James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Sylvanus Bourne, 25 March 1805

To Sylvanus Bourne

Department of State March 25th. 1805.

Sir,

It has been understood that Mr. Alexander who was left in possession of the Consular Office at Rotterdam continues to exercise it notwithstanding the cessation of the Commission of his constituent.1 His friends have indeed made an application for his appointment, but the calamity, under which he labours, of itself would preclude such a step;2 and renders it necessary that he should cease to act in the character he assumes. You will therefore as a temporary provision for the case consider Rotterdam as within your District and supersede him by an Agent of your own appointment, if convenient, or otherwise signify to the proper authorities that Mr. Alexander ought not to continue his functions. I am very respectfully Sir, Your Obt. Servt.

James Madison

RC (owned by EAC Gallery, a division of Emrose Art Corporation, Roslyn Heights, N.Y., 2005); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, IC, vol. 1). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by JM. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted. Cover marked: “per Ship Minerva / Capt. Howland.” The Minerva sailed on 26 Apr. (New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, 27 Apr. 1805).

1Although Lawson Alexander may originally have been assigned by Joseph Forman to perform consular duties at Rotterdam on Forman’s resignation, he was himself nominated as consul by Jefferson on 9 Dec. 1803 and was approved by the Senate on 21 Dec. 1803. The administration may have subsequently decided to withhold Alexander’s commission, since Alexander had told George W. Erving’s clerk in 1804 that he had received his instructions but not his commission. Whatever the case, Alexander continued to serve at Rotterdam until 1807 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1828). description ends , 1:459–61; 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 5:570 and n. 1, 8:215; Alexander to JM, 1 July 1807 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–9, filed under “Alexander, Lawson”], JM to Alexander, 13 July 1807 [DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15]).

2For the state of Alexander’s mental health, see 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 , 6:244 and n. 1, 8:48, 215.

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