James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Robert Morris Jr., 17 August 1805 (Abstract)

To Robert Morris Jr., 17 August 1805 (Abstract)

§ To Robert Morris Jr.1 17 August 1805, Department of State. “I have received your letter respecting Comfort Sand’s, claim under the Louisiana convention,2 but as the payments in such cases are made at the Treasury and the questions which may be raised in whom the real interest of the claim resides are consequently to be disposed of, I could not promote your wishes otherwise than by transmitting the letter to that Department.”

Letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15). 1 p.

1Robert Morris Jr. (b. 1769) was the oldest son of Revolutionary financier Robert Morris. He and his younger brother Thomas were educated in Europe, where they were acquainted with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay. In 1823 Morris was sued by Comfort Sands for funds Sands believed were due to him and not to Morris, who was one of Sands’s assignees in his bankruptcy (Ferguson et al., eds., The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784, 3:58–59 n. 2; Thomas W. Waterman, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of the United States, for the Second Circuit, Comprising the Districts of New York, Connecticut and Vermont [2 vols.; 1827–1856], 2:409–15).

2Morris’s letter has not been found, but it probably dealt with Sands’s claim against the French government for his ship Light Horse, John Hoff master, which was captured in June 1797 while on a trading voyage from Bristol, England, to New York, and carried into Bordeaux, where the ship and cargo were condemned for lack of a proper rôle d’équipage (Williams, French Assault on American Shipping, 218). Comfort Sands (1748–1834) entered the mercantile line as a boy of twelve. At the age of twenty-one he opened his own store and quickly made a fortune in trade with the West Indies. He was a fervent patriot during the Revolution and fled New York with his family when it was occupied by the British in 1776. He spent the next seven years moving about in the Philadelphia area and upstate New York. From 1776 to 1782 he served as auditor general of New York. In 1784 he was one of the founders of the Bank of New York, and from 1794 to 1798 he was president of the Chamber of Commerce. In spite of having bank deposits of over three million dollars earned from trade, he had so many ships seized by the British and French during their European war that he declared bankruptcy in June 1801. The final settlement left him with a surplus of $118,000, and he retired to a country estate in New Jersey.

Index Entries