James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John J. Murray, 22 June 1803

From John J. Murray, 22 June 1803

American Consulate City of Glasgow 22 June 1803


Having received some weeks ago a copy ⟨of⟩ an Act passed by Congress on the 28 feby. last entitled “an Act ⟨s⟩upplementary to the Act concerning Consuls & Vice Consuls ⟨and⟩ for the further protection of American Seamen,” I thought it my duty to Act ⟨up⟩on it immediately altho’ it did not come to me through an Official channel. A little before the period alluded to I had received an Extract ⟨of⟩ the same Law from the Secretary of the Treasury with directions ⟨to⟩ have it published in the news Papers in my District for the ⟨in⟩formation of persons concerned in the stocks of the United States ⟨w⟩hich I accordingly had done and also gave notice to Masters ⟨&⟩ Commanders of American Vessels, arriving at the Ports of the Clyde, to deposit their Ships Papers at this office. So⟨me li⟩ttle opposition to this measure was at first Manifested but ⟨ha⟩ving declared that I would proceed against every defaul⟨ter⟩ according to Law, general obedience to the act appears now to be acquiesced in. Several Registers & other Papers ⟨h⟩ave consequently been deposited with me and I am sorry ⟨to⟩ say that my former suspicions of the Illegality of ⟨claimed⟩ American Vessels, of which I gave you a hint in my letter ⟨of⟩ the 10 January last, are now perfectly confirmed, and I ⟨would ve⟩nture to declare to you even at the hazard of loosing the confidence of my Government, which I esteem inestimable, ⟨sh⟩ould my declaration be untrue, that there is hardly a Vessel known here as a Regular Trader between the United States & the Clyde but has British owners. However reluctant to me to make this communication as it will involve many Persons in Guilt & subject much property to confiscation, yet the true Interests of my Country impose it upon me as a duty from which I cannot Shrink but with dishonour to myself.

