James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Joseph Thomas, 5 March 1811 (Abstract)

§ From Joseph Thomas

5 March 1811, Malta. “During a residence of ten Years, in this Island, as Garrison Surgeon I have had frequent opportunities of knowing & attending professionally, many of your Excellencys Countrymen.… The purport of my writing to your Excellency, at this time is to acquaint of Mr. Payne’s state of health.”1 For some time Payne has been in “a most dangerous state, of nervous instability, attended with great general debility.” Mr. Moore, in whose house Payne has resided, has done all he could, and “the only alternative left, was the sending him home to his native Country, & air, for a change.” Makes this statement in justice to Payne and to explain why he leaves his public post without first communicating with his government, “a delay which in this instance might be attended with fatal consequences.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, ML). 2 pp. Filed with the RC is the report of a medical board on the health of John C. Payne, dated 3 Mar. 1811 and signed by Joseph Thomas and W. T. Iliff (1 p.).

1Since 1807 John C. Payne, brother of Dolley Madison, had been serving as secretary to the U.S. consul in Tripoli where he had been sent after experiencing problems with alcohol. Sometime in 1809 Payne apparently took up residence in Malta, but in March 1810 the consul in Tripoli, George Davis, turned over the affairs of the consulate to Payne so that Davis could return with his family to the U.S. It had been JM’s intention to replace Davis in Tripoli by appointing Richard Forrest and at the same time to send Payne to Paris as secretary to Joel Barlow, minister-designate to France. Payne, however, returned to the U.S. in June 1811, suffering from fever, possibly malaria, and in embarrassed financial circumstances. He did not accompany Barlow to France as his secretary because he had borrowed money in Malta, and as Dolley Madison wrote, “if he went to france without it, he would be liable to arrest there.” She despaired for her brother, who seemed to be incapable of supporting himself independently (Davis to Payne, 15 Mar. 1810 [DNA: RG 59, CD, Tripoli]; Forrest to JM, 2 Mar. 1811; Dolley Madison to David Bailie Warden, 8 Mar. 1811 [MdHi: Warden Papers]; Dolley Madison to Anna Cutts, 15 July 1811 [owned by Mr. and Mrs. George B. Cutts, Brookline, Mass., 1958]; JM to Richard Cutts, 6 Oct. 1811).

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