James Madison Papers

Circular Letter to the Governors, 29 May 1805

Circular Letter to the Governors

Department of State, May 29th, 1805.


The President having thought proper, that, among other duties enjoined on the marshals, in executing certain provisions in the act of Congress, “for the more effectual preservation of peace in the ports and harbours of the United States, and in the waters under their jurisdiction,”1 they should be guided by your counsel with respect to a necessity of using the force for which they are authorised by the law to apply, I have the honor to enclose a copy of the directions which the President has given to the marshal of the district of Virginia2 and to communicate the request of the President, that you will be pleased, in the cases which may be stated to you by the marshal of that district, to signify to him your opinion thereon, and where that may approve the employment of a military force, to promote his prompt and effectual attainment of the same. I have the honor to be, With great respect, Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant,

James Madison

RC and enclosure (Vi: Executive Papers); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 14); Tr (UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 5, 45:222). RC is a printed circular, signed by JM, with salutation and name of state supplied by a clerk; cover sheet addressed to John Page, governor of Virginia, and franked by JM. FC is a printed circular; docketed by Jefferson as received 7 June, with his note: “act preservn. peace in harbors.” Letterbook copy headed: “(Circular to the Governors of the several States*),” with a footnote: “*Note—Sent the above to all the governors of States, except those of Vermont, Ohio, Kentucky & Tennessee—Sent it likewise to the Govr. of Orleans Ty.” Tr enclosed in Merry to Mulgrave, 30 June 1805, UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 5, 45:210–14. For enclosure, see n. 2.

1The 3 Mar. 1805 “Act for the more effectual preservation of peace in the ports and harbors of the United States, and in the waters under their jurisdiction,” that was passed in response to the actions of the Cambrian and other British warships in New York harbor, gave U.S. officials the power to arrest on board foreign vessels anyone who committed a crime against U.S. statutes, and authorized the president to ban from U.S. ports and harbors armed vessels belonging to any nation or to force their departure from the same (U.S. Statutes at Large, description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends 2:339–42). For the actions of Capt. William Bradley and the officers of the Cambrian, 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 7:332–33 and nn., 353 and nn. 1–2, 359 n. 3, and 369 and n. 1.

2For the enclosure, see Circular Letter to the Marshals, 29 May 1805.

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