Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 20 August 1802

From James Madison

Aug. 20. 1802

Dear Sir

The inclosed letters will shew the object of the Bearer Mr. Baker. From his conversation, I find that, placing Bourdeaux & Gibralter out of view, he wishes to be appd. as Consul, to Minorca, where he says a Consul will be admitted, now that it is again under the Spanish Government, and where he observes a consul may be of use to the U. States, particularly during our bickerings with the Barbary powers. I find from his conversation also that he is a native of Minorca, whilst under British Govt, but that he has been in the U. States about six years & is an American Citizen. Nothing has passed between us that can influence his expectations or calculations, of the result of his pursuit.

Always with affectionate respects yrs.

James Madison

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received from the State Department at Orange on 21 Aug. and “John Martin Baker to be consul [. . .]” (torn) but recorded in SJL as received 20 Aug. Enclosures (see 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 , 3:447–8, 451): (1) Frederick Weissenfels to Edward Livingston, New York, 28 July 1802, asking Livingston to recommend John Martin Baker, who is Weissenfels’s son-in-law, to be vice consul at Bordeaux or Gibraltar; Baker is “master” of the English, Spanish, French, and Italian languages, has “a General Knowledge” of commercial matters, and is of good character, which allows Weissenfels to “Vouch for his abilitys, Honor and Fidelity” (RC in DLC); see Enclosure No. 3. (2) Certificate, New York, 30 July, attesting to Baker’s knowledge of languages, good character, and commercial ability (RC in same; in Baker’s hand, signed by Weissenfels, William Tredwell, and John Casenave); see Enclosure No. 4. (3) Livingston to Madison, New York, 31 July 1802, enclosing Weissenfels’s letter (Enclosure No. 1); Livingston knew Baker at Philadelphia about four years ago, when Baker worked as clerk for a gentleman who had “very extensive concerns”; Livingston understands that Baker performed well in that job, has been engaged in “respectable” pursuits since that time, “is well acquainted with several of the Modern languages,” and “might be useful in the Office he solicits” (RC in same). (4) Aaron Burr to Madison, New York, 2 Aug. 1802, enclosing the certificate (Enclosure No. 2) at Weissenfels’s request; having served with Colonel Weissenfels during the Revolutionary War, Burr asserts that he was “a brave & Valuable officer, a man of integrity & honor”; Burr is not personally acquainted with Baker, but from his “knowledge of two of the persons attesting in his favor, I cannot doubt of the truth of their Certificate” (RC in same). (5) Weissenfels to Madison, New York, 3 Aug. 1802, recommending the bearer, Baker, “Whose object to your City is, to obtain an appointment from our Governement, in the Consular department” (RC in same).

Great Britain held the Mediterranean island of MINORCA for a number of years before 1756, again from 1763 to 1782, and from 1798 until 1802, when the island returned to Spanish control under the peace of Amiens along with most other Spanish possessions taken by the British in the 1790s. The port of Mahón (Maó), which the British developed in the eighteenth century as a naval base, was on the island (Miquel Àngel Casasnovas Camps, Història de Menorca [Mallorca, 2005], 312, 322–5, 356–61; Grainger, Amiens Truce description begins John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803, Rochester, N.Y., 2004 description ends , 33, 41; Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81, 231 vols. description ends , 56:292; Vol. 34:646).

HIS EXPECTATIONS: Baker wrote to Madison from New York on 28 Nov. 1802 to say that the islands of Majorca and Ibiza should be included in the consulate for Minorca and that he and his family were “ready to embark” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ as a letter from Baker to Madison and “to be Consul of Majorca Minorca Yvica”). Baker again wrote to the secretary of state from New York on 4 Jan. 1803, indicating that a ship would be leaving for the Mediterranean in three weeks and that Baker hoped to take advantage of that opportunity, “being particularly pressed through Mrs. Baker’s present situation” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ as from Baker to Madison and “to be Consul at Minorca”). TJ nominated Baker to be consul for Minorca, Majorca, and Ibiza early in February 1803 and signed a commission for him on 1 Mch. (commission in Lb in DNA: RG 59, PTCC; TJ to the Senate, 2 Feb. 1803).

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