James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Samuel Latham Mitchill, 26 February 1811

From Samuel Latham Mitchill

Capitol hill 26th. feby. 1811

Saml L Mitchill ventures to submit to the President, the petition of Capt John OBrien who is now charged in execution for a penalty incurred in consequence of a violation of the embargo-laws; and therewith to express his own wishes, that the President would extend to the petitioner, all the clemency that he can.1

RC and enclosure (DLC). RC docketed by JM. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Mitchill enclosed a petition addressed to JM by John O’Bryan, 23 Feb. 1811 (3 pp.; docketed by JM), written from debtors’ prison in New York where he was being held after his failure to pay a $4,000 fine that had been imposed in May 1809 for his violation of the embargo laws. O’Bryan maintained that he had been misled into an “involuntary infraction” of the laws by the owners and agents of the vessel that was implicated, and he argued that since he had departed on his voyage from New York on 11 Jan. 1809—before the law passed on 9 Jan. 1809 at Washington could have been in operation there—the “penalties of said additional Law” should not have been imposed. He also mentioned that he had a wife and ten children who were dependent on him for support and who were in distress. O’Bryan’s wife, Jane, had petitioned Dolley Madison earlier for a pardon for her husband (Jane O’Bryan to Dolley Madison, 27 Jan. 1811 [DLC: Dolley Madison Papers]). On 30 Mar. 1811 JM granted the pardon on the grounds that poverty had prevented O’Bryan from paying the fine and thus made him “a fit object of mercy” (DNA: RG 59, PPR).

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