James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Rush, 29 October 1810

From Benjamin Rush

Philadelphia Octobr 29th. 1810

Dear Sir,

I have the honor to send you herewith the 4th report of the directors of the African institution in London and an adjudication of an appeal connected with the African trade, both of which appear to contain matter highly interesting to the National honor of the United States.1

Can nothing be done to wipe away the Stain that has been brought upon our moral and national character by the infamous practices alluded to in the report?2 Health, respect and friendship! from Dear Sir yours sincerely

Benjn: Rush

RC (DLC). Enclosures not found, but see n. 1.

1The African Institution had been formed in London in 1807, partly to bring philanthropy to Africa and, more importantly, to monitor the suppression of the slave trade, which Great Britain and the U.S. had abolished in 1807 and 1808, respectively. Its fourth Report, read at the annual meeting in London in March 1810, had deplored continued American participation in the slave trade under the fraudulent use of foreign flags and papers. The adjudication Rush mentioned was the case of the Amedie, decided by the lords commissioners of appeals on 17 Mar. 1810. Sir William Grant upheld the sentence of a vice-admiralty court in Tortola that had condemned the Amedie for violating the orders in council of November 1807 as well as for engaging in an illegal trade in slaves between Africa and Cuba. Grant affirmed the sentence on the latter grounds, ruling that as “there is no right established to carry on this trade, no claim to restitution of this property can be admitted” (Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush [2 vols.; Princeton, N.J., 1951], 2:1072; David Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade [Oxford, 1987], pp. 104–8; J. B. Moore, ed., Digest of International Law [2 vols.; Washington, 1910], 2:914–15).

2The administration was already familiar with the Amedie case, having received the details, accompanied by a note from James Stephen, in a dispatch from William Pinkney dated 23 Mar. 1810. In response, Robert Smith declared JM had “learned with pleasure” that Great Britain shared his “anxiety” to suppress the slave trade, and he directed Pinkney “to facilitate, as far as the respect essentially due to national prerogative will permit, rather than embarrass the means of attaining the common object.” In his annual message delivered on 5 Dec. 1810 JM also urged Congress to suppress both the abuse of the American flag and American involvement in the slave trade (Pinkney to Smith, 23 Mar. 1810 [DNA: RG 59, DD, Great Britain]; Smith to Pinkney, 16 June 1810 [DNA: RG 59, IM]; Madison, Writings [Hunt ed.] description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900-1910). description ends , 8:127–28).

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