James Madison Papers

From James Madison to George Davis, 26 December 1803

To George Davis

Department of State December 26th. 1803.


I have received your Letters of the 10, March,1 15, April, 30 May, 3 July, 1st. August and 13th. Septr. last.2

The President has not yet decided upon the appointment of yourself or of any other person to the Consulate of Tunis. In the mean time you are to remain in charge of our affairs with its regency. That you may be provided with the funds necessary for your Support, I have requested Mr. Lear, to examine and settle your accounts upon the scale of the emoluments intended to have been allowed to Mr. Cathcart, under his appointment for Tunis as limited in the inclosure,3 except the outfit which being designed for a permanent Consul will be withheld, as not applicable to your case. The Salary of Your Secretary will also be allowed up to the time of your receiving this letter, but will be thenceforward discontinued. Mr. Lear has funds to pay the balance, which may be found due to you, and will if you desire it furnish you with an advance of one thousand Dollars.

Whatsoever may be Mr. Eaton’s individual claims upon the Sardinian Lady he ransomed,4 you will carefully abstain from representing either to the Regency of Tunis, or otherwise, that the United States possess any right or claim to hold her in the condition of a Slave. It has not been considered how far Mr. Eaton, could charge her ransom to the public, nor is it known that he intends to do so: but it is certain that if they are chargable with it, it would neither comport with their sentiments nor those of their Government to enforce any claim involving the disposal of her person. It therefore depends upon your own judgement how far as an individual the friend of Mr. Eaton, or his Agent, you will take any steps, and what they may be for securing his reimbursement.

Should the Affair of the Goods claimed as Tunisien [sic] property from the Imperial Vessel captured by Capt. Sterrett not be concluded,5 Mr. Lear has authority to settle it on the basis of a restitution of whatever was promised by Commode. Morris, The first cost of the Tunisian interest in the part of the Cargo of which Subjects of Tripoli, were joint owners, and any small extra demands which may be considered as a Sacrifice to harmony. I am Very respectfully, Sir, Your Most Obedt. Servt.

(Signed)   James Madison

P.S. Inclosed is the President’s answer to the letters of the Bey, dated respectively on the 7th. & 14. of Septr. last6 with a Copy for your information. Should either subject be revived you will use your endeavours to Stifle it by enlarging on the topics of the letter.

Letterbook copy (NHi: George Davis Letterbooks). Extract printed in 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 , 6:221.

1JM probably referred to Davis’s letter of 8 Mar. 1803 (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 , 4:405).

2For Davis to JM, 3 July and 13 Sept. 1803, see ibid., 5:142–43, 408–18. The other letters have not been found.

3For James Leander Cathcart’s appointment to Tunis, see JM to Cathcart, 9 Apr. 1803, ibid., 4:494–95. The enclosure, which is copied in the letterbook after JM’s letter, was the following:

“Extract from Mr. Cathcart’s instructions given on his appointment to Tunis.

“‘As on a late occasion the items which constitute the accounts of the Consuls on the Coast of Barbary, have been reviewed and considered, it seems proper to make the following communication to You upon that Subject:

“‘Beside Your Salary at the rate of 2000, Dollars ⅌ annum, You will be allowed an outfit of the same amount and a quarters Salary for the expence of returning, to commence from the day of Your receiving notice of your recall. You will also be allowed house rent on a moderate but decent scale, the expence of courriers, postage, printing when necessary, of Drogermens Services, and presents, if any which the custom of the Regency requires to be given to its Officers. There may be calls for charitable donations, but it has been judged most consonant with principle and the public interest to refer them to the Consul’s private account and to free the Treasury from them.’”

4For William Eaton’s ransom of Maria Anna Porcile, see ibid., 2:90 n. 2.

5For the U.S. capture of an Austrian ship chartered by a Tunisian merchant, see ibid., 4:285 n. 1, 298 n. 1, 5:414.

6Jefferson’s 24 Jan. 1804 letter to Hammuda Bey acknowledged receipt of the latter’s 7 and 14 Sept. 1803 letters demanding a frigate and rejecting Cathcart as consul at Tunis; Jefferson refused the request for the frigate and agreed to recall Cathcart (DLC: Jefferson Papers; 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, D.C., 1939–44). description ends , 3:361–62, where it is dated 27 Jan. 1804).

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