James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Jacob Wagner, 17 August 1801

From Jacob Wagner

Dep. State, 17 Augt. 1801.

Dear sir

I was duly honored with your favor of the 8th. The demurrage of the Peace and Plenty was advantageously settled, on the terms mentioned in the enclosed letter from the Purveyor,1 and the money has been paid. I am sorry that it should have been encreased by the tardiness of Capt. Shaw.

With respect to printing the laws in a german paper in Pennsylvania, I promised Mr. Gallatin, that I would not act until I mentioned to you what he states to have been an objection in the legislature of that State to printing them in that language; which was that it would be giving two texts of the law. This certainly would be an objection to giving the german text a legal sanction; but none, I conceive, to publishing a translation, rendered upon the responsibility of the editor of a gazette only, tho’ paid for by the public, and designed to furnish an imperfect light to those who are now in utter darkness. Very many Germans in that state understand no other language but their own.

Mr. Dallas, who was lately here, brought another communication from Mr. Beveridge.2 I have therefore united, in a letter to Mr. Pinckney, a reference of that claim and another of a very serious nature from Capt. Dulton of Petersburg. You will find a letter from Capt. Dulton enclosed.3

Mr. Soderstrom proposes that one of the District Attornies should appear and defend the suits he has brought and is about to bring against our naval commanders, on behalf of Danish subjects. I see no objection to the measure, unless it should be considered as one, that he should negotiate at all about the business, after the arrival of a Danish Minister and Consul General. In England the King’s advocate appears to all suits brought against his sea-officers.

Enclosed are further communications from that Minister.4 I have prepared an exequatur for him as Consul General. The President will, I presume, dispense with the exhibition of the original commission, which seems to be incorporated with the Letter of Credence, until he receives both together.

In consequence of receiving Mr. Cabot’s answer to your letter, I have collected all the documents which may have a tendency to elucidate his claim, and covered them with some remarks of my own.5

Enclosed is an agreement to refer two interfering claims to a patent for an invention.6 You will find the law in the 2nd. vol. p. 204. s. 9. I pray you to sign the reference and direct me how to fill up the blank left for the name of your referee. I am told the Collector of Hudson7 is a respectable man and suitable for this purpose.

The letter of Mr. Yznardi8 would be an extraordinary one, if it came from any-body else. An allowance is to be made for his peculiar temper. It is written in bad Spanish, and therefore I have not been able to convert it into good english.

I enclose Mr. Hamilton’s answer to my application for the discharge of one of the seamen detained on board the Andromache.9

A disagreeable subject remains for me to notice. On the 12th. I received voluminous dispatches from Consul Eaton, by a Ragusan Brigantine, arrived at New York, and which he thought him self justified in hiring for 8000 dollars. As she had a four months passage she brings nothing new except a letter from the Bey of Tunis containing a civil demand of 40 twenty four pounders. I have the honor to enclose the principle dispatches, of which but two or three of the last from Eaton are alone worth your perusal, and the charter party.10 From the latter you will observe, that the vessel is bound to take back a cargo, if tendered. I offered her to the Secretary of the Navy to transport a cargo of munitions and provisions for our squadron in the Mediterranean, but his agents have already hired vessels sufficient for that purpose. We are not in debt to Tripoli or Tunis, and therefore we shall have no cargo for her, unless you determine to send something more to the Dey of Algiers. The following statement may be of service in making up your opinion.

Two years annuities are not settled for: one other will become due next month. It will be expedient, perhaps, to remain in debt one year’s annuity constantly. Suppose Capt. Dale commutes, with the 30,000 dollars he has, for one year: on the other, the George Washington carried out property which cost $29,229 44/100. There had before been received by the Regency property supposed by Mr. OBrien to neat about $5000, when set off against the annuity, but when compared with the real cost of the annuity to us, it must be estimated at $18,500. Adding therefore the two sums

$47,729..44 are paid on the years annuity, which deducted from
 80,000—– the estimated cost of a year’s annuity, leaves a balance of

 32,270..66 dollars, due upon it. It ought also to be kept in view, that it is by no means certain, that the Dey will accept the $30,000 carried by Capt. Dale, in lieu of a year’s annuity. I ought also to remind you, that

the biennial present, due this month, is estimated at $13,500
on which we sent, in cloth and linen, by Capt. Dale   2,761
Leaving to be provided for the sum of $10,739

In OBrien’s letter of the 5th. April, enclosed in Mr. Kirkpatrick’s of 28th. May,11 you will observe a demand of the Dey for some powder and ball, of which I make the following estimate.

500 bbls. powder weight 25 tons cost say 20,000
4000 balls of 24 lb do. 48 do  do } 10,000
4000  do 18 do. do. 36 do  do
4000  do 12 do do. 24 do  do
133 tons $30,000

As these articles can be had, in all probability, from the Navy-stores, if you decide to send any thing back in the vessel, you will perhaps send them.

Mr. Eaton could have relied, with more certainty, on his dispatches reaching us quickly, by an unusual multiplication of copies, than by the extraordinary and expensive measure of hiring a vessel. I have had no communication from the Captain; but judging it to be not impossible, that she either brought here or might be designed to take back something for him, I have written to the Collector of New York to make enquiry, and also to inform me of her tonnage and whether she is a staunch vessel. The suspicion I allude to may be unjust and ungenerous, but considering the peculiarity of the Charter-party and other circumstances in reference to him, I hope you will excuse me.

A want of circumspection is at least imputable to him in hiring a vessel to go from Tunis to the United States and back again, in a case which did not absolutely require it. I have not the least doubt that the occurrence suggested to the Bey his demand of the cannon, as a fairer opportunity could not have presented itself, especially in the present posture of our affairs, for effecting a demand. I hope it will be repelled.

As I daily expect to be called upon for the first half of the freight, I should be glad to hear whether you have any objection to paying it. If it shall not appear that she was loaded by Mr. Eaton, I suppose we must pay it; and if it should even be otherwise, I am not prepared to say we can avoid it.12

In Mr. Smith’s No. 50.13 is a copy of a letter from OBrien of the 24 May, referring to a letter from Cathcart of the 17th. April, when no change had taken place in our affairs, which, in OBrien’s opinion, would be still further steadied by the Dey’s strong letter of the 16th. April. With perfect respect, I have the honor to be, Dear sir, Your most obed. servt.

Jacob Wagner

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