James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eaton, 9 October 1802

From William Eaton

Tunis 9. Oct. 1802


The original letter of which the cipher, enclosure A.1 is a translated copy I forwarded by Captain Bounds on the 14th. ult.2 Its stile is indicative of a resolution in the author not to receive a negative. Other communications went forward by the same occasion too voluminous to be reduced to cipher. A recapitulation of some of the facts may be trusted to a precarious conveyance, together with additional occurrences since that date.

On the 28th. Aug. arrived from Algiers two French line of battle ships, a corvette and brig—Departed 19th. ult. having amicably adjusted affairs here, as at Algiers.3 The Admiral carried, as an expression of this Bey’s consideration for the first Consul, three lions, twelve horses and other presents. And a few days after his departure, the Commissary General is said to have received from the Bey a compliment of a tiskery4 for one thousand caffices of wheat; value at market fifteen thousand dollars of spain.

The French Government has lately presented the Bashaw of Tripoli a cruiser of ten guns. France has nothing to hope and less to fear from Tripoli; why then this gratuity at this peculiar moment?

The Danish Commodore Koefoed has again, this summer, negociated a peace with Tripoli under the guns of the United States;5 and Stipulated that the Danish Consul shall have no agency in the affairs of any nation but his own. In consequence of which I have addressed the Board of Barbary affairs at Copenhagen, enclosure B.6 The expression of his Danish Majesty to me was not an implied but a declared approbation of the Agency of his Consul in our affairs. If the Commodore possess the authority to nullify his Majesty’s pleasure at discretion both candor and consistency should have induced him to signify it to this Consulate; the medium through which he communicated his Master’s assurances to the Government of the United States. But, if those assurances were mere matter of compliment, there is now an occasion to explain them through the same medium.

On the 5. & 8. ult the UStates frigate Constellation appeared in this road bound to Naples and Leghorn; and thence down the Mediterranean. Did not come to anchor here. Yesterday I recd. a letter from Consul Pulis of which enclosure F. is an extract.7 Why did Captain Murray tell the Bashaw he was going in search of the Commodore? Did he expect to find him at Naples!

By the Count Augustino Porcille of Sardinia, I have the following intelligence confirmed by a ragusee Captain who arrived from Cagliari the 4th. instant—“That about the 18th. ult. an American Squadron consisting of two frigates and two small vessels arrived at that port; were immediately admitted to pratick—and exchanged the customary salutes—that the Commodore, his lady, and a great number of officers descended a shore—that they were treated with great distinction by the first people of that capital—accompanied to the theatres and other places of amusement—And that, after taking supplies of fresh provisions and water, they departed on the 28th. with a convoy of six or seven Swedish merchantmen, supposed for Leghorn.” I had no advise from the Commodore!

Yesterday anchored in the road of the Goulette three Dutch line of battle ships and two frigates, Admiral De Winter, last from Tripoli. They are visiting these Regencies on the business of adjusting claims and renewing ancient treaties.

Before my arrival here my predecessor, Famin, had promised the Sapatap a double barrelled silver-mounted fowling-piece. It was accordingly commissioned for and came out with the other arms.8 The minister now swears by the head of the Bey that the promise was for a gold-mounted peace; and insists on another. There is neither truth, gratitude nor shame among these people.

This morning the Bey’s commercial agent passed a moment at the American house. Said, the Swedes, he understood, had proposed a prompt payment of 150,000 dollars and 10,000 annually to the Bashaw of Tripoli for the ransom of slaves and establishment of peace9—And asked “Whether the Americans were still listless to overtures of peace?” I answered, that I had no information of a change of disposition on the part of my Government. He rejoined by a fable “A certain man of an irritable temper and an obstinate head, who wished to gain the opposite side of a mountain which presented a precipice in front, swore he would abandon his relations or mount the precipice with his camel. He remained in that desperate resolution till he exhausted the poor beast with fatigue and hunger, and then concluded to go round the foot of the mountain by a beaten path!” Moral—You must pay!

Enclosures C. D. & E.10 require no particular explanation. I forbore to interfere immediately in the affair of our citizens at Tripoli till after being assured as I had apprehended would be the case, that the intervention of the Dey of Algiers for their liberation would operate like his guarantee of our peace, and till the affairs of the United States were left there without an agent. If I have used some adulation in my letter to the Bashaw, the motive, I trust, will be understood by Government without my declaring it. I have the honor to remain with perfect respect Sir, your very Obed. Servt

William Eaton

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