James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Leander Cathcart, 9 April 1803

To James Leander Cathcart

Department of State April 9th. 1803


I have received your letter of January 25th. with the other communications under the same cover. Those before received and not acknowledged are of June 3. 11. July 4. 15. Augt. 6. 25. 26. Sepr 3. 4. 18.1 Octr 8 in the last year.

My last to you was of Augt 22 1802.2 It was then hoped that you would have been successfully engaged in making peace with Tripoli; for which the crisis was peculiarly favorable. The course of circumstances having deprived us of the advantages of this crisis, to which the tenor of your original instructions was adapted, the President has thought proper to review them with an eye to the change in the state of things, under which, if peace be still unmade, the negotiations for it must now be carried on; and considering that the Bashaw is no longer under the domestic distresses which at one time humbled his pretensions, that all the other nations at war with him have yielded to the customary terms of peace, and that the new terms which the concurrent policy of all civilized nations ought to force on those barbarians, would now be pursued by the United States at very great expence, not only without the co-operation of a single other power, but in opposition to the example of all, and at a period in different respects critical to their affairs, it is thought best that you should not be tied down to a refusal of presents whether to be included in the peace, or to be made from time to time during its continuance, especially as in the latter case the title to the presents will be a motive to its continuance. You are accordingly authorized by the President to admit that the Bashaw shall receive in the first instance including the Consular presents, the sum of 20,000 dollars and at the rate afterwards of 8 or ten thousand dollars a year. If these sums can be reduced you will of course avail yourself of the opportunity. But no enlargement of them towards the example of other nations, will be admissible, especially, if at the date of the negotiations, none of our Citizens should be in captivity. The presents whatever the amount or the purpose of them (except the Consular present, which as usual may consist of Jewelry, Cloth &c) and also the periodical payments must be made in money, and not in stores; the periodical payments are to be biennial rather than annual; and the arrangement of the presents is to form no part of the public Treaty if a private promise and understanding can be substituted.

The Dey of Algiers being inflexible in refusing you as Consul the President has not deemed it proper, especially under present circumstances, to contest a right possessed and occasionally exercised by all Governments; and will therefore without delay send another successor to Mr. OBrien. He reserves to you however, the Consulate at Tunis which was your first object;3 and which Mr. Eaton has signified his purpose of leaving. Your Commission is herewith enclosed, with a letter from the President to the Bey.4 It is foreseen that the Bey of Tunis will expect to receive periodical payments in like manner as the Bashaw of Tripoli, and we are prepared to arrange them. He has made several demands of presents from the United States, and last of all of a Frigate. These have been generally declined, on our part, and we are determined to withhold the latter; but the circumstance itself may be glanced at as our motive for proposing the periodical payments, by which we wish at once to manifest our good will and liberality to the Regency, to give him an interest in preserving peace, and to regulate at a fixed rate what is now so uncertain as its demands. It is believed also that if other circumstances are propitious, it will be eligible to settle the acceptance of them by Tunis at a moderate rate as a preliminary to the negotiation with Tripoli; since it will quiet the former Regency, afford a scale for settling with the latter and anticipate a limit to the proposal the Bey might otherwise make by referring to the precedent set with respect to Tripoli. The sum to be allowed to Tunis is to be payable in Cash and not to exceed the rate of 10,000 dollars per annum, to be paid biennially if it can be so settled. It is expected that the Consular present will not exceed the sum us[u]ally given viz. about 4,000 Dollars. I am &c.

James Madison.

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