James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Airth, 8 November 1805 (Abstract)

From David Airth, 8 November 1805 (Abstract)

§ From David Airth. 8 November 1805, Gothenburg. “I had the Honour of addressing your Excellency last on the 30th. Septr. by Capt. Dillingham of an American Ship to NewYork,1 a Copy of which is here inclosed, along with a Copy of my Letter and Memorandum of the 6th. Currt. to Count Ehrenheim the Swedish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.2 The Complaints they carry to him are not of very great Importance, but still I judged it necessary not to pass them over in Silence and I hope from the Counts known estimation by all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance, that it will be the Means of preventing such things in future; I have endeavoured to put the Letter in Such language, that it cannot easily be construed as meant to give unnecessary Offence, but at same time to convey the Truth. Agreeable to your General Instructions—I will have the honour at the Close of the Year to wait upon you with a particular Acct. of the Trade of the past Season which has much exceeded both my own and the general Expectation.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, CD, Gothenburg, vol. 1). RC 2 pp. For enclosures, see n. 2.

1The Pomona, Capt. John Dillingham, arrived in New York from Gothenburg about 4 Nov. 1805 (New York Mercantile Advertiser, 13 Apr. 1805; New-York Commercial Advertiser, 5 Nov. 1805).

2The enclosures (6 pp.) consist of a copy of Airth to Frederick von Ehrenheim, 6 Nov. 1805, stating that thirteen American ships had visited Gothenburg over the summer, carrying away almost twenty thousand ship pounds of iron together with other Swedish produce; that two of the captains had “innocently” been brought into lawsuits, the particulars of which Ehrenheim would see in an enclosed memorandum. Airth pointed out that should this sort of thing continue, Americans might avoid coming to Sweden to trade. In the enclosed 6 Nov. memorandum, Airth reported that although it had been proven in court in June 1805 that the shipbroker for Capt. David Crafts had “by a mistake” not entered fifteen barrels of raw sugar with the rest of the cargo and that there was no intent to smuggle, the sugar was nevertheless confiscated by the custom house. In the second case, Airth stated that two West Indian or Spanish seamen on board Capt. Moses M. Derkheim’s ship had repeatedly disobeyed orders, neglected duties, and finally deserted. Airth had summoned all three parties to the consulate and judged that, under U.S. law and the rôle d’équipage they had signed, the men had forfeited their wages and Derkheim was not required to receive them back on board. The city magistrates “at the Intercession of some inferior and deseigning Lawyers” sentenced Derkheim to pay the men damages for being expelled from the ship, although they had deserted and had “since attempted on Shore to murder the Captain Mate and several of the Crew.” The case was referred to a higher court, but Airth had been held answerable for the funds so that the ship would not be detained until that court’s final decision. Airth added that he had been told by several people familiar with Swedish law that the magistrates’ decision was “in direct opposition” to Swedish maritime and common law.

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