James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Morton, 20 January 1802

From John Morton, 20 January 1802

Havana, 20. Jan: 1802.


My last address was of the 9th. current, in which I took occasion to inform you that no decisive steps had been taken with regard to the many American Vessels which had arrived at this port subsequent to the late order of prohibition; but that, from causes then stated, they might be expected to occur in the course of a few Days more. Accordingly, on the 13th. intimation was given that on the following day the vessels, then in port, would be admitted to an entry; their numbers amounting to fifty nine with, & sixteen without, cargoes—in the whole, to seventy five.

In the conferences which I had stated to you, Sir, as having had with the Governor, the mode suggested by His Excelly. as the most proper to bring the subject of admission under his cognizance was by petition to him from the Consignee of each vessel; and upon which I was made to understand that he would grant the required extension.

The delay attending a decision, even on this mode, I had, untill the 9th., considered as occasioned, solely, by the intended departure of a Ship of war for Old ⟨Spain⟩ & the nature of the Dispatches which it would ⟨be⟩ necessary to forward by that vessel; but from the [. . .] to the 18th. a different kind of negotiation it app⟨ears⟩ was found necessary: and the result of severa⟨l⟩ meetings of Merchants in the Amer: Trade termin⟨ated⟩ in the (accepted) offer to the person particularly poi⟨nted⟩ out in my Dispatch of the 11. Decr. ulto: of a Douceu⟨r⟩ amounting to, at least, 4 & 1/2 Per Cent on the valu⟨e⟩ of the cargoes!

This measure, tho’ perfectly ascertained, becomes from it’s nature impossible to be brought into public notice, or re⟨mon⟩strance; yet, this oppressive addition to the alrea⟨dy⟩ heavy burthen of Impost under which our Commerce ⟨with⟩ this island labors, is too aggravating not to be sever⟨ely⟩ condemned.

The Island remains at this ⟨mo⟩ment in the same dependant state upon us for Su⟨p⟩plies, as before. Not a single Spanish Vesse⟨l⟩ has arrived since the news of peace, from any qu⟨arter⟩ with any kind of supplies. Accounts from ⟨the⟩ Mother-Country state it to be sunk into the ⟨most⟩ ruinous inactivity, from which a great length of ⟨time⟩ can, alone, retreive it. To say the least, the⟨n⟩ the benefits derived from the past, & the reciprocity of Interest in a continued intercourse with us should have dictated a more just & equitable conduct.

There have arrived about Twenty five Vessels since the conditional admission of the former; upon which no Decision has yet been had, but which it is supposed may be obtained on similar terms.

Some Merchants however have since determined not to submit to them.

In this state our affairs at present remain; and with a Government administered, or rather abused, as this is, it becomes useless to attempt to make them better. With much Respect, I am, Sir, Your Mo. Obed. Servt:

Jno: Morton.

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