James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Christopher Johnston, Mark Pringle, and John Sherlock, 1 October 1805

From Christopher Johnston, Mark Pringle, and John Sherlock

Baltimore October 1st. 1805


We conceive it a Duty we owe ourselves and the Public to lay before you a Statement of the Case of the Schooner Hannah Maria, Peter Sorensen, Master.

This Vessel, owned by us, was loaded in this Port in the Month of March last and destined for Porto Bello on the Spanish Main, but conceiving it might facilitate her Admission into a Spanish Port, if she was cleared out for Curraçoa, we cleared her for that Port accordingly, and having given the Master Orders to Porto Bello, he proceeded there direct and to no other Po⟨rt⟩; whatever. On his homeward Passage from ⟨thence⟩; he was captured by His Britannic Majesty’s Ship Diana, John Thomas Maling Master, Who proc⟨eeded⟩; to take the said Schooner’s Cargo, consisting chiefly of Specie, on board the Frigate, an⟨d⟩; fitted out the Schooner with Guns, and h⟨as⟩; since kept her cruizing as a Tender, detai⟨ning⟩; at same Time the Captain, Supercargo a⟨nd⟩; Crew on board as Prisoners for upwards ⟨of⟩; Two Months, as appears by the enclosed Letters from Henry Bingham, late Super-⟨cargo⟩; of said Schooner Hannah Maria, which I⟨s⟩; further corroborated by the Affidavit of A. S. [sic] Thomas, a respectable Citizen of this Place ⟨to⟩; which we beg Leave to refer you.1 Viewing ⟨the⟩; Conduct of Captain Maling to be contrary ⟨to⟩; the Law of Nations, as well as a direct Viol⟨ation⟩; of the Treaty between the United States an⟨d⟩; Great Britain, we rely with Confidence on the ready Interposition of the President to obtain Restitution of the Schooner Hannah Maria and Cargo, by Representation to the Minister of His Britannic Majesty, or otherwise as to him may seem meet.2 With Sentiments of high Respect &c. &c.

(signed) Chr: Johnston
Mark Pringle
John Sherlock.3

Tr and Tr of enclosures (UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 5, 45:297–299v); letterbook copy and letterbook copy of enclosures (UkLPR: Foreign Office, ser. 115, 14:143–145v). Tr and Tr of enclosures, marked ⟨“(C⟩;opy),” enclosed in Merry to Mulgrave, 2 Nov. 1805 (ibid., ser. 5, 45:293–294v). Words and parts of words in angle brackets in the Tr have been supplied from the letterbook copy. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1The enclosures (4 pp.) are copies of (1) Henry Bingham to Christopher Johnston, 3 Aug. 1805, “on board the British Frigate Diana off the Havana,” stating that he had written Johnston by every opportunity since his detention on the Diana; that the Hannah Maria had arrived safely at Portobelo after 28 days’ passage; that he had sold all the cargo for $19,101, except for “about 15 or 16 Hundred Dollars of Goods” and “three Trunks of Merchandize” belonging to Johnston’s son that remained unsold; that they had left Portobelo on 17 Apr. 1805 but were detained on 2 June on grounds that they had cleared out of Curaçao, which was blockaded; that the money was on board the Diana; that the Hannah Maria had been armed and sent on a cruise; that he and Captain Sorensen were held on the frigate, which had been down the Gulf of Mexico and was then off Havana; that the Diana was short of provisions and would soon get into a port which he believed would be New Providence; that he would write as soon as they arrived; and that he “never suffered as much in [his] Life”; and (2) the 28 Sept. 1805 deposition of Baltimore merchant A. J. Thomas before Baltimore notary public Samuel Sterett that on 24 June 1805, while he was sailing from Campeche to New Orleans in the Flying Fish, his ship was captured by the Diana, “then lying in the Mouth of the River Mississippi”; that he saw Sorensen, Bingham, and the crew of the Hannah Maria on board the frigate; that Sorensen and Bingham had told him about their capture and detention, and that they were to be held until the Diana’s cruise ended in about two months; that he saw the Hannah Maria acting as tender to the Diana; and that while he was on board the frigate, the Hannah Maria was fitted out and sent on a cruise.

2On 17 Oct. 1805 Jacob Wagner informed Johnston, Pringle, and Sherlock (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 15) that JM would call Anthony Merry’s attention to the case but advised them in the meantime to pursue the case in the British courts.

3Merchant Christopher Johnston (1750–1819) was a director of the Bank of the United States and the National Bank of Baltimore, an elder of the First Presbyterian Church, and one of the founders of the Maryland Insurance Company. Baltimore merchant Mark Pringle (d. 1819) was also a director of the Bank of the United States. His estate at Havre-de-Grace, Maryland, was set afire by the British during the War of 1812 but was saved through the efforts of William Pinkney and two marines. Merchant John Sherlock (d. 1813), who was in business with Pringle in 1800, was one of the founders of the Maryland Insurance Company and the Baltimore Insurance Company. All three men were directors of the Marine Insurance Office (George Norbury Mackenzie, ed., Colonial Families of the United States of America … [7 vols.; New York, 1907–20], 4:270; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 8 Mar. 1819; J. Thomas Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County from the Earliest Period to the Present Day: Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men [Philadelphia, 1881], 452, 454, 455, 546; William Kilty, comp., The Laws of Maryland … [2 vols.; Annapolis, 1800], 2: Nov. 1795, ch. 60; Edgar Erskine Hume, “Letters Written During the War of 1812 by the British Naval Commander in American Waters (Admiral Sir David Milne),” WMQ, description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends 2d ser., 10 [1930]: 290 n. 24; New-York Evening Post, 13 Jan. 1819; New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, 28 Dec. 1813; Philadelphia Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, 26 Jan. 1796; Federal Gazette & Baltimore Daily Advertiser, 4 Sept. 1800, 8 Apr. 1801e).

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