Memorandum to Thomas Jefferson
[23 October 1804]
The first enacting clause will be ineffectual, because vessels will clear for one place, when really bound to another. A principle therefore will be conceded of which advantage may hereafter be taken, without any security that will be satisfactory to complaining nations. The only adequation [sic] provision would be to take bond for delivery of the Cargo elsewhere that [sic] at the forbidden ports. But this ought to be perhaps by Treaty, and the price of some equivalent stipulation. It may be added that our Collectors would often be at a loss to know how far at particular times & ports, the local regulations prohibit or permit the entry of our vessels, or particular articles in their Cargoes. These considerations seem to have weight, agst. extending the Act beyond the case of armed vessels.
“That no vessel armed or with the means of being armed at sea, in which or the cargo Whereof, a Citizen or domiciliated Alien shall be interested or embarked, shall receive at any Custom House of the U. S. any clearance, or be suffered to leave the port where she is found so armed or prepared; but on security given to the U. S. in a sum equal to one third of the value on her Cargo, and double the value of the vessels, that no assault or Trespass, during the voyage & return shall be committed by such vessel or persons on board her, against any vessels, or territory of a nation in amity with U. S. nor agst. any of the Citizens or subjects of such nation, and that no resistance shall be made to any lawful search, nor any other unlawful use be made of the arms on board such vessel.[”]1
RC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Undated; date assigned here on the basis of Jefferson’s docket: “Departmt. State recd. Oct. 23. 04 / on Bill for clearance of armed vessels.”
1. JM is discussing the “Act to regulate the clearance of armed merchant vessels,” which was returned to the House of Representatives on 23 Nov. 1804 from the committee to which it had been referred. After undergoing extensive debate in the House and Senate, the bill became law on 3 Mar. 1805 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1834–56). description ends , 8th Cong., 2d sess., 27, 31, 34, 35, 44, 49, 50, 52, 62, 63, 698, 722, 811–36, 861–62; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:342–43). For complaints from foreign diplomats about armed U.S. merchant vessels trading in the Caribbean, see Louis-André Pichon to JM, 7 May 1804, and Anthony Merry to JM, 31 Aug. 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 , 7:185–86, 662–63.