James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Fulwar Skipwith, 18 July 1804 (Abstract)

§ From Fulwar Skipwith

18 July 1804, Paris. “The inclosed copies of correspondence between our Minister & myself,1 respecting the American Vessels captured by French privateers & condemned in the different ports of Spain, I deem of sufficient importance to communicate, tho’ I presume the Minister himself will not fail to make you fully acquainted with the subject upon which it treats. With this correspondence you also have an authentic list of those Captures, of the Privateers that captured them, & likewise the names of the ports, as far as they could be obtained at the Council of Prizes, in which those privateers had been fitted out.2

“Altogether ignorant as I have been, untill the date of our Ministers letter of the 25th. Ulto.,3 of our Government intending to seek redress from that of Spain on the ground of those condemnations, and observing that the principle of indemnification was not positively provided for in our late Treaty with that Country, I was induced in the instance of the Vessel called the Rover to lay an Appeal before the Council of Prizes, upon which a judgment in favor of both Vessel & Cargo has since been granted, & I have to add has very lately been submited by authority of this Government to their and the American Commission for liquidation. In making this Appeal it never once occured to me that I might be acting contrary to the wishes of the President, & especially since our Minister had never afforded me the slightest intimation to that purport; still this Appeal was not entered untill the Council had received a great number of others, and had rendered judgments in favor of several as is proven by the list here inclosed. I have communicated the Ministers letters to me on this subject to our Board, who have already the cases of the Rover & the Barbara before them. Whether they will consider themselves at liberty to withold their decissions on those cases I am not able to say.

“In my last letter to the Minister you will observe I have noticed the state in which the American claims were at that moment both with the French and our Commission. Some progress has been made since in the French Offices in preparing the Claims, but no definitive liquidations have yet been effected, in the mean time a few new claims have come forward. A general & comprehensive statement of the whole will be made out and forwarded to your Department, as soon as our Commissioners shall close their examination of them, which I expect will take place in the beginning of the ensuing month.

“I am led to believe from what daily passes under my eye with respect to the claims rejected by our Commission, that a considerable portion of those particularly upon which the opinions of the Board & myself coincide, have already the full support of the special Director of the 4th. Division of the Council of Liquidation, charged with the American claims, & that a decission in their favor may possibly be obtained from the Council themselves; if so, the Parties claiming expect to carry their Appeals, in the manner directed by the Convention, to the ultimate decission of the French Government. On the other hand I do not see how those Claims (comprizing mostly freights & demurrage) are to progress, on which my decissions should prove to be in harmony with those of the French Council, and in opposition to the decissions of the American Board; for I do not discover in any article of the Convention the mode of appealing provided unless it be in cases where the French Bureauxs shall persist to liquidate in opposition to the opinions of the Agent.”

Adds in a postscript: “In the list of Vessels here inclosed the Vessels followed by the initial C are those condemned; those followed by the initial A have been liberated.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Paris, vol. 1). RC 4 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received 23 Oct. For enclosures, see nn. 1–2.

1The enclosed copies (4 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received in Skipwith’s 18 July letter) include Robert R. Livingston to Skipwith, 29 June 1804, quoting JM’s instructions of 31 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 , 6:413–14) not to include among American claims on France those vessels captured by French privateers and condemned in Spanish ports and requesting a list of all such claims; Skipwith to Livingston, 2 July 1804, in reference to documentation for the claim of the ship Ganges; and Skipwith to Livingston, 10 July 1804, reporting on the status of approximately four hundred American claims submitted to the U.S. board of commissioners and enclosing an official list of American vessels captured by French privateers and condemned in Spanish ports.

2Skipwith enclosed a list headed, “Etat des Prises Américaines Conduits dans les Port⟨s⟩ de la Domination Espagnole,” certified by the secretary general of the Council of Prizes, 20 Messidor an XII (9 July 1804) (3 pp.; docketed by Wagner), which included fifty-one vessels, of which twelve had yet to be judged. A copy of this list written in English (DLC: Causten-Pickett Papers, box 8) bears the note, “Copied from a paper found in the Dept. of State … Sep 17. 1828.”

3Skipwith probably referred to Livingston’s letter to him of 29 June 1804 (see n. 1, above).

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