James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George W. Erving (Abstract), 20 April 1805

§ From George W. Erving

20 April 1805, London. No. 53. “I have the honor herewith to inclose a protest made at Lisbon by Lemuel Bruce1 Master, and Charles A. Coffin mate of the Vessel Venus belonging to New York;2 stating the very unjustifiable conduct of the officers of his Britanneck Majesty’s Ship ‘Wolfe’ in procuring two men Bailey & Knight part of the crew of the Venus, to enter on board the ‘Wolfe,’ and in impressing a third John Edwards; it appears that these proceedings were accompanied with great outrage and violence. Mr. Jarvis having transmitted the Protest to me, I applied to the Admiralty for the Discharge of these men; with respect to the two first, I am answered ‘that they have entered;’ and as to the last (Edwards) they have sent to me a declaration of which the inclosed is a Copy;3 On recurring to his Certificate also inclosed [not found], you will be pleased to observe that it is in the usual form of Collectors Certificates, & carries upon it nothing to excite a suspicion of its having been unfairly obtained; it is to be presumed that this document was not issued without regular proofs, and therefore a necessary conclusion arises that some improper means have been made us[e] of to procure a declaration from this man discrediting similar evidences of Citizenship; an inferrence which is strengthened by the conduct of those who impressed him.

“I have thought it my duty Sir to lay this Case before you as it affords a specimen of the unjustifiable means for procuring our men which are not unfrequently resorted to by the British Officers; and shews that as long as the present practice of detaining & boarding our ships unde<r> pretence of looking for their own seamen is continued our Citizens cannot be secured from similar injuries.”

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, CD, London, vol. 9). RC 2 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Erving.

1Lemuel Bunce.

2The enclosure has not been found, but for the protest, see William Jarvis to JM, 26 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 8:327, 328 n. 3. For more on the case, see Jarvis to JM, 9 Feb. 1805, and nn. 10 and 14.

3Erving enclosed a copy (1 p.) of John Edwards’s 16 Dec. 1804 deposition before Commander John Ashley Bennett on board the Wolf that he was a British subject, born at Cartmel, Lancashire, that he was “about twenty one years of age,” and that he had bought an American protection in America for $5.

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