James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tobias Lear, 30 August 1801

From Tobias Lear, 30 August 1801

No. 9.

Cape François, August 30th. 1801


I have the honor to enclose the copy of a letter which has been written to me by Citizen Roume, the last agent sent to this Island by the French Government, together with my answer. This Gentleman was appointed and sent out before the present order of things took place in France. Whether he has been confirmed, or acknowledged by the present Government, or not, I cannot tell. In the contest between Toussaint & Rigaud, he took part with the former, and by his Official acts confirmed his proceeding; as an evidence of which I enclose an Arrêté of his during that contest, and which also relates to the commercial convention respecting this Island. It seems, that since that time, the conduct of the Agent has not been agreeable to General Toussaint, who has kept him confined, not in close prison, but within certain limits, and under a guard. He is now permitted to return to France, through the United States; and as I am informed that he is a man of warm, ungovernable passions, and may possibly take amiss my declining to comply, with his request, I have thought it proper to send the Copies above mentioned to you, that you might know the precise state of the case.

Besides the person who was sent first to France (M. Vincent) through the United States, with the Constitution of this Island, several others have been dispatched; and in a few days will be sent a M. Nogèrèe, one of the Members of the Central Assembly. As the direct communication between this Island and France is very uncertain (altho’ vessels arrive here & sail from hence to France sometimes) these persons take passage to the United States, and I beleive they all carry letters from the Governor to the Commercial Agents of the Fr. Republic in the ports of the U.S. to which they are bound.

Notwithstanding all the surmises and direct assertions of many, who are disgusted or disappointed here, that it is the intention of the Governor to make this Island independent of France, I have reason to think the contrary; and I trust that the President will not beleive assertions, when there are facts in contradiction to them. Many undoubtedly are disappointed and mortified, beyond measure, because another Nation has not possession or complete controul over everything in the Island. This, I have no doubt, was calculated upon, and as expectations were not fulfiled on this head, it is now declared that complete Independence is the object. But, let the event be as it may, I shall endeavor so to conduct myself, that the United States may not be committed with any Party.

Since the date of my last, (a Copy of which is enclosed) the Governor has been out of the City, at a plantation of his called D’hericourt, where he has been much indisposed; but I have received several letters from him, relating to some claims which I had, at the request of Am. Citizens, recommended to his attention. His expressions are cordial, and his declarations of a determination to do justice, very strong; and he has lately given better proofs than declarations, in more than one instance. But it has happened unfortunately, that many of our Citizens who have claims upon the Administration, have been in the habit of applying to persons to do their business, who pretend they have great influence with the General; and to those they have given considerable sums to expedite the business. In the end nothing is done: bribery & corruption are declared to prevail in every department—and they then bring their business to the public Officer of the United States. In this state, it is embarrassing to him: he finds those who have before undertaken the business, ready to place every obstacle in the way of its completion; and what is still more unpleasant, his Character may be involved with those who have received bribes; for if the business be not completed agreeably to the wish of the applicant, he is too apt cast his censure indiscriminately upon all who have had any agency in the business. I have already written to the Governor in general terms respecting the debts due to Am. Citizens—and shall press him to a decision on the subject as soon as circumstances may make it proper, and I have not hesitated to lay before him such cases as have been brought to me, where orders have been given for payment and they have not been complied with. In these cases he has immediately renewed the Orders to the satisfaction of the parties; but I shall not feel it incumbent upon me, in my public Character, to press forward every claim which may be brought; according to the impetuous wishes of the Claimant. After a general principle shall be established for the settlement of these claims, I doubt whether it is a duty imposed upon me, as a public Officer, to devote my time to individual claims (unless some extraordinary circumstances attend it). Should any be put into my hands for settlement I will do the business upon the terms of a Merchant. But on this head I pray you to instruct me; for my public duties shall supercede everything else. With every sentiment of pure respect & attachment, I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedt. & most hble Servt.

Tobias Lear.

Index Entries