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To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 3 September 1802

From James Madison

Sep. 3. 1802

Dear Sir

I have duly recd. yours of the 30th. Ulto. with the several papers to which it refers. I have directed the commissions for Shore & Bloodgood to be made out, and have sent the extract from Clark’s letter as you required to Genl. Dearborn. He had however been made acquainted with it by Mr. Brent, before the letter was forwarded to me. May it not be as well to let the call for the Dockets be a rule of Congress, as there is no specific appropriation for the expence, and a regular call by the Ex. might not be regarded as within any contingent fund? to this consideration it may be added that the Ex. have no power over the Clerks of the Courts, & that some of them might refuse to comply from a dislike to the object. When the object was not known, there was a manifest repugnance in some instances. Your final determination in the case shall be pursued. I have thought also that it might be as well to postpone till the reassembling at Washington any general regulation with regard to the appointment of Commissioners of Bankruptcy; but shall in this case also cheerfully conform to your pleasure.

Mr. Brent informs me that he has sent you copies of Eaton’s letter of May 25–27. & Cathalan’s of June 10. It does not seem necessary that the communications1 of the former should be made the subject of further instructions till we receive further accts. from other sources. Thornton you will see is renewing the subject of the Snow Windsor, May he not be told that the remedy lies with the Courts, and not with the Ex. The absence of the Vessel can no more be a bar to it, than the sale was. It seems proper however that the irregularity in sending the vessel out without the legal clearance should be prosecuted. The law is I believe defective on this point. The Correspondent referred to in Steel’s letter is, I take it, Mr. Brown the Kentucky Senator.

Yours with respectful attachment

James Madison

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the U. States”; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Sep. and “Dockets—Commrs. bkrptcy Barbary affairs. Thornton & snow Windsor.—Steele” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Edward Thornton to Madison, 27 Aug., complaining that the snow Windsor remained at Boston for several months despite the U.S. government’s orders that the vessel leave the port; that the vessel was sold to a private individual and subsequently passed into other hands due to a bankruptcy; the sale of the vessel and its failure to depart promptly are violations of the treaty of amity between the United States and Great Britain; the Windsor was converted from a snow to a ship and has departed for the East Indies “without any regular papers from the Custom House” (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:523–4). (2) John Steele of Natchez to Madison, 20 June, concerning the “stain” that his removal from the office of secretary of the Mississippi Territory places on his reputation; he has learned that his removal was due to a report that he opposes William C. C. Claiborne; “I assure myself,” he writes, “that such is your love of Justice that you will take pleasure in expressing to the President of the United States my desire, that my Accuser may be made known to me, and that I may be indulged in attempting to shew the accusation is not founded in fact” (same, 3:326–8).

WHEN THE OBJECT WAS NOT KNOWN: in 1801 and early 1802, Madison and TJ compiled information about activity in U.S. circuit courts (Vol. 35:658n; Vol. 36:66, 638–40, 654–5, 658).

MR. BRENT INFORMS ME: in a letter to Madison on 31 Aug., Daniel Brent noted that he had sent TJ copies and extracts from correspondence of William Eaton and Stephen Cathalan, Jr. (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:529). EATON’S LETTER to Madison, begun at Tunis on 25 May, reported that Eaton had been summoned to the palace for a meeting with Yusuf Sahib-at-Taba, the master of the seal and prime minister, who conveyed an offer from Hammuda, the bey of Tunis, to serve as mediator between the United States and Tripoli. Eaton stated that he was “not vested with powers to negociate” terms to end the war, but was confident that Tripoli would need to “make suitable retractions for the insult offered our flag, and reasonable indemnities for the expense resulting from it.” When the prime minister argued persistently that the United States should give the bey of Tripoli “a small voluntary present” because it was customary to do so and because such an offering would cost the United States less than the expenses of continuing the war and protecting American shipping, Eaton replied that the United States “never supposed our commerce in this sea more secure than at present.” Tripoli, he declared, “has forfieted her title of Friend” and should not expect presents. According to Eaton’s report of the conversation, he told the Tunisian official that Americans “have no inducements whatever to desire a war with any nation on earth,” but if Tripoli insisted on “dishonorable” terms for peace, “four or five years of warfare with that State, will be but a pastime to our young warriors.” Eaton’s dispatch was enclosed in one to Madison from Cathalan at Marseilles (same, 258–61, 300; Kenneth J. Perkins, Historical Dictionary of Tunisia [Metuchen, N.J., 1989], 119).

