James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from John Graham, 20 August 1810

From John Graham

Department of State 20th Augt 1810

Dear Sir

I had the Honor yesterday to receive your Letter of the 16th. and have this Morning been unsuccessfully employed in looking over Mr Bowdoin’s, Genl Armstrong’s, and Mr Skipwiths file, for the Paper a Copy of which you want.1 I shall renew the search tomorrow. We have no Parisian file in the office and as neither Mr Brent2 nor myself have any recollection of this Paper I have thought that you may possibly have seen it in the possession of the late President.

It does not appear from our Records that Mr Barnet has been particularly instructed to deliver the Papers he received from Mr Skipwith. From a Memo you once made3 it appeared to be your wish that such instructions should be sent to him; but in the same Memo you referred the Secy of State to Mr Skipwith who was then expected here, application was accordingly made to him when he arrived, and he stated that he had directed Mr Barnet to send the Books which had been the object of contest to the Department of State.4 Hence, I presume, no particular Instructions were sent from this office, as to them.

I inclose a Copy of a Letter just received from Genl Armstrong.5 The original goes today to Mr Smith who is now I presume in Baltimore. There is a Letter from Mr Warden of the 12th June but it contains nothing new. With Sentiments of the Highest Respect I have the Honor to be, Sir Your Most Obt Sert

John Graham

RC and enclosure (DLC). Both docketed by JM. Enclosure (2 pp.) in a clerk’s hand; marked “(Copy)” (see n. 5).

1JM recently had received John Armstrong’s letter of 6 May 1810 and evidently was seeking the document Armstrong referred to in the letter.

2Daniel Brent was a clerk in the Department of State (PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (1 vol. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986-). description ends , 1:350 n. 2).

3Document not found.

4The books referred to were the same consular registers Armstrong had been seeking from Isaac Cox Barnet after Skipwith had left France in September 1808. The minister believed that Skipwith had given them to Barnet, and in May 1809 he suspended Barnet from his consular duties after the latter refused to turn them over. Barnet protested that the suspension was illegal and further argued that Armstrong had no right to the registers as they were private rather than public documents. Barnet, moreover, told the secretary of state in June 1809 that he did not have the registers in his possession, though he did admit that he had “true copies” of some of Skipwith’s letters and papers in his own personal records. If Skipwith did not bring the registers with him when he left France, Barnet must have forwarded them to the U.S. sometime after Skipwith’s departure. The volumes were delivered to the State Department by Skipwith’s wife, Evalina van der Clooster Skipwith, on 23 Aug. 1810, and JM subsequently directed that they should be returned to Paris (Barnet to Robert Smith, 24 June 1809 [DNA: RG 59, CD, Paris]; John Graham to JM, 24 Aug. 1810; Graham to Jonathan Russell, 5 Oct. 1810 [DNA: RG 59, IM]).

5Graham enclosed a copy of Armstrong’s dispatch of 24 May 1810 announcing the official publication of the Rambouillet decree and discussing seizures of American property in Holland and France by the French Council of Prizes. The original dispatch, marked “copy taken for the President” by Graham, covered an extract (8 pp.) from the register of the Imperial Customs Office in Cherbourg (DNA: RG 59, DD, France).

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