James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Lee (Abstract), 1 March 1805

§ From William Lee

1 March 1805, Bordeaux. “In one of my former letters I mentioned to you that I had refused to grant Gadiou & Co. of this City 1 a Consular Certificate which they demanded of me for a Vessel they had purchased here by virtue <o>f a power of Attorney from Joseph Kaumann of <N>ew York to James Dupy of Nantz. Mr Thos. Irwing who I believe is interested in the house of Podière & Co. <h>aving lately produced me a power and letter from the said Kaumann I with great reluctance granted him the Certificate of which the enclosed is a copy2 <a>nd the Vessel bearing it was immediately dispatched for New York as I supposed but I since learn she <we>nt into St. Sebastians in Spain where she is now fitting out as a privateer. Such impositions are <v>ery disagreeable and tend to bring my signature which has hitherto been much respected by the English into disrepute.

“Having understood that many Merchants in this City who could not procure Certificates for their Vessels of me were fitting out others at Marseilles and St Sebastians, I wrote Mr Cathalan and Mr Pinckney on th<e> subject and have the satisfaction to find that my Letters to the latter have had the desired effect by putting a stop to several expeditions unde<r> the American flag at St Sebastians. I could have wished however that M Pinckney had kept my name out of sight which would have prevented my being accused of going out of my District and interfereing, where I had no police.

“The ship Sheffield Capt. Cooper a regular registerd Vessel from Norfolk entered here on the 2d. Ulto. as a French bottom which could not well be done unless some Frenchman was interested in the profits and emolument<s> of the ship. This appears so contrary to the spirit of ou<r> Laws that I have thought it my duty to mention it.

“An attempt has lately been made here by a Chaignot and others to fit out a french Vessel with the papers of the ship Eagle of Philadelphia but through the address of a confidential broker I got possession of the papers and destroyed their plan. T[h]is affair I more particularly explained in my letters to the Secretary of the Treasury under date of the 25 Jany and 22 Ulto3 which I sent under cover to you.

“If you recollect Sir I had the honor of mentioning to you in my respects of the 11 Octr last4 that the Schooner Mary of Norfolk had been seized by the Custom house of this place. This Vessel has lately been sold by that administration and I am told will be fitted out under her old papers which I shall prevent if possible.

“Accompanying this you have two files of the moniteur containing the state of the Finances &c. &c. & merit your perusal.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Bordeaux, vol. 2). RC 3 pp.; docketed by Wagner. For enclosures (7 pp.; marked “Copy of the Papers, &c. of Ship Columbia”), see n. 2.

1See Lee to JM, 29 Nov. 1804 and 20 Jan. 1805, PJM-SS, description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 8:337, 497–98.

2The enclosures include a copy of Lee’s 26 Jan. 1805 passport (marked “No. 31”) granting permission to the ship Columbia for one trip from Bordeaux to New York; Joseph Kaumann’s 10 Aug. 1804 power of attorney authorizing Thomas Irving to act for him in purchasing “one or two Vessel or Vessels” at Bordeaux, witnessed by William Dempsey and Nathaniel Forbes and attested to by notary public William Popham; British consul Thomas Barclay’s 10 Aug. 1804 certification that Popham was a notary; and Kaumann’s 9 Aug. 1804 letter instructing Irving to pay for any purchases with a draft on Kaumann at New York or on James Dupuy at Nantes and to try to procure a cargo for New York for any ship he might buy. The 15 May 1805 National Intelligencer printed an extract of a letter from Bordeaux stating that Lee had ordered the Columbia’s captain arrested on his return to that city and held until he relinquished the ship’s papers and that Lee had also refused to do any consular business for the Bordeaux merchant house connected with the case.

3Lee’s letters have not been found, but for the case of the Eagle, see Lee to JM, 29 Nov. 1804 (PJM-SS, description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 8:337).

4Ibid., 8:157–58.

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