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To James Madison from John Mercer and Others, 3 December 1804 (Abstract)

§ From John Mercer and Others

3 December 1804, Paris. “The inclosed are Copies of Letters which relate to the Business in which we have been engaged.1 Should the money appropriated for the Commission be received while we are here, our accompts will be closed and forwarded.”2

RC and enclosures, two copies (DNA: RG 76, Preliminary Inventory 177, entry 119, France, Convention of 1803 [Spoliation], Correspondence); letterbook copy (dated 1 Dec. 1804) and letterbook copy of enclosures (ibid.). First RC 1 p. Second RC marked “Duplicate.”

1The commissioners enclosed copies of their correspondence with Amsterdam bankers Willink and Van Staphorst between 11 Sept. and 18 Oct. 1804 (4 pp.; printed in Maclure, To the People of the U.S. [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 12968], 95–96), in which they stated that in a 23 Mar. 1804 letter JM said that the United States would place a credit of $18,555.54 with the bankers for their use (see JM to Robert R. Livingston, 23 Mar. 1804, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 6:612–13). Willink and Van Staphorst replied that although they had received a remittance from Gallatin on 31 May for “defraying the expences incident” to the Louisiana Purchase treaty and conventions, they had received no instructions from JM. The commissioners sent them JM’s 23 Mar. letter, but the bankers replied that they could not disperse the funds without explicit orders from JM, especially since John Armstrong did not have “those specific orders which will justify his disposing of the remittance … or … enable him to authorize us thereto.” For JM’s reasoning in not sending instructions to Willink and Van Staphorst, see JM to Albert Gallatin, 26 Mar. 1804, ibid., 6:619–20.

2The commissioners also enclosed copies of their correspondence with Armstrong between 18 Nov. and 1 Dec. 1804 (8 pp.; docketed by Brent; printed in Maclure, To the People of the U.S. [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 12968], 85–87, 96–98), in which they enclosed a list (not found but presumably identical to that enclosed in Mercer and others to JM, 25 Nov. 1804) of all the claims they had decided up to 21 Oct., including twenty-five which the French Council of Liquidation insisted were embraced by the convention but with which the commissioners disagreed. They asked Armstrong if the government considered their powers under the convention as extending beyond 21 Oct. 1804, “that being the day which completed the twelve months from the Exchange of Ratification.” Armstrong replied that he had no such information but that he could tell them the government had given no precise description of the form for award vouchers, leaving that to Livingston, who had agreed with Marbois that the mandat of the French government would be a sufficient voucher. The commissioners requested Armstrong’s assistance in dealing with Willink and Van Staphorst, to which he replied that if they would send him the name of the bankers on whom they drew in Paris and their accounts he would order repayment. They also included a copy (not found), requested by a “Mr. Biddle,” of the opinions they had rendered in “a particular Case,” adding that they were not “to be considered as connected in any manner with steps that have been or may be adopted in relation to the american Claims after the expiration of our Duties here.”

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