James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Pinckney, 24 July 1802

From Charles Pinckney

Madrid 24th July 1802

Dear Sir

Some time since I received a Letter from Thos. Clifton, praying that I would take measures to release him from confinement in Coruña, where he had been detained a Prisoner, by the Orders of Mr Robert Montgomery of Alicante. In consequence of this Letter I wrote to Mr Montgomery to give me a statement of the transaction. I annex his answer, as also Cliftons account of the Affair, thinking it the best means I have, of laying this Case before you, on which I ask your Instructions.1

I do not find that the Laws of the United States make any provision for it, I therefore do not feel myself at Liberty to proceed, without your advice, more particularly as it involves private Rights, and as the measures adopted now, may hereafter be drawn into precedent, on similar occasions. It is to be lamented that this poor man should be detained so long without a trial; but I do not feel myself authorized to bring him to a trial in Spain, and I was fearful if I sent him Home in a Merchant Vessel, he might make his Escape, and avoid that punishment which ought to be inflicted on him, if he is guilty of Barratry.

The Letters annexed to this contain all the material information, I have been able to collect on this Subject, excepting that Mr Montgomery has withdrawn the support hitherto allowed by him to Clifton, and of consequence until your directions are received, he will be maintained at the expence of the United States. With great respect & regard I am dear sir Yours Truly

Charles Pinckney

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