James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Fulwar Skipwith, 30 March 1804 (Abstract)

§ From Fulwar Skipwith

30 March 1804, Paris. “This, in addition to my letter to you of the 3d Inst. will I persuade myself be the last that I shall take the liberty of writing to you on any subject concerning personally Mr. Livingston & myself.” Transmits a copy of his request to Cottrau for a written declaration of his recollections of Skipwith’s and Haley’s interview with him, along with a copy of the reply.1 Also sends copies of a letter from Waddell,2 Skipwith’s letter to Haley, and Haley’s reply.3 Hopes these “will sufficiently satisfy you & the President of the falsehood of the charge, which our Minister has been so base as to become the instrument of supporting against me.” “Why mr. Cottreau has declined giving me the written declaration he promised, I could easily explain, from the thorough knowledge I have of the man, & from the circumstances of the times we live in here—but this explanation does not appear to me necessary.

“If mr. Haley in some passages of his letter has expressed sentiments bordering on those of attatchment to me, I know not where to trace their source, unless it be in the circumstance of my having performed an official duty in favor of his Brother, by obtaining the admission of his little Schooner into the port of LaRochelle, (or rather the entry of her Cargo) or from the particular fact, the recollection of which is still fresh upon my mind, of my having the first & only time I ever received mr. Haleys visit, after the capture of the American Vessel the Hare, reproved him in such a manner for the commission of a crime, which I then only knew by report, as drew tears from his eyes, & made him perfectly sensible of the impropriety of his visits, which he seldom or ever afterwards repeated.… Indeed did the minister himself feel any of those emotions, which men often do after the commission of crimes, except those perhaps that have outstripped others so far as to make innocence their victim, I might even now expect to receive from him a stronger return of esteem & gratitu⟨de⟩ than I ever did from mr. Haley, for I long continued with truth & disinterestedness to admonish him against vice & profligacy, of which to say the least he is here the Patron & abettor.”

His letter to Livingston of 25 Feb. 18044 “remains unanswered,” unless the charge against Skipwith and “the notice he takes of two points contained in my letter, in his reply to a late official letter” be considered an answer. Encloses copies of this correspondence and of the letter from Guillaume “which gave rise to it.”5 JM will note that Skipwith’s powers under Article 10 of the Convention of 1803 “of agreeing or disagreeing in the liquidations with the French Bureauxs are soon to be exercised, and to no one rational purpose that I can immagine; but I shall do my duty, & if claims intitled to the solicitude of our Government & to the full protection of the U. S. should remain unpaid, while certain claims, rejected by our Board, shall be paid, though not intitled to their protection or support (to the amount of nearly 7 million of Livres principal & Interest[)], I shall feel at least a satisfaction in not having been the accomplice of any one in contributing to it.”

“In respect to the candor & justice of Mr. Livingstons remark on the Statement of claims I furnished him, I must rest their merits upon the letter I wrote to him at the Same time & upon the Statement itself. Had I added to mine the Claim many years ago paid of Murray & Lawrence for upwards of 2 millions, & others to the amount of as much more of the same nature, I should greatly have exceeded the Special Directors estimate, but in truth neither his or mine could be correct. Neither of us could offer a Statement of Claims that did not then exist here.” Livingston’s statement should have been more correct than Skipwith’s “because the Claims themselves with all their vouchers, & to which no person but mr. Swan had access, were at the time deposited in his Bureauxs, whereas I had to collect my knowledge of them when, where, & of whom I could from the various quarters of Paris.” Declares that he “thought the Convention, imperfect as it is, intended to provide for real American Claims, intitled to the support & protection of our Government; that from the constant & unreserved assurances to me from Mr. Marbois that there never could arise with the french Government an objection to the equal repar[a]tion of the 20 millions, I always conceived it to be our Ministers duty to endeavor both here & with our Government to establish that principle, which with the one I have just mentioned of claims being in their nature intitled to the support of the U. S., are in my opinion the two substantial points in which the policy & character of our Government are most concerned.” Adds in a 2 Apr. postscript: “At the moment almost of my closing these dispatches I have recd. a letter (copy whereof I inclose) from the Mr: Mansfield”6 who Livingston implied was dissatisfied with delays he encountered at Skipwith’s office. “This letter is the more agreeable to me Since, it came unexpected & unasked by me, & Seems to be a Spontaneous & grateful acknowledgement of the Services I rendered him.”

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