James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Lee (Abstract), 19 May 1805

§ From William Lee

19 May 1805, Bordeaux. “I beg leave to transmit you a copy of my correspondence relating to the Ship Draper Capt Green belonging to New Haven.1 This Vessel is now dropping down the river and I have no hopes that any thing favorable will arrive in season from Paris to prevent her departure. The conduct of the Vice Admiral Maritime Prefect for Rochfort in regard to this Ship will cause a loss to the owners of at least ten thousand dollars.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Bordeaux, vol. 2). RC 1 p.; docketed by Wagner. For the enclosures, see n. 1.

1The enclosures (13 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received in Lee’s 19 May 1805 dispatch) are copies of Lee to Bordeaux commissary of marine La Fontaine, 3 May 1805, protesting the arrest of Captain Green and the seizure of his ship Draper on suspicion of their both being English because it was well known that Green was American and had brought the ship from Spain in ballast to buy French produce and manufactures for the French colonies; a translation of La Fontaine to Lee, 3 May 1805, stating he had received orders to prevent the Draper’s coming up to Bordeaux and had ordered it down the river and ordered Green confined to the ship but on Lee’s declaration, he would allow the captain to go ashore and the ship to remain at anchor while the affair was submitted to the “vice admiral maritime Prefect” for Rochefort on condition Lee would be responsible for the conduct of the captain and crew; Lee to La Fontaine, 4 May 1805, accepting responsibility for Green, but not for the crew, asking that a gendarme be sent on board “to prevent any difficulty from the crew,” and enclosing a letter for the maritime prefect; Lee to Maritime Prefect Martin, 4 May 1805, saying that the ship, captain, and crew were American and had come in ballast from Spain with three hundred thousand francs to buy French goods; Lee to John Armstrong, 6 May 1805, enclosing his correspondence on the case, explaining that the Draper was owned in New Haven, had carried a cargo from the United States to England and discharged it, then had gone in ballast to Spain, before coming to Bordeaux, and warning that if the prefect refused to admit the ship, Lee would refer the case to Armstrong and the minister of marine; a translation of Martin to Lee, 8 May 1805, saying that information received from Santander, Spain, made it impossible for him to admit the Draper; Lee to Armstrong, 10 May 1805, enclosing Martin’s letter, and stating that Green, aware of French marine regulations, had ballasted his ship and spent time in Spain before coming to Bordeaux; that after the ship had undergone quarantine and Green had ordered his cargo of wine and supplies, a letter had arrived from the French consul at Santander saying the ship, the captain, and the crew were probably English, after which the Draper was ordered to sea; that if the cargo were not loaded, it would have to be sold at a loss, and the ship would have to return to the United States in ballast or seek a cargo elsewhere in Europe; that Green had threatened to abandon the ship to the French officers, but “on reflection” had decided to leave matters to Armstrong; and appending a list of the ship’s papers being sent to Armstrong; and Nicholas Biddle to Lee, 14 May 1805, saying that Armstrong had lodged an urgent appeal to Denis Decrès and was awaiting an answer but he had decided not to detain the courier lest he arrive too late.

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