James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Smith Barton, 20 May 1810 (Abstract)

§ From Benjamin Smith Barton

20 May 1810, Philadelphia. Has initiated at his personal expense a scientific expedition into the Northwest Territory “and the adjacent British settlements.” Thomas Nuttall leads the party, which is already, “I presume, at Detroit, without any passport.” An unanticipated difficulty arose owing to Nuttall’s British citizenship. Secretary of State Robert Smith has been uncooperative, in contrast to David Erskine, who gave “a full and generous protection” to a French scientist in 1807. Regrets necessity of troubling JM, but the matter has become urgent. “I have lost every chance of getting a protection from the British minister; and it will require every exertion on my part to forward, in time to be useful, that from the A. government, even if obtained.”1

RC, appendix, and enclosure (DLC). RC 4 pp. The appended letter, Barton to JM, 21 May 1810 (1 p.), states that the enclosure was received after first letter was written and that, based on JM’s knowledge of him, Barton still hopes to receive “some kind of letter of facility”; in any case, he will reapply to the British minister for a passport. Enclosure, Richard Forrest to Barton, 17 May 1810 (1 p.), cites State Department regulation “not to grant a Passport to any other, than an American Citizen.”

1No official response to this request has been located, but according to later testimony by Barton, he was able to obtain “a special passport from the president of the United States” (Jeanette E. Graustein, Thomas Nuttall, Naturalist: Explorations in America, 1808–1841 [Cambridge, Mass., 1967], pp. 39, 410).

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