James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 19 December 1812

From James Monroe

Dept. of State Decr. 19th. 1812.

The Secretary of State to whom was referred the Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 9th. Instant,1 requesting information touching the conduct of British Officers towards persons taken in american armed Ships, has the honor to lay before the President the accompanying papers marked A. B. C.2 from which it appears that certain persons, some of whom are said to be native, and others naturalized Citizens of the United States, being parts of the Crews of the United States armed Vessels the “Nautilus” and the “Wasp” and of the private armed Vessel the “Sarah Ann,” have been seized under the pretext of their being british Subjects, by british Officers for the avowed purpose, as is understood, of having them brought to trial for their lives, and that others being part of the Crew of the Nautilus, have been taken into the British service.

The Secretary of State begs leave also to lay before the President the papers marked D & E.3 From these it will be seen, that whilst the british Naval Officers arrest as criminals such persons taken on board american armed Vessels as they may consider british Subjects, they claim a right to retain on board british Ships of War american Citizens who may have married in England or been impressed from on board british Merchant Vessels—and that they consider an impressed American when he is discharged from one of their Ships, as a Prisoner of War. All which is respectfully submitted.

Jas Monroe

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 12A-D1). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Monroe. Transmitted to the House of Representatives by JM in a letter dated 21 Dec. (ibid.; 1 p.; in the hand of Edward Coles, signed by JM) and referred to the committee on foreign relations on 28 Dec. (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 2d sess., 438–40). For enclosures, see nn. 2 and 3.

1On 9 Dec. 1812 the House of Representatives had approved a resolution offered by Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina that “the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before this House any information which may be in his possession touching the conduct of British officers towards persons taken in American armed ships” (ibid., 351).

2The enclosures marked “A” include an extract (1 p.) from F. H. Babbitt to William M. Crane, 13 Sept. 1812, enclosing a list (1 p.) of U.S. seamen who voluntarily went into British naval service and promising a list of those involuntarily taken to Great Britain under suspicion of being British subjects; John Borlase Warren to Monroe, 30 Sept. 1812 (2 pp.), complaining that twelve British seamen who had been taken prisoner off the Guerrière were being held contrary to an exchange agreement; and Monroe to Warren, 28 Oct. 1812 (1 p.), promising an investigation of Warren’s charges. The enclosure marked “B.” is George S. Wise to Paul Hamilton, 17 Dec. 1812 (1 p.), forwarding a list (1 p.) of twelve U.S. seamen taken from the Wasp by John Beresford, captain of the British ship Poictiers, under suspicion of being British subjects. The enclosure marked “C.” is Thomas Pinckney to William Eustis, 4 Nov. 1812 (1 p.), explaining that Charles Grandison, commander of naval forces at Charleston, had informed him that six U.S. seamen who were taken off a U.S. privateer by the British had been transported to Jamaica and tried for treason as British subjects. Pinckney informed Eustis that in response Grandison had requested that the marshal retain twelve British seamen. The marshal had sought Pinckney’s advice on this point, and it was Pinