James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Paul Hamilton, 25 August 1811

From Paul Hamilton

City of Washington August 25th. 1811

Dear Sir

The subject of the enclosed letter as connected with our naval establishment being important, before replying to the suggestions of the Governor, I beg leave to refer it to your consideration and to receive your instructions.1 Should you rather make it ground for a communication to Congress, on the letter being returned, I will lay it up specially for the purpose.

We have no news here. Of late we have had unusually heavy rains, insomuch as that, a great part of Pennsylvania Avenue has been twice overflowed, and I have seen some of the good people, in the small houses along it, standing knee deep in water, on the first floor—since which, the heat for days successively has been intense, the Mercury rising on an average to 92. Notwithstanding the City continues to be healthy, though if the hot weather lasts a little longer, I cannot doubt that the coming will prove to be a second edition of the last September. Dr. Thornton who has been for some weeks confined by a severe illness to his bed, is now so far convalescent as to be able to ride out.

I earnestly hope that you and Mrs. Madison are in the possession of perfect health; and that you will return to this place renovated for future duties.

I present to you both the united best wishes of my family and self, and avail myself of this occasion to renew to you the assurance of the sincere respect and cordial attachment with which I have the honor to be, Dr. Sir, yrs.

Paul Hamilton

P. S. In a late excursion to the mountains in company with Mr. & Mrs. Eustis and Mrs. Hamilton, I had the pleasure of spending part of a day and a night at Mrs. Washington’s. She was very hearty, and spoke of taking a journey into Pennsylvania, for the purpose of placing her Son at College. A misfortune which befell Dr. Eustis and rendered traveling painful to him, prevented our extending our journey farther, otherwise, I believe we would have paid our respects to you. The expedition however is again a subject of consultation in the same party at my house today at dinner.

P. H.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For the enclosure (2 pp.), see n. 1.

1On 21 Aug. 1811 Hamilton acknowledged the receipt of two letters, dated 2 and 6 July, from Orleans territorial governor W. C. C. Claiborne; and he promised that he would transmit the latter letter, which he described as being of importance and relating to the naval establishment, to the president (DNA: RG 45, Misc. Letters Sent). The 6 July letter reported that Claiborne was about to meet at Pascagoula with Col. Francisco Maximilian de St. Maxent, the acting Spanish governor at Pensacola, to discuss the demand Claiborne had made on 29 June of the commander of the Spanish garrison at Mobile that he allow unrestricted passage on the Mobile River to U.S. vessels carrying supplies to Fort Stoddert. Although Claiborne could not say “what may be the issue of the Contemplated Conference,” he had previously assumed that the Spanish authorities would reject his demand, in which event he had already instructed the commander of the U.S. naval vessels that would convoy the supply ships to “oppose force to force,” should any attempt be made to detain them. The news Claiborne conveyed to Hamilton that Spain had appointed the duke del Infantado to be captain general of Cuba, however, led the governor to surmise that in expectation of the duke’s early arrival, “the Spanish Agents are greatly desirous, that things at Mobile, should for the present, remain in Statu quo.”

“As regards Cuba,” Claiborne continued, “permit me to observe, that its dependence on a foreign Power, is seen by me, with sincere regret; The destiny of that Island, is highly interesting to the United States; It is in truth the Mouth of the Mississippi, and the Nation possessing it, may Controul the Western Commerce. Next to acquiring the sovereignty of Cuba, it is most important to my Country, that it be placed in the situation, Malta formerly was; erected into an Independent State, and its Sovereignty guaranteed by the United States and other Nations. Unless ⟨an⟩ Act of that kind takes place, the possession of the Island of Cuba, will sooner or later be cause of War; and may tend to destroy the good understanding, which might otherwise exist, between the United States, and the Countr⟨y⟩ now termed Spanish America; A Country that cannot from the nature of things long remain, in its present Collonial Condition.” In a postscript Claiborne added that he had no doubt the Spanish commander at Mobile had been ordered “to oppose the passage of our vessels” and that he had received news that a battery had been recently erected in front of the fort for that purpose (DNA: RG 45, Misc. Letters Received; see also Claiborne to Commodore John Shaw, 10 June 1811, Claiborne to Governor Folch “or the Officer Commanding the Fort at Mobile,” 29 June 1811, Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends , 5:270–71, 281–82).

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