James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Isaac Cox Barnet, 1 May 1803 (Abstract)

§ From Isaac Cox Barnet

1 May 1803, Antwerp. Refers to his last letters of 12 to 18 Mar.1 “I was honoured on the 18th. Ulto., with your letter of the 3d. March [not found] with my commission as confirmed by the Senate, which, as events have turned, I hope fixes me here and may be a means of satisfying the wishes of my friend Mr. John Mitchell lately appointed by our Envoys to the Commercial Agency at Havre.” Is forwarding the new bond to General Muhlenberg for the sureties’ signatures with a request that it be transmitted to the State Department. “Inclosed I … transmit some Documents relative to embezzlement & theft on board the ship Philadelphia by which it appears, that John Jackson & Gustavus Peters, the two mates, are the delinquents, and that they fled before I could have them secured.”2 Also encloses a copy of a letter from Skipwith.3 Would be “much gratified” at receiving JM’s instructions for his “government” in such cases and at knowing “what charge, if any, is to be made for Drawing up and Copying in the Register so lengthy Interrogatories.” Since the consular convention has expired, asks if his surety is competent to the duties therein specified. “Whether I have a right to go on board Vessels of the UStates in the Ports of my District, to examine witnesses in cases of assault & battery and what measures I can take to prevent this practice with some Masters & officers in the Merchants-Service, Severely beating and otherwise ill-treating Sailors, and discharging them unjustly—these points I have found myself at a loss to be governed in; and to claim the interference of the Municipal laws would often be, to retard the business of american Merchants, and sometimes subject the delinquents to severer punishment than the laws & juries of the United states would adjudge.

“I must likewise beg your attention to the inclosed copy of my last letter to … Mr Livingston—(which being pressed for time I am constrained to send in this state) it is on the subject of a vessel lately arrived, whose case is therein fully explained.4 The Minerva of Wilmington, N. Ca. Captn. Ford therein alluded to, is a Small Brig which he Says belongs to himslf. but which, from his reluctance & neglect in calling on me, and having only a Sea-Letter granted at Norfolk in August last, and no Bill of Sale, nor proof of the property being vested in him … left a doubt whether the Vessel was american property or not. Mr. Livingston in answer to my Statement of her case of the 4 april says (under date of the 18th. Ulto.) ‘So critical is the State of things here at this Moment, that I have had no leisure to reply to your letter nor even now to consider it fully. I think under present circumstances it would be most prudent not to refuse your protection to this ship as american, the law not having prescribed the rule by which the property is to be ascertained. As to the question of ton[n]age it is altogether a municipal regulation and the application must be made to the proper officers for relaxation of the law. I do not see it one which, as minister I ought to interfere. The tonnage designated in the laws of france certainly means tonnage according to french measurement … and it is the business of Merchants to acquaint themselves with the difference. But what excuse can be offered by an Amn. when his vessel even falls Short of the proper Tonnage by the American admeasurement? (92.) What have the french Government to do with the British Tonnage as applied to an Amn. Ship?’ (being 112 Tons). This Vessel measures but 86 french.

“Opinions here are daily fluctuating as to peace or War.” On 28 Apr. he received a 21 Mar. Philadelphia newspaper with Pichon’s 11 Mar. letter and transmitted it to Livingston and Monroe at Paris. Apologizes for inaccuracies but is hurried as “it was not expected these vessels would Sail today.” Lists ten American vessels now in port. The Minerva, which arrived 24 Mar. from Liverpool, was seized for being under the proper weight to import tobacco. Great preparations are being made to receive Napoleon. A triumphal arch is being built in the principal street, and merchants are excluded from the exchange while it is being painted. The time of the visit is uncertain; if war ensues it may not take place. “Several expedients have been resorted to for the raising funds for the intended fête, and the necessary complement not yet raised—this fact fully justifies the statement I had the honor of making in one of my former, Sir, concerning the Antwerpers.”

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