James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Edme-Étienne Borne Desfourneaux, 1 December 1811 (Abstract)

§ From Edme-Étienne Borne Desfourneaux

1 December 1811, Château de Cézy, Paris. Does not know whether JM will recall his name1 or whether the request he is about to make will seem indiscreet. Mentions by way of justification the service he was able to render Mr. Brown and several of his compatriots in 1794 while he had command in Saint-Domingue. Family matters have called Mme Desfourneaux to New York, and he has learned from her letters that she would have returned to France by now had she had a safe opportunity to do so. Would be most happy if JM would be so good as to allow Mme Desfourneaux a passage on board an armed vessel of the U.S. on the express condition that she pay the costs on the spot. Recalls with pleasure the time he spent as governor of Guadeloupe and the occasion, on 15 Dec. 1798, on which he sent home on the Retaliation American citizens who had been kept prisoner by Victor Hugues.2 Hopes one day to be able to show to the former worthy allies of France the high consideration he has for them.

RC, three copies (DLC). 2 pp.; in French. Each RC docketed by JM. One of the RCs may have been enclosed in William Lee to JM, 12 Apr. 1812.

1JM may have recalled the name of Desfourneaux from the 19 Feb. 1799 letter he received from Jefferson (see PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 17:233, 236 n. 1).

2On 20 Nov. 1798 the U.S. schooner Retaliation, commanded by Lt. William Bainbridge, had been captured by the French frigates L’Insurgente and Le Volontaire. The Retaliation was then taken to Guadeloupe where its crew was imprisoned under harsh conditions by Victor Hugues, the agent of the French Directory on the island. Desfourneaux, who had recently arrived from France to replace Hugues and who chose to regard Americans as allies rather than as enemies, released the crew of the Retaliation, authorizing Bainbridge to return the vessel to the U.S. on the condition that he not molest any French vessels en route (Bainbridge to Benjamin Stoddert, 3 Jan. 1799, Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France [7 vols.; Washington, 1935–38], 2:122–24).

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