COMMUNICATIONS OF THE FORMER: in his letter to Madison, Eaton also stated: “I am partial to my original plan of restoring the rightful Bashaw.” Since March 1802, Eaton had been promoting a plan to displace Yusuf Qaramanli as bey of Tripoli in favor of Yusuf’s brother Ahmad. Eaton enlisted the aid of James L. Cathcart and Yusuf Sahib-at-Taba, and, meeting with Ahmad in Tunis, discouraged him from returning to Tripoli and falling under his brother’s control. Eaton endeavored to keep Ahmad within the reach of the U.S. Navy and informed Cathcart on 21 May: “Lieutenant Sterret assures me that seven days ago the Bashaw Ciddi Mohammed”—that is, Ahmad—”was at Malta waiting the arrival of our Squadron—Captain McNeill signifies to me by letter of the 17th Inst, that this is by arrangement between them.” In September, Daniel Brent sent TJ an extract from Eaton’s letter to Cathcart that contained those statements about Ahmad and this news: “It is favorable to us here that the Captures of Tunisian merchant-men Complained of, have all been done by the Swedes—This Circumstance relieves me from incalculable perplexities with this Govt.” (RC in DLC, unsigned, in Brent’s hand, at head of text: “Extract of a letter from Wm Eaton to James Leander Cathcart, dated May 21st 1802,” endorsed by TJ as received from the State Department on 19 Sep. and “extract Eaton’s lre,” not recorded in SJL; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:5n, 45, 260, 519; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:97, 111–12, 239).

The WINDSOR had been an issue between Great Britain and the United States since the summer of 1801, after French and other prisoners took control of the vessel during a storm and brought it into Boston harbor. On 3 Sep. 1801, Gallatin had instructed Benjamin Lincoln to see that the ship left the jurisdiction of the United States even though TJ and his advisers did not believe they were obliged to expel the vessel. Following protests by British chargé Edward Thornton in April and June 1802, Gallatin informed Madison that the vessel was in the possession of Stephen Higginson’s company. As the sale was prohibited under the provisions of the Jay Treaty, the “present pretended owners will therefore receive neither clearance or any Kind of Papers from the Custom house Officers, in their own name,” Gallatin wrote. Madison declared to Thornton on 3 July that any remaining issues were “between those who owned and those who seized the vessel,” and “it is considered by the President that the Government of the United States is not obliged farther to interfere.” After receiving Thornton’s letter of 27 Aug., Madison asked Gallatin about Thornton’s new concerns. In December, Madison passed along to Thornton information and depositions that Gallatin collected in response to that query. The documents, Madison explained, showed that the delay in the ship’s departure was due to repairs, and that the original owners had failed to take action to forestall the disposition of the vessel. Earlier, Thornton had admitted privately to his government that there was little chance of winning any “pecuniary compensation” from the United States, and he believed that pressing the matter of “the culpable negligence, if not the intentional misconduct” of the customs officials at Boston would give TJ a reason to remove more Federalists from office (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:115–16, 351–2, 358, 361–2, 524n, 551n; 4:16, 104n, 174–5; Vol. 35:37–9, 79, 81, 110, 124–5, 159n).

Madison was correct in surmising that a person whom John Steele called “my Friend (who I presume is known to you)” was Senator John brown, who had met with TJ and Madison about Steele’s situation (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:326–7; Vol. 36:389).

1Word abbreviated in MS, “commications.”

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