James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John M. Forbes, 27 July 1803

From John M. Forbes, 27 July 1803

Hamburg 27th. July 1803.


Since writing the foregoing, nothing new has transpired. The Hanoverians have made a second capitulation as before noticed. The French have Crossed the Elbe a⟨nd⟩ taken full possession of the Duchy of Lauenburg a dependence of Hanover. The English have established a strict blockade at the mouth ⟨of⟩ our River, and have called on the powers pledged for the neutrality of it’s navigation to restore it, promising on this event to raise the blockade. In this state, things have remained for the last fifteen days. We now experience that awful Calm in the political Atmosphere which in the natural, often forebodes the gathering of a most desolating tempest. All the north of Europe, and mo⟨st⟩ particularly this City, trembles for the event, for On the first military movement on the part of the northern powers to oppose the French Arms, it is probable, almost to certainty, th⟨at⟩ this City will be occupied by the French. A Coalition betwee⟨n⟩ Russia, Denmark, Sweden and England was yesterday Spoke⟨n of.⟩ Should this prove the Case, we shall be in the Center of all their military operations and being one of the strongest fortified towns, shall occasionally be occupied by the belliger⟨ent⟩ Parties and exposed to all the horrors of Siege. Should [. . .] these things be realized, I expect to be the only neutral Agent here. It is my fixed determination and shall be my Constant endeavour, to Conform, as far as possible, to the duties of th⟨is⟩ Character. Hitherto I have had only to contest innovations on the part of England, but, should occasion present, shall not be less min⟨dful⟩ of my duty with respect to other powers. A Second discussion has arisen between the British Chargé d’affaires and myself [. . .] several Vessels (and among [. . .] the American Snow Debby, Capt. Elliot) being [. . .] the notification of the blockade, Sailed after it, and were ordered back again, by one of the blockading Squadron, La Fortunée, Capt. Vansittart. On Capt. Elliot’s return he entered his protest before me and immediately received my written instructions to proceed again to Sea and in Case his departure should be opposed, to demand a legal discussion in the British Court of Admiralty (a Copy of my letter of instructions is enclosed.) He proceeded down the River a Second time and I have reason to believe has passed unopposed. Since this measure, the Concession on the part of the English has been General to all neutral Vessels under similar circumstances. An official notice of it has been given and I have the satisfaction to believe that my Conduct, in this instance, has been Quite satisfactory to the Merchants of this City and hope it will be approved by you. I have demanded of the Chamber or College of Commerce of this City, General Tables of duties, Light money, Anchorage &c &c payable by their own Ships, by American Ships, and by other foreign Ships, and hope in a few days to transmit the same to you. Is it the wish of our Government to encourage the emigration of husbandmen? If so, there was never a more favorable moment than the present. From this Quarter, hundreds, nay thousands of sober, industrious cultivators might be procured who for their passages would agree to Serve two or three years. It certainly is worth the attention of our large holders of new lands to send ships here for the sole purpose of taking these people to the United States. As yet there are no difficult restrictions on their migration. Vessels are visited, the Passengers interrogated, and if it appears that they embark with their free consent they are suffered to pass. I have the ⟨honor to⟩ be, very respectfully, Your obedt. Servant

John M. Forbes

Consul of the U.S. of America

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