James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Tobias Lear, 19 August 1801

From Tobias Lear, 19 August 1801

No. 7.

Cape François, August 19th: 1801.


Dr. Stevens’ departure being delayed two days beyond the time he expected to sail, gives me an opportunity of writing this, in addition to my letter of the 17th.

Two British frigates appeared off this harbour on the 17th., and continued there until last evening. One was the Trent—the other not known. The latter boarded the Am. Schooner Commerce, Capt Ingersoll, from Salem, coming into this port, and after a strict examination of his papers suffered him to come in. I have not heard of their having captured any Am. Vessels; but several sailed from this place while they were laying off.

I have the honor to enclose an Arrêtè of the Governor, which declares that no payments, excepting those already ordered, shall be made from the Treasury until all debts due to the public shall be paid. I am apprehensive that this will operate unfavourably to some of our Citizens, who may have sold articles to the Administration but not received orders for payment before the publica⟨tion⟩ of this Arrêtè. As yet I have had no complaints made to me on this subject. Shou’d any be brought forward, I shall not fail to represent to the Governor, in strong terms, the injustice as well as the impolicy of such a determination. He is still absent from this place, and his return is uncertain.

The Governor is determined to make Gonaïves the seat of Government in future, and he seems strongly bent upon endeavouring to make it a place of commercial importance. To effect this I presume he will reduce the import and export duties of that place so as to make it an object for Vessels to resort thither; but the Cape has, at present, so much the ascendency on this side of the Island that I imagine he will find it difficult to draw the trade from hence. The harbour of Gonaïves is a very fine one, and it is more conveniently situated for an intercourse with the Southern ports than this place, but the business and the Capital of the Merchants having centered here, it will not be easy to remove them. He has frequently pressed me to take up my residence at Gonaïves when the Government shall be fixed there, and desired that I would write to my Government to give me orders to that effect. That port is within the limits of my Agency, and I may find it for the interest of the United States that I should reside there, when it becomes the seat of Government, in which case I shall do so; but in full confidence that I shall continue to exercise my functions as Commercial Agent in this place.

Enclosed is the Arrêtè before mentioned, and a Procès verbal of the Ceremonies which took place on the proclamation of the Constitution. I shall continue to give you regular information of events which take place here; and it may also be necessary to say, that reports and accounts given by persons going from this place can be but little depended upon, unless they have had superior opportunities of gaining information, and have had no reasons to be unduly prejudiced. With sentiments of high respect & sincere Attachment I have the honor to be Sir, Your most Obedt. Sevt.

Tobias Lear.

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