James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Leander Cathcart, 4 July 1802 (Abstract)

§ From James Leander Cathcart

4 July 1802, Leghorn. No. 8. Enclosures A1 and B,2 along with his dispatch no. 7 which was forwarded by the Liberty on 3 June, relate all information of importance on U.S. affairs with Tripoli and Tunis. Tripolitan cruisers have been frequently at sea since the war began, and this at a time when the extent of American commerce “never was so valuable.” Has seen twenty-four American ships “in this port at once last year—two thirds of whom were unarmed.” Wishes something may be done “to prevent … our merchant ships from passing up the Mediterranean unarmed & without convoy.” Suggests that this could be effected “by govt. declaring, that the seamen captured under certain predicaments would not be redeemed at the publick expence.”

“The Bashaw of Tripoli seems disposed to enter into a treaty with us, but upon what terms he has not yet declared; Mr. Eaton informs me that a proposition of peace on the part of the Bashaw of Tripoli came thro’ the Bey of Tunis, when it was proposed that the latter should be mediator & Guarantee; Mr. Eaton answd. that we prefer peace to war—when we can obtain it upon honorable terms, but not otherwise.… But I presume that the President will not find it conducive to our interests to admit any other mediators.… We would do well to confide in the strength of our own arms only, any other dependence … will ultimately prove fallacious & we shall undoubtedly become the dupe of our own credulity.”

Believes the “National dignity” was wounded by the Swedish admiral’s declaration that the U.S. could not negotiate with Tripoli without consulting Sweden, while at the same time he was trying to conclude a separate peace; “this Stratagem … was as mean as unjustifiable.” Nissen has rendered the U.S. “as great Services as we had any right to expect from the Agent of a foreign Nation, but it is by no means ungenerous to beleive that … he would be happy if we would continue the war until Denmark concluded on terms of permanent Peace with Tripoli.” Nissen fears that U.S. peace negotiations might “either serve to precipitate the war with Denmark or oblige them to Concessions.” Notes that in these negotiations “the most intelligent Officer who has not a knowledge of the Language & manners & Customs of Barbary may be led astray by specious pretences,” despite the best intentions. Requests “instructions founded on fix’d principles & couched in terms explicit & concise.” Repeats his request for credit to furnish him with cash. Notes in a postscript his receipt of “the pamphlets alluded to in your last.”

Index Entries