James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Willis, 13 July 1803

From William Willis, 13 July 1803

Barcelona July the 13th. 1803

Respected Sir,

Since my last Via Lisbon nothing very remarkable has occurr’d here: we have no late news from tripoly but the Algerines have taken a number of Brittish Merchant Ships, On account of their Passes not agreeing with the forms Last sent out.

I have lately demanded of Captain James Mills to deliver into this office his ships papers but he has absolutely refus’d to do it.

Benjamin B Mumford who with Lewis & Baker seem to have been the principal authors of the false papers made here and who run away from this place in the night like his two comrades, I find is set off for Bordeaux, from Marseilles Leaving Baker & Ogden & Schwartz their agents at that place, and Captain James Mills who is thei⟨r⟩ secret agent here and with whom they left their effects papers &c. when they run away from this place, informs me that Baker has been an old trader with false papers, and he also says that almost Every Eng⟨lish⟩ Vessell that goes to sea has a set ⟨of⟩ false American papers, and he also sa⟨ys⟩ he saw an English Captain with a set of them in this Port but he did not inform me of it untill the Ves⟨sel⟩ was gone, he has Equivocated much in ⟨the⟩ Subject: and says he does not know ⟨the⟩ name of the Captain that had them Indeed I fear much that Mills who I thought innocent is deeply concern’d in this business: perhaps I may dete⟨ct⟩ him.

It is Certainly necessary to chan⟨ge⟩ in some Manner the American Shi⟨ps⟩ papers, as Mills says a full set ⟨of⟩ them could have been bought for some ⟨y⟩ears past at a Guinea but in changing the Mediteranean passes it will Certainly ⟨b⟩e necessary to avoid the Error the English ⟨h⟩ave fallen into. It perhaps would be ⟨b⟩est to Oblige Every Vessell to a New ⟨form⟩ every Voiage and ⟨Rub⟩ up the ⟨o⟩ld form, And to give Each Master ⟨of⟩ a Ship a Coppy of their Pass Struck ⟨o⟩n fine paper, which they should be ⟨O⟩bliged to Exhibit to the Consuls of Every Port they Visit, on their Voiage, ⟨a⟩nd that the Consuls should be Oblig’d ⟨to⟩ sign and seal this form at Every ⟨p⟩ort where Such Ship should touch This would be a check, on those who ⟨use⟩ any false papers. This Check pass ⟨s⟩hould be struck on one kind of ⟨p⟩aper made for the purpose with a Clear Water Mark in it, and none of the paper made with this Mark should be suffer’d to be made any other Use of, and a form should be sent to Each of the Consuls. Th⟨is⟩ would in my Opinion be a very effectual check. But the Governmen⟨t⟩ may perhaps devise better.

My attempting to investigate the business of the false papers & to detect the Authors has nearly cost me my life Poison & Daggers have been employ’d to destroy me, and I have no⟨t⟩ yet entirely recovered the effects of th⟨e⟩ Poison which has been given me ⟨at⟩ the instigation of those Vilains I am Sir With Respect ⟨&⟩ Esteem Yr Hbl Servt.

Willm. Willis

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