James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Leander Cathcart, 15 March 1803 (Abstract)

§ From James Leander Cathcart

15 March 1803, “Chesapeake at Sea.” No. 2. Encloses a journal of events which have taken place since his last dispatch.1 Enclosure A contains the latest information from Tripoli,2 and enclosure B is his last letter to Nissen.3 Hopes Eaton will be able to efface the suspicion he is under at present of misapplication of public money and “thereby, eradicate, unfavourable impressions, prejudicial to his reputation.” Eaton asserts that if the government admits his expenses, it will be in debt to him after he refunds the $22,000 paid on his account by Morris. Hopes this is true and that if Eaton “is really innocent,” he may be returned to Tunis, if only for six months, “for if those Bashaw’s, are permitted, to change our Consul’s, at their pleasure, they will not only treat us, with contempt, but, will continually, levy contributions, on us, by way of Consular presents.” Even if Eaton’s conduct has been such as to prevent his continuance in office, no consular present ought to be paid at Tunis. The bey has “turn’d the Consul away,” and the U.S. should send another in compliance with the treaty; but the treaty does not mention presents, and paying them without dispute would furnish the other Barbary states with “a pernicious precedent, which they, will not fail, to take advantage of.” If the news should reach Algiers that Eaton was replaced on the bey’s orders, “the Dey, will immediately quote, that, as precedent for my, being not admitted at Algiers, which will place me, in a very awkward situation.” Commodore Morris and other naval officers suspect that Eaton connived at his own arrest “in order, to be reliev’d from his pecuniary embarrassments” but did not realize his expulsion from Tunis was contemplated. “I cannot suppose him guilty of such baseness. I know him long, and always found him, possess’d of a high, sense of honor. I rather suppose Sir, that, his zeal, has been imprudent, which, has created him a number of enemies, of much more intrigue than he possesses, and to whose wiles, he has at length fallen a sacrifice, but no situation of affairs, can, justify the insult, our Country, has suffer’d in the person of our Commodore; it is an act of violence, unprecedented even in the annals of Barbary.” Will give JM the earliest information of the “real state of Affairs, in those Regency’s.”

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