robert K. Lowry as commercial agent at Caracas. Bernabeu pointed out that not only were such agents not permitted in Spain’s American provinces but that Lowry would certainly not be admitted to Caracas, which was then in a state of insurrection. Hinting that Lowry’s appointment would harm relations with Spain, Bernabeu requested the State Department to inform him whether there was any truth to the rumors.

4On 18 July, Bernabeu complained of the activities of a French privateer, La Revanche du Cerf, which, he stated, had berthed at Norfolk, Virginia, with items seized from Spanish vessels. He requested the State Department to give orders to collectors in U.S. ports to detain similarly seized Spanish property until it could be reclaimed by its owners.

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