James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John M. Forbes, 27 July 1803 (Abstract)

§ From John M. Forbes

27 July 1803, Hamburg. Since his letter of 8 July “nothing new has transpired.” Hanover has made a second capitulation. The French have crossed the Elbe and taken possession of the duchy of Lauenburg. The British have blockaded the Elbe1 “and have called on the powers pledged for the neutrality of it’s navigation to restore it, promising on this event to raise the blockade.” “In this state, things have remained for the last fifteen days. We now experience that awful Calm in the political Atmosphere which in the natural, often forebodes the gathering of a most desolating tempest.” Expects Hamburg to be occupied if the northern powers oppose the French. Has heard a coalition spoken of among Russia, Denmark, Sweden, and Great Britain. “Should this prove the Case, we shall be in the Center of all their military operations.… I expect to be the only neutral Agent here, it is my fixed determination and shall be my Constant endeavour, to Conform, as far as possible, to the duties of this Character.” Has had a second discussion with the British chargé d’affaires about American vessels being boarded prior to the notification of the blockade. The American snow Debby, Captain Elliot, was ordered to return to port by the British ship La Fortunée, Captain Vansittart. Instructed Captain Elliot “to proceed again to Sea and in Case his departure should be opposed, to demand a legal discussion in the British Court of Admiralty.” Encloses a copy of his instructions.2 “Since this measure, the Concession on the part of the English has been general to all neutral Vessels under similar Circumstances.” Believes his conduct has been viewed with satisfaction by the Hamburg merchants; hopes JM will approve of it. “I have demanded of the Chamber or College of Commerce of this City, General Tables of duties, Light money, Anchorage &c &c payable by their own Ships, by American Ships, and by other foreign Ships, and hope in a few days to transmit the same to you.” Believes “there was never a more favorable moment than the present” to encourage the emigration of “thousands of sober, industrious Cultivators” to the U.S.

Index Entries