James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, 1 June 1801

From Albert Gallatin

Treasury Department 1st June 1801

The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor to return to the Secretary of State Mr Pichon’s letter,1 and to send also sundry papers2 on the same subject with the remarks of the Comptroller endorsed on the same.

The only objection to paying the specie part of the debt & the interest on the funded part is the demand we have against France for advances made to the Refugees of San Domingo.3

Those advances were made in the year 1794 without the consent of the French Govt. having been obtained. On the 16th June 1795, the account of the United States with France was settled and a balance of more than two millions of dollars in certificates paid by the U. States. Hence it is obvious that unless an assumption on the part of the French Govt. has taken place since that time, it cannot be understood by this Govt. that we have any right to charge them for it. It does not appear from the files of this Department that any such assumption has taken place. The Secretary of State is respectfully requested to examine whether any trace of such assumption appears in his Department. If none shall be found, there will not be any objection in this Department to settle the business in conformity to Mr Pichon’s request.

Indeed, it seems to be understood, that the refusal of paying was owing to the state of hostilities then existing between the two nations; and the Supplies to the emigrants of San Domingo used as a plausible reason when it was not thought altogether eligible to disclose the true one.

In answer to the other enquiry of the Secretary of State, the Secy. of the Treasury has the honor to inform him, that the Collectors of Customs have never received instructions to refuse clearances for any foreign port, except in conformity to specific Acts of Congress for that purpose.

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