James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Leander Cathcart, 25 June 1804 (Abstract)

§ From James Leander Cathcart

25 June 1804, Leghorn. No. 7. “Enclosed are duplicates of my last communication & a copy of my correspondence with Comodore Preble1 which will inform you in detail of the situation of the Squadron and of my operations at the Court of Naples which I hope will meet with the President’s approbation.

“On my return from Naples I receiv’d your highly esteem’d favor of December the 26th. 18032 & am mortified that I did not receive it sooner as at this insnt: I might probably have been half way home, but unfortunately since I receiv’d it no conveyance has offer’d & none is expected to offer soon & Mrs: Cathcart expects to be confined in September which will preclude the possibility of my leaving here until late in the fall, I have therefore solicited Comodore Preble to permit me to go home in one of our public ships should any be homeward bound at that period, this I am induced to do as it would cost one thousand dollars at least to transport my family to the United States & I am poor Sir, which I hope is no shame for a republican to confess.

“I regret that I had no power to enter into a commercial treaty with Naples while I remain’d at that Court; I found from the Minister’s conversation that the king was disposed to grant us every thing we could wish, & as I was there on other business it would have been attended with very little more expense.

“While I remain here I shall render the Comodore every assistance in my power & will communicate to you whatever I may judge worthy your attention.

“I return you thanks for the account of Louisiana,3 as I conceive from its situation that it will become the garden of the United States I am making a collection of the seeds of this country which I hope will prove congenial to that clime, & if I dont go there myself I will give them to some person that will which will answer the same purpose.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Tripoli, vol. 2). RC 2 pp. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Along with a copy of his letter to JM of 27 Mar. 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 , 6:623), Cathcart sent copies of the following documents (33 pp.): Cathcart to John Mathieu, 30 Mar. 1804, informing the latter that he had sent him “seventeen different packages of wearing apparel” for the American prisoners at Tripoli and that he expected to arrive in Naples from Leghorn on 10 Apr.; John Acton to Cathcart, 27 Mar. 1804 (in Italian, with English translation; printed in Knox, Naval Documents, Barbary Wars description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers (6 vols.; Washington, 1939–44). description ends , 3:538), in which Acton reported that he had forwarded Cathcart’s request for four gunboats and four mortar boats to the king, who seemed disposed to grant the favor if Commodore Preble could be induced to visit Naples; Edward Preble to Mathieu, 19 Mar. 1804 (printed ibid., 3:505–6), expressing his belief in intelligence that the bey of Tunis was readying his navy to attack American commerce, noting that he had called for an increase in the U.S. naval force in the Mediterranean, and promising to visit Tunis immediately with as large a force as he could muster; Preble to Cathcart, 18 Mar. 1804 (printed ibid., 3:501), informing the latter of his arrival at Syracuse, thanking him for his efforts to secure mortar boats, and noting that as Richard O’Brien was joining him in Tripoli for the peace negotiations, Cathcart’s services as an interpreter would not be needed; Cathcart to Preble, 17 Apr. 1804 (printed ibid., 4:31–33), reporting his arrival in Naples and his reception by Acton, who agreed to lend the U.S. four gunboats and four mortar boats, completely equipped, to be delivered to Preble at Messina, stating that he had deposited two thousand Spanish dollars with Frederick Degen for the care of the American prisoners at Tripoli, expressing his mortification and disappointment that O’Brien was to help negotiate the treaty with Tripoli, and again offering his services in O’Brien’s place; Cathcart to Preble, 22 Apr. 1804 (printed ibid., 4:47–49), transmitting a cipher for William Bainbridge to convey intelligence from Tripoli and a draft treaty as the basis for negotiation with Tripoli, requesting an investigation of “every hour of my administration … by an honest & impartial man,” giving as his opinion that “the war with Tripoli so far from being a calamity has really been attended with great national benefit,” and recommending the bearer, Midshipman Robert T. Spence; Cathcart to Acton, 22 Apr. 1804 (in Italian, with English translation; printed ibid., 4:50), thanking him for permission to use the gunboats and mortar boats and informing him of Cathcart’s plans to return to Leghorn; Cathcart to Robert T. Spence, 23 Apr. 1804, entrusting him with a packet for Preble and one for Nissen at Tripoli to be handed to the commander of any U.S. naval ship at any port in Sicily; Cathcart to Preble, 24 Apr. 1804, transmitting a receipt for the clothing, lodged at present “in his Majesty’s stores,” for the American prisoners at Tripoli, and a receipt for two thousand Spanish dollars deposited with Degen, both to be delivered on Preble’s command, and informing Preble of his return to Leghorn; receipt of John Mathieu, 24 Apr. 1804, for fourteen bales of clothing; receipt of Frederick Degen, 24 Apr. 1804, for two thousand Spanish dollars; Cathcart to Preble, 14 May 1804 (printed ibid., 4:99), informing him of his plans to return to the U.S. and asking the favor of a passage for himself and his family from Leghorn to Gibraltar; Preble to Cathcart, 15 May 1804 (printed ibid., 4:101–2), noting that since his arrival at Naples on 7 May he had “not been able to effect any thing with this Government until this day,” when he had obtained what he asked for, nor had he received any instructions about the clothing or the money deposited for him by Cathcart, and stating his belief after visiting Tunis with O’Brien that “we are in no danger of a War with that Regency at present”; Cathcart to Preble, 11 June 1804 (printed ibid., 4:177–79), noting that he had sent Preble information about the clothes and money Cathcart had provided for the American prisoners at Tripoli, that he resented Degen’s taking credit for procuring the loan of the gunboats, that he regretted O’Brien’s association with the negotiations with Tripoli, that Davis had been confirmed as consul at Tunis, and that he had heard that the French were willing to mediate a settlement between the U.S. and Tripoli but he did not advise it; an attestation by John Acton, dated 23 Apr. 1804 (in Italian, with English translation), to the fact that the clothing earmarked for the American prisoners at Tripoli was placed in the magazine of the royal customhouse; Preble to Cathcart, 29 May 1804, informing the latter that he had not received either of the two letters mentioned in Cathcart’s 14 May letter, that he was about to sail from Messina with six gunboats, with two bomb ships ready in twenty days, for an attack on Tripoli, and that he regretted not being able to send a ship to transport Cathcart to Gibraltar; Cathcart to Preble, 11 June 1804, expressing regret that he could not accompany Preble on his attack on Tripoli; Preble to Cathcart, 1 June 1804 (printed ibid., 4:141–42), thanking him for his efforts to procure the gunboats and for the draft treaty and cipher, reassuring Cathcart that O’Brien had no power to negotiate a treaty with Tripoli, and asking for a copy of the invoice for the clothing; Cathcart to Preble, 24 June 1804, noting that he stood by his former assessment of O’Brien and enclosing proof of his inconsistency and insincerity; and an extract of O’Brien to Cathcart, 12 Nov. 1794, flattering Cathcart as “the first American in Algiers,” with “very extensive abilities [that will] be the means to bring you well forward.”

2PJM-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 , 6:211.

3JM probably sent Cathcart a copy of An Account of Louisiana, Being an Abstract of Documents, in the Offices of the Departments of State, and of the Treasury (Washington, 1803; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 5196).

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