James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Anthony Merry, 9 July 1805

From Anthony Merry

Washington July 9th. 1805


I have the Honor to transmit to You enclosed the Copy of a Correspondence which has taken Place between His Majesty’s Consul General at New York and the Mayor of that City1 on the Subject of a Breach of Neutrality which the latter Officer has allowed to take Place on the Part of a French Privateer by encreasing her Force in Guns, Ammunition and Men, in the Port of New York, where she entered with the Pretext of making some necessary Repairs.

It may be permitted to me to observe upon the Mayor’s Reply to the Representation made to him by Mr. Barclay, that his Application for Information on the Subject of it to the Commissary of the French Government and to the Agent of the Privateer, and, above all, his being satisfied with the Assurances which he received from that interested Quarter, for he does not express to have made any other Inquiry, whilst the Circumstances stated by Mr. Barclay were so notorious as to have been remarked upon in the public Prints,2 would seem to evince a very unfavorable Disposition on the Part of that Magistrate to observe that strict Neutrality to which I am persuaded that the Government of the United States would in every Instance wish to adhere.

This Persuasion, Sir, renders it unnecessary for me to make any Apology for troubling You on this Occasion; and I am equally convinced that it will be sufficient that you should be in Possession of the enclosed Correspondence for such an Animadversion to be made to the Mayor of New York upon his Conduct in this Instance as shall ensure a more strict Observance of Neutrality on his Part in Future. I have the Honor to be, with high Consideration and Respect, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant3

Ant: Merry

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, NFL, Great Britain, vol. 3). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Merry; docketed by Wagner: “Les Amies.” For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Merry enclosed copies of Thomas Barclay to DeWitt Clinton, 3 July 1805 (1 p.; docketed by Wagner), stating that since arriving at New York, the privateer Les Amies had augmented its guns and crew members and was said to have loaded gunpowder, and asking Clinton to take measures to prevent the ship’s departure which was scheduled for the following morning; and Clinton to Barclay, 5 July 1805 (1 p.; docketed by Wagner), saying that he had “applied to the Commissary of the French Government, and the Agent of the French Privateer” and had “received their most explicit and satisfactory Assurance that the Information given to you is totally incorrect.”

2The 6 July 1805 New-York Gazette & General Advertiser reported: “The French privateer, which has been in this port for a month, having been repaired, and having taken in powder and guns, sailed on Wednesday last (through the Sound) on a cruize. We shall soon hear, no doubt, of her industry in the old trade of plundering defenceless vessels off Sandy Hook.”

3On 17 July 1805 JM wrote to collector David Gelston at New York: “Mr. Merry the British Minister, has transmitted to me a representation that the French privateer, Les Amies, has increased the number of her men & guns, in the Port of New York accompanied with a suggestion that she might have there also received some gun-powder on board. Though the Mayor appears to have been persuaded that these allegations were unfounded, as they in all probability will prove to be, yet as you are possessed of standing instructions to enquire into and prevent such breaches of neutrality, to ascertain which the Officers of the Customs have the best means, I request you to examine into the matter and report to me the result” (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15; 1 p.).

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