James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Samuel Smith, 7 May 1804

To Samuel Smith


Department of State 7 May 1804.


The list of the vessels detained by embargo at Bourdeaux to which you allude1 was originally received from Mr. Skipwith,2 who of course has access to the materials from which it was drawn up, and being the public Agent will doubtless make every use of it, which may be necessary: but it seems proper to suggest that the documents which might have been sufficient for the purpose to which the list related may not possibly suffice for a liquidation at present: and that therefore it would be adviseable for you to transmit to your agent every voucher you can now obtain.

The claims of the two individuals to whom you refer, as well as those of some others have attracted notice: and to enable me to make a proper communication, I will thank you to procure from the records of the Court where the trial was had between Mr. B. and yourself the evidence which shews that the French government had previously paid the 160,000 livres.3 The expense of the copy shall be reimbursed to you.

Instructions have some months ago been sent to Paris calculated to obviate the possibility in case of the aggregate of the claims exceeding the twenty millions, of some of them remaining unpaid whilst others are fully satisfied. I am, Dr. Sir, very respectfully Your most obed. servt.

James Madison

Typed transcript (CtLHi). The RC (not found) may have been the two-page letter, signed by JM and dated 7 May 1804, offered for sale in Stan. V. Henkels Catalogue No. 727 (1894), item 170.

1No letter from Smith to JM relating to these French spoliation claims has been found.

2For a list of the embargoed ships, see Skipwith to JM, 1 Jan. 1804, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 6:272, 273 n. 2.

3JM referred here to a contract for flour made with the French by Joshua Barney with which Smith was associated (Footner, Sailor of Fortune, 192, 241; JM to Fulwar Skipwith, 22 May 1804, and JM to Skipwith, 10 Nov. 1804, ViU).

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