James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Lee (Abstract), 18 June 1805

§ From William Lee

18 June 1805, Bordeaux. “I take the liberty to enclose you a copy of a letter I wrote the Collector of Boston, a few days since concerning the Brig Ranger of that place.1 Capt Hooper has written I am told to Government on this business and those who have advised him to this measure are endeavouring to prevail on him to protest, and throw his Vessel on my hands. I hope on perusing my letter to Genl. Lincoln, you will approve my conduct and give me your support.”

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, CD, Bordeaux, vol. 2). RC 1 p.; docketed by Wagner as received 2 Sept. 1805. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The enclosure is a copy of Lee to Benjamin Lincoln, 15 June 1805 (5 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received in Lee’s 18 June dispatch), stating that the Ranger of Boston, Benjamin Hooper master, had recently been entered at the consulate. Hooper claimed to be the owner, but the ship’s register and Mediterranean pass said Samuel Dillaway of Boston was. Hooper said he bought the ship from Dillaway in March 1803 when he took over command, but Lincoln’s endorsement on the register said Hooper took command in September 1802. When asked to produce a bill of sale, Hooper first said he did not have one, then said he had left it with a third party until the bills he drew on Thomas Dickason & Co. for payment were honored. When asked to produce proof of the bills, Hooper only showed a letter and some accounts from the company, all dated in June 1802. The register listed the ship’s measurements as being somewhat different from the actual measurements. Hooper claimed this was because while sailing from Lisbon to Bordeaux in search of freight, he had found it necessary to put into the Île de Ré off La Rochelle for repairs costing 23,000 francs. He said French merchant F. Baudin lent him the money on bottomry, which Lee judged unlikely, since the vessel was not worth over 15,000 francs. Lee suspected, from the interest Mr. Pelletreaux of La Rochelle, a connection of Baudin, took in the case, that Baudin was concerned in the ship. Lee said he had been told that Hooper let Baudin have the ship’s sea letter for another vessel. The ship’s papers were so irregular and Hooper’s account of himself so “lame” that Lee said he would detain the register and the Mediterranean pass unless Hooper gave bonds to proceed from Bordeaux to Lisbon to Boston to adjust the matter with Lincoln. He said that he was so strict because there was “no flag so much abused” as that of the United States. Hooper had mutilated his clearance papers by cutting out sections describing the cargo, saying he had done so because they contained “the words Tar and naval stores” along with the other items, and he wished to avoid being captured by one of the belligerents. Lee noted, however, that the ship had left Boston two or three months before the declaration of war. Since Hooper might, if unable to post the bond, throw the vessel on Lee’s hands, Lee asked Lincoln to gather such information from Dillaway as would be useful, should Hooper decide to prosecute Lee, and to transmit the results to him through Benjamin Weld or through Lee’s brother-in-law William Palfrey (Jared Sparks, The Library of American Biography [25 vols.; Boston, 1834–48], 17:447–48).

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