Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Stephen Higginson, 10 October 1803

From Stephen Higginson1

Boston, October 10, 1803. “I wrote to you several months since,2 & inclosed to you a State of facts &c relative to the seizure of the Diana at Lima, & requested your Opinion as to the validity of our Insurance.3 to that letter I have no answer, & am now apprehensive it never reached you; but if you have received it, & have had leisure to form a deliberate opinion on this Subject, I wish to have it as soon as may be convenient.… having obtained a copy of a regular condemnation, in Mr. Church’s case,4 by which they expect to avoid his demand, our Insurers are encouraged to hope They may in the same way get rid of Ours. But we believe that no condemnation ever has or will take place in the Diana’s case, to conclude against us. the property will remain in the hands of the Govr. at Lima, & those concerned with him in the seizure, an Appeal or reference of the case to the Spanish Govt in Madrid would deprive them of their plunder.…”

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1This letter concerns the seizure in 1800 of the cargo of the ship Diana, which was jointly owned by Stephen Higginson and Company and James and Thomas H. Perkins, merchants in Boston. The Diana left Boston in July, 1800, with a cargo consigned to a merchant in Guatemala who wished the cargo sold in either Lima, Peru, or Sonsonate, El Salvador. At Callao, the outpost of Lima, the Diana’s cargo was seized and sold. The money from the sale was “deposited in the Royal Chest subject to the order of his majesty.” The government of Peru allowed the Diana to depart, and she proceeded to El Salvador where the captain and crew were imprisoned. Samuel Burling, who was supercargo and who subsequently used the name Samuel Curson, then sailed the Diana “to China and thence to the Isle of France where she was sold” (“Memorial of James Perkins and others,” May 23, 1822 [DS, RG 76, Allowed Claims, 1821–1824, National Archives]). In 1802 Higginson and his associates appealed to Secretary of State James Madison for aid in obtaining restitution from the Spanish government (Madison to Charles Pinckney, March 27, 1802 [copy, RG 59, Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801–1906, All Countries, October 2, 1801–December 21, 1814, National Archives]), and in 1806 Burling (now Curson) was able through the intervention of the United States to obtain $20,000. He insisted, however, that he was owed an additional $53,798, which the Spanish government refused to pay on the ground that such money should be used as compensation for injuries sustained by Francisco de Miranda’s abortive expedition, which sailed from New York in 1806. The matter dragged on until 1819, when Spain and the United States concluded the Treaty of Amity, Settlement and Limits (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends I, 3–18). Article 9 of that treaty provided that Spain would renounce “all injuries caused by the expedition of Miranda that was fitted out and equipped at New York,” and Article 11 stated: “The United States, exonerating Spain from all demands in future, on account of the claims of their Citizens, to which the renunciations herein contained extend, and considering them entirely cancelled, undertake to make satisfaction for the same, to an amount not exceeding Five Millions of Dollars.” Acting under the provisions of this treaty, which went into effect in 1821, a joint commission allowed Claim No. 1315, which had been submitted by the owners of the Diana, and the United States paid them $43,619.11. For the records on which this summary is based, see RG 76, Records Relating to International Claims; Spain, Treaty of 1819 (Article XI) Spoliation, National Archives.

2Letter not found.

3Peter C. Brooks was underwriter for the cargo with the Boston Marine Insurance Company and the Massachusetts Fire and Insurance Company. Documents concerning the suit brought in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas by the owners of the Diana against the underwriters may be found in the Suffolk County Court House, Boston.

4John B. Church, Jr. v Tuthill Hubbart. See H to Theophilus Parsons, December 31, 1801.

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