James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Walton Jr., 18 August 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William Walton Jr.

18 August 1804, Baltimore. “The motives that now urge me to address you will I hope render me excusable for the trouble I may occasion; as being founded on a wish to be useful to the commerce of the U S. & many of my wretched countrymen shall therefore without further preface lay before you my meaning. I left this port in April last in a vessel of my own with a cargo very valuable I must confess on an irregular trade. Near my destined place I was captured by a French vessel & carried to the city of Sto. Domingo, in every expectation of being condemned. My men were imprisoned. Fortunately a long residence in Europe had made the French & Spanish languages as familiar to me as my own; I presented myself to Genl. Ferrand,1 effected the release of my men, & after considerable exertions, address & interest with the Spanish Judges & French officers I released vessel & cargo, tho’ must confess I deserved it not. This act so extraordinary, points out the disposition of the above Genl. towards the Americans, & that he will serve them all he can. During my stay there I was continually with him, I saw the shattered state of our trade to that island I witnessed many trials in the courts of Admiralty & can Safely assert that he will Strenuously hinder all trade with his enemies, but on a remonstrance from this country no vessel on a lawful voyage will be molested as many have been; & he will do away with all the noncommissioned privateers. He himself pointed out to me the necessity of the Americans having a representative to his govt. it would much diminish the confusion of capture, & the poor seamen that are thrown deserted on those coasts to struggle with the climate & want would in Such a character meet a friend. I myself, for a vessel I there purchased picked up a crew that would never have seen this country, for they were fitted only to be the inmates of an hospital. I also saw two fine black men from Edenton; captured in a vessel bound to Jamaica, sent from the bay of Sammaná which I afterwards visited, to Porto Rico to be sold. I should intrude on your patience were I fully to detail to you the information I obtained & as I can be of essential service to the US. & the Merchts. if you think me deserving the nommination of Consul & Commercial agent I will immediately proceed to the city of Sto. Domingo this is an act that will much please the Govt. there; my abilities are known to the commercial Houses in this country more particularly here, I radically possess the two languages necessary in that country; & Genl. Ferrand has promised to receive me in that character & afford me his protection. Whilst I was there I enjoyed his friendship, his house was open to me, he begged me to confer with Mr. Pichon on the subject; but thought it most advisable to write you first. My connections & grade in life are the most eligible; they are in some measure known to Daniel Carroll Esqr. to Mr. Aiken2 of the War Dept: but if you think this step advisable I will immy. wait on you with the most satisfactory credentials to your notice, from the first characters here; & as my nommination to this charge would be accompanied by the powers of the Insurance companies who in some measure join in the purport of this letter I should have a great opportunity of extending my Service. I shall hope the pleasure of your reply, & that you will Communicate the contents of this to the president.”3

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–9, filed under “Walton”). 4 pp.; docketed by Wagner and by Jefferson.

1Marie-Louis Ferrand (1753–1808) was a French general who had fought in the American Revolutionary War and who commanded French forces on the island of Hispaniola between 1802 and 1808 (Biographie universelle [1843–65 ed.], 13:605).

2James Eakin was a clerk in the office of the accountant of the War Department until the 1830s (Van Horne, Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1:177 n. 1).

3Jefferson nominated Walton to be U.S. commercial agent at Santo Domingo on 28 Jan. 1805, but the Senate did not concur (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 1:482).

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