James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eaton, 9 August 1802 (Abstract)

§ From William Eaton

9 August 1802, Tunis. Encloses copies of letters from chargé d’affaires at Tripoli1 and Captain Morris.2 These letters “serve to corroborate an opinion I have steadily entertained, and repeatedly stated to our commanders, of the necessity of having small vessels of war off and on this coast.” Points out that “there is no article in our treaty with this Bey which prohibits the sale of enemy prizes in his ports” and suggests that this could be advantageous “because it induces an idea of Security to the Tripoline Cruisers with prizes coming in here. The bay of Tunis is peculiarly favorable for intercepting these cruisers passing and repassing.” Has had no communication from any U.S. commander since the Constellation sailed from Tunis on 3 June. “And Captain McNiell being ordered home without touching here seems to me something extraordinary. Whatever may be Cap. Murray’s opinion of my measures, he ought not to sacrifice the interest of service to individual resentments. Government may as well send out quaker meeting-houses to float about this sea as frigates with Murrays in command.… Have we but one Truxton, and one Sterret in the United States?” Reports that “the arab camp called to the defence of Tripoli has undoubtedly been collected to defeat the project of Mahamet Bashaw.… If so, this amounts to unequivocal evidence of the influence that measure might have had in the war with Tripoli, if pushed to effect.” Has not informed Nissen of the project; “he appears totally uninformed of it.” The regency of Tunis is making new demands on the U.S., “among them the original demand of a vessel of war.” Will “yield no concessions.” Regrets that “our ships of war do not oftner show themselves here. The vicinity of this Regency to Tripoli, and their mutual commercial interests cannot leave the events of the war indifferent to the former.”3 Observes that he has received no advice from the U.S. since October 1801.

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