James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jacob Wagner, 31 August 1801

From Jacob Wagner

Department of State: Washington,
31 Augt. 1801.

Dear sir

I have had the honor to receive, in due time, your letter of the last post.

I have written to Mr. Helmbold, to inform me of his terms for printing the laws in German, and, if they prove reasonable, shall direct him to proceed. The enclosed two letters, which I have written to the Collector of New York, will shew the footing on which the business of the Ragusan Brigantine stands.1 I expect in a day or two to receive his answer.

The vessel, relative to which I enclosed, in my last, a slip from the newspaper, proves to be, as she was stated, a Spanish privateer. The enclosed letters from the Secretary of the Treasury will explain the course he has taken.2 In reference to the question they present for solution, I have thought it would be acceptable to you to receive a collection of the authorities on the point, accompanied by Mr. Rawle’s opinion. That opinion was partially departed from by Genl. Washington in the instructions which were given to the Custom-houses in 1796.3 I have looked into Valin4 and find that in case of a prize coming in, in distress, the French allow the cargo to be stored until she is repaired, but nothing is said of a permission to sell part of it to defray the expense. I therefore consider the laws of France as prohibiting it. The law of Spain is, I believe, similar. From this I infer that the indulgence in question is peculiar to the United States. How far it should be extended to necessary repairs of the privateer, is for the President to decide.

On saturday evening last arrived Capt. Rogers of the Maryland, accompanied by Mr. Purviance, being the bearers of dispatches from France. You will find them enclosed.5 Mr. Smith has read them; but Mr. Gallatin is and has been this day or two absent in the country with a sick child.

As you will not have an opportunity of informing the President of their arrival by the same mail, by which you will receive them, I have taken the liberty of mentioning it to him in a note accompanying some letters for him received by the Maryland.

Mr. Graham is now here, and if he receives no direction from you by the mail of to morrow, he will probably wait upon you in Virginia. But he is not altogether determined, whether to do so or to remain here. In the latter case he would usefully employ himself in reading such documents in the office as may have a connection with his future duties. With the highest respect and esteem, I remain, Dr. sir, Your most obed. servt.

Jacob Wagner

P. S. I have thought it not amiss to send you the instructions of Mr. Dawson and of Mr. Murray6 & a copy of the letter of credence given to the latter.

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