James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Samuel Snow, 22 September 1805 (Abstract)

From Samuel Snow, 22 September 1805 (Abstract)

§ From Samuel Snow. 22 September 1805, Providence. “Herewith I have the honour to transmit to you two semi-annual returns of Vessels entered and cleared at the Port of Canton between the first day of January and the last day of December 1804 [not found], also copies of sundry letters received by a late arrival from my Agent at Canton relative to the impressment of some American Seamen on board the Carolina, and Grampus two of his Britanic Majestys Ships, and the demand made by him for their releasement.1

“From the tenor of the reply of Captain B.W. Page, which seems intended merely to evade giving a possitive refusal, and the scheme of Captain Caulfield, it appears clerely to be the determination of those gentlemen (and I fear also of many other Commanders of Foreign Ships) to take every advantage of our defenceless Seamen wherever they may fall in with them, and however contrary to treaty and the most solomn engagements they appear determined to impress indiscriminately all those whom they may concieve would be in the least serviceable to them, or that caprice might dictate.

“The Chinese are a Nation who invariably refuse to interfere, or meddle with the laws, or Government, of any other Country, and leave the controle of all Foreigners who may be among them, or within their ports (so long as they do not break, or infringe, upon their own laws and regulations) entirely to the direction of those who may have been empowered by their own Government to watch over them, or to the Commanders of Ships who are under no such restrictions, to act in the disposal of their Crews as in their opinions may seem best.

“A Consul or Agent therefore, thus situated, finds it impossible to enforce his demands by any legal process, or aid, in China, and is too frequently obliged to submit to the painful necessity of barely receiving an evasive refusal to his request without any means whatever in his power to exact a compliance. To guard our Seamen from oppression, insult, and cruelty abroad, appears to be a subject of great magnitude. I cannot therefore Sir, but submit it to your consideration, whether it would not be expedient, and important, for Government to provide more effectually if possible, against so growing an evil, an evil so destructive to our commerce, so painfull to our Citizens, and so humiliating to every freind to his Country.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Canton, vol. 1). RC 3 pp.; docketed by Wagner. For surviving enclosures, see n. 1.

1The enclosures (8 pp.) are copies of (1) Edward Carrington to Snow, 31 Dec. 1804, transmitting copies (not found) of three protections from American seamen held on the British warship Caroline, one protection from a seaman on the Grampus, the letters from the seamen to Carrington, and Carrington’s correspondence with the captains of the ships; (2) Carrington to Benjamin William Page of the Caroline, 6 Dec. 1804, asking for the release of Samuel Endicott, George Christie, and Charles Moody, who had protections stating that they were U.S. citizens; (3) Carrington to Thomas Gordon Caulfield of the Grampus, 6 Dec. 1804, asking for the release of John Barton, who also had a protection; (4) Page to Carrington, 7 Dec. 1804, stating that Carrington would have to address his request to the Admiralty Lords at London or to the Admiral, Commander in Chief in India, since Page could not discharge any man without orders from them; (5) Carrington to Page, 11 Dec. 1804, stating that the men appeared to have been impressed under Page’s command and he was therefore “the proper person to grant them their liberation,” adding that he had had no opportunity to apply to the Admiralty Lords or to the Admiral, Commander in Chief, and if the men were not released, he would report the incident to the U.S. government; and (6) Page to Carrington, 11 Dec. 1804, stating that he had no orders to attend to demands like Carrington’s. In his 31 Dec. 1804 letter to Snow (see enclosure 1 above), Carrington said that Caulfield had not replied to his 6 Dec. letter.

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