James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Lemuel Taylor, 15 July 1812

From Lemuel Taylor

Baltimore July 15th. 1812.


On the 29th. of May I had the honor of inclosing a letter from Mr. Wilmer, Supercargo of the Ploughboy.1 My fears then expressed that no revision of the sentence would take place, have been realized by his arrival.

It is already known to you that Mr. Barlow, impressed with the justice of the case, had warmly espoused my cause in remonstrating against the injustice of the decision, & claiming a revision of the same.2 It is also known by the Public prints, that reiterated assurances had been received that his request should be complied with.3 The enclosed letter & notification of sale will however prove the melancholy truth, that verbal assurances are not always sacred.4 Mr. Barlow’s interference is the best proof that no existing decree has been violated & renders it unnecessary to comment on the absurdity of the sentence.

Allow me also to observe that at the departure of Mr. Wilmer from France (the 3d. of June)5 no reply had been received by Mr. Barlow to a renewed claim of the Ship Two Friends & Cargo. This case has been represented to H. E. James Monroe under date 22d. November 1811 and of which the enclosed outlines will prove that I am truly the victim of injustice.6 I also adjoin a copy of the 10th. clause of the treaty between France & Holland which renders the former government responsible for such vessels as were ceded in virtue thereof.7

After most respectfully begging your attention to the documents herewith, it remains for me to say, that as I have at all times conformed to the laws of my country, my government will not allow such unprecedented injustice to sink in oblivion.

My great plea is—“an American citizen stripped of the fruit of many years toil & anxiety by his good faith in the law of nations, & whose only hope & resource (under existing circumstances) is protection from his government.[”]

As to the means of redress, it would be presumption in me to dictate. Whatever steps may be deemed necessary to obtain the desired end, will call forth the most grateful sentiments of Your unfortunate & most Obt. Servt.

Lemuel Taylor

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 76, Preliminary Inventory 177, entry 143, France, State Department Records Relating to the Adjudication of Unsettled Spoliation Claims, Unbound Records, no. 431). For enclosures, see nn. 4, 6, and 7.

1See Lemuel Taylor to JM, 29 May 1812, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (5 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 4:424 and n. 2.

2Though Barlow did not address Taylor’s case specifically, his correspondence with Monroe between 29 Sept. 1811 and 22 Apr. 1812, which was printed in the National Intelligencer on 28 May 1812, outlined his efforts to obtain redress for captured vessels.

3Taylor was probably referring to Barlow’s 22 Apr. 1812 letter to Monroe, which noted that urging France to acknowledge U.S. claims of indemnity was “dull work, hard to begin and difficult to pursue,” but that French officials had “consented to give it a discussion” and the minister had assured Barlow “that something shall be done to silence the complaints” (printed ibid.).

4Taylor enclosed a 16 Apr. 1812 letter (1 p.) to John R. Wilmer from Parish and Company of Hamburg, which contained a newspaper clipping (in French) announcing the sale of the cargo of the Ploughboy.

5“In the Whosp” is interlined here in an unidentified hand.

6Taylor enclosed copies of Wilmer to Barlow, 12 Oct. 1811 (2 pp.) and 13 Apr. 1812 (1 p.), chronicling Wilmer’s efforts to gain restoration or compensation from the French government for the cargo of Taylor’s brig Two Friends. Wilmer hoped that Barlow would justly represent his claims. The latter letter was submitted to substantiate Taylor’s case that the ship Two Friends had been ceded to the French government. In 1827 Taylor’s representatives were still seeking redress for the January 1810 capture of his brig at Amsterdam, “in conformity to the treaty signed between France and Holland, at Paris, 16th March, 1810” (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 6:449).

7Taylor enclosed a copy (1 p.) of a clause (in French) from Article 10 of the 16 Mar. 1810 treaty between France and the Netherlands stipulating that all merchandise entering the ports of the Netherlands in American vessels would be sequestered and handed over to France to be disposed of according to current circumstances and the state of political relations with the U.S. (de Clercq, Recueil des traités de la France, 2:330).

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