Some time ago a Mr. Richard H Morris a native of this place and Partner in a Mercantile House in this City under the firm of Hugh Morris (the Father of the said Richard H Morris) & Sons was sent to New York to make an establishment there, which he effected, and on the 29 December 1800 obtained a Register jointly with Thomas Holden, Mariner of New York for the Ship Washington of New York of 228 Tons Burthen, which Register was Granted by Joshua Sands Collr. of that Port & numbered (461). Thomas Holden w⟨as⟩ at the date of the Register and until the 4 Septr. 1801 master of t⟨he⟩ said Ship, but at the last mentioned period he was succeeded by Nathaniel Noyes who is the Present Master. Now he as Rich⟨ard⟩ H Morris is a Son & Partner of Hugh Morris a British Subje⟨ct⟩ & Mercht. of this place of the House of Hugh Morris & Sons w⟨ho⟩ jointly, without question, participates in the Profits of Vessels as well as Merchandize owned by their Respective hou⟨ses⟩ in New York & Glasgow. It appears clear, & without doubt to me that, by the Law of the 31 Decr. 1792, the said Ship Washington is forfeited to the United States. Again, it has been hinted that Thomas Holden of New York is a mere nominal owner, which, if true, would be another ground of forfeiture. Richard H Morris is now here & I am told has been in this Coun⟨try⟩ for a long time, and it is quite likely that he will not return again to the United States without indeed he should be induc⟨ed⟩ to do so, as before, by motives of Interest. As to his changing ⟨his⟩ Allegiance from his native Country, which the Law naturaliz⟨ing⟩ foreigners certainly Contemplates before the dignified Stile of American Citizen & the rights & privileges annexed thereto are ⟨by⟩ it is altogether out of the question. A Scotchman never chang⟨es⟩ his Allegiance but to suit his Interest & convenience, and, for the Same reasons, returns to it again. How long the reside⟨nce⟩ of a Citizen of the United States in a foreign Country m⟨ay⟩ be deemed sufficient to deprive him of the Rights & Pr⟨ivi⟩leges of one, the law of the 31 Decr. 1792 does not particular⟨ly⟩ point out, nor’ does it make a distinction in a foreig⟨n⟩ residence between a Native Citizen & an adopted one which appears not just, but waving remarks on the⟨se⟩ point for the present, Altho’ Mr. Richard H Morris may ⟨be⟩ a Citizen of the United States, & Still entitled, altho’ residing ⟨in⟩ Europe, to own American Vessels, this Right to him, Cannot ex⟨tend to⟩ his Father & Brothers who are (as I believe him to be) Bona f⟨ide⟩ British subjects resident here, and yet, if the Washington Should not be forfeited to the United States the Father & Brother⟨s⟩ who unquestionably participate in the Profits of the aforesai⟨d⟩ Ship, may be truly said to enjoy the Right (one of the goo⟨d⟩ benefits at least) of American Citizens. The following Ca⟨se⟩ is if possible more strong than the foregoing. Some time since having received advice that a remittance was made to me by one of the Charleston Traders I immediately ordered Insurance to be affected thereon & offered, through my Clerk, the usual premium on American Bottoms. The underwriters declined [. . .] at the offered premium & gave aloud as their reason that the Vessel referred to in the order for Insurance altho’ considered American had British Own⟨ers⟩ a circumstance th⟨at if generally⟩ known, would add greatly to the risk especially in time of War, & of course that the premium ought to be proportionately ⟨in⟩creased. Altho much mortified and confounded when I was informed of this bold declaration I thought it most prudent to wave making ⟨a⟩ny observations thereon at the time, least they might ⟨prove⟩ other ⟨d⟩iscoveries & injure the case in point. As soon as the Vessel ⟨a⟩bove alluded to, arrived I desired the Master to deposit her ⟨p⟩apers with me which was done after sometime. The Register dated 5 December 1801. (No. 178) granted by James Simons Collr. ⟨o⟩f Charleston to James Macadam Mercht. there, together with Robert Bowden of the City of New York Mariner (who is the ⟨p⟩resent Master) for the Ship Sarah of Charleston Burthen [. . .]30 25/95 tons, Isaac [. . .] Master at the date of the Register. Now Sir it is almost universally known by the Merchants and ⟨u⟩nderwriters here that James Macadam of Charleston, is ⟨a⟩ Scotchman and that he is a Partner in the house of William Taylor & Co. Merchts. of this City, and, that their Interests are united ⟨in⟩ Vessels as well as Merchandize nobody can doubt. Hence the ⟨gr⟩ound of the declaration of the underwriters “that the Sara⟨h h⟩ad British owners” She is therefore, according to my be⟨st j⟩udgment forfeited to the United States. Mr. Macad⟨am is in⟩ Scotland & it is doubtful if he will return again to ⟨the United⟩ States. Sir altho’ determined, whiles filling an Official S⟨tation to⟩ expose the Violators of the Laws of my Country without resp⟨ect⟩ ⟨I⟩ cannot but feel much concern when I look to the Consequ⟨ences th⟩at will follow the seizure & forfeiture of the Washington & Sar⟨ah & o⟩ther Vessels that are in the Same Situation, and which it will be ⟨my d⟩uty to inform you of as soon as I am in possession of their papers ⟨be⟩cause as formerly noticed almost the whole Trade of the United ⟨States w⟩ith Scotland is carried on in Vessels of their description, which will ⟨co⟩nsequently be much checked, if not destroyed, by their forfeiture but Sir were I to Suffer such practices to be indulged in, with ⟨so⟩ strong a Conviction in my own Mind of their being Illegal & ⟨d⟩irectly opposed to the best Interests of our good & Lawful ⟨Ci⟩tizens, I would certainly deserve to be removed from office &, ⟨w⟩ith every mark of disapprobation. In a word Sir I have no hesitation in saying that every Vessel of the United States that is registered in favor of Richard H Morris of New York & James Macadam of Charleston, ought immediately to be siezed as they are most certainly owned by foreigners. The Washington is to Clear for New York to day. The Sarah will Sail for Charleston by the Middle of next Month. With distinguished Respect I have the honor to be Sir Yr. Most Obt. Hble Servt.

John J Murray

Consul of the United States of America at Glasgow

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