James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Patton (Abstract), 25 May 1805

§ From Robert Patton

25 May 1805, Fredericksburg. “For the information of Government I take the liberty of enclosing the affidavit of Capn. Samuel Pearson, who lately commanded one of my vessels, which has been captured in the manner therein described.1

“Capn. Pearson has been upwards of ten years in my employ; is a man of worth & respectability & of undoubted veracity.

“I do not know that Government can take any steps effectually to prevent the injury that is daily done to our commerce in the West Indies, by the lawless set that infests those seas, but I hope it will not be considered improper to convey to it, information of such outrages as that I have just suffered.”2

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 76, Preliminary Inventory 177, France, entry 143, Unbound Records Relating to Spoliation Claims, ca. 1885, box 20, folder “Schooner Iris, Captain Pearson”). RC 1 p.; docketed by Wagner as received 28 May, with his note: “French / Sch’r Iris (Capt. Pearson).” For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The enclosure (2 pp.) is Samuel Pearson’s 22 May 1805 deposition before Fredericksburg notary public Benjamin Parke, stating that the schooner Iris had sailed from Norfolk on 24 Feb. 1805 with a cargo of flour bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it arrived on 11 Mar. 1805, and departed for Norfolk on 1 Apr. with a cargo of coffee, sugar, fustic dye-wood, and specie, worth in all $9,188. On 8 Apr. 1805 the ship was overtaken by Captain Brouard of the French privateer Mosquito, who brought Pearson on board his ship and inspected the Iris’s papers, which were all in order. Brouard claimed that they were forged and that the Iris had come from Cap Français, making it and the cargo liable for seizure. He flogged Iris’s mate and a black sailor “to make them say that the Schooner was from Cape Francoise,” but they did not. Brouard then seized the Iris and put Pearson and five crew members on board the Mosquito, leaving one on the Iris, on which he placed his own men, and the ship sailed away to an unknown destination. On 10 Apr. the Mosquito fell in with Capt. Samuel Lowe and the Rhode Island brig Mount Vernon. Brouard robbed Lowe of $295 in specie and ordered Pearson and three of his crew onto Lowe’s ship. When Pearson attempted to remain on the Mosquito until it entered port so that he could ascertain what had become of the Iris, he was threatened with flogging. On 24 Apr. 1805 Pearson and his three crewmen arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, where he entered his protest (Trenton Federalist, 27 May 1805).

2On 31 May 1805 JM sent Louis-Marie Turreau copies of Patton’s letter and the enclosure, adding that it was unnecessary to point out the outrageousness of Brouard’s act or for Turreau to reflect on it in order to prevail upon him to take such measures as were in his power to obtain justice for the wrongs suffered by these U.S. citizens and to inflict a punishment on the guilty that would prevent others from committing similar acts in the future (AAE: Political Correspondence, U.S., 58:174; 2 pp.; in French; where Patton is referred to as “Paterson”; enclosed in Turreau to Talleyrand, 22 Prairial an XIII [11 June 1805], ibid., 170–71). JM’s 31 May letter is calendared in the index to DNA: RG 59, Notes to Foreign Ministers and Consuls, vol. 1.

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