James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Morton (Abstract), 26 April 1805

§ From John Morton

26 April 1805, Havana. “I write at a Moment when I have not many Moments to spare from Exertions in favor of M. Gray who this day was seized in his Person by orders of the Intendant & conveyed to the Common Prison of the City, & all the Papers in his Office both public & private placed under the seals of the same officer. The pretext is a futile one on account of M. Grays having certifyed, only, a Bill of Sale of a Vessel here which afterwards went to windward & loaded, & the Captain neglected to pay the Duties which had accrued at this Port. How far Mr: Grays mere Certificate could implicate him I leave the President to judge.

“The Consequence here is a Total suspension of all Business—no Vessel can sail. I am using every Exertion—I am in Hopes this Vessel, will get out having already her Morro pass.”

Adds in a 27 Apr. postscript: “M. Gray is liberated—The details will follow hereafter.”1

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD, Havana, vol. 1). 3 pp.; cover marked “Mr. D. Warfield / to Baltimore” and docketed by Wagner as received 19 May.

1On the morning of 26 Apr. 1805, Spanish authorities, reportedly acting on orders from the intendant, Rafael Gómez Rombaud, arrested Vincent Gray, seizing and searching his papers (Tello, Documentos relativos a la independencia de Norteamérica, 3:603). Morton, the former consul, who was staying with Gray, was also held for several hours. After his release Morton went to Governor Someruelos and Gómez Rombaud, both of whom denied prior knowledge of the incident. Although Gray was released that evening, his papers and all those deposited at his office remained sealed. On 30 Apr. the ships’ registers were released, but all other papers were held. On the same day, Gray was given a dinner at Havana by sixty American merchants and ship captains, who also presented him with a letter of support, to which he replied on 30 Apr. (Philadelphia United States’ Gazette, 15 and 18 May 1805). A Boston newspaper reported a rumor that Gray was arrested because information had been received from Philadelphia that “great quantities of prohibited articles had been shipped from the United States, for Havana” and that Gray was accessory to the deed (Boston Columbian Centinel, 15 May 1805).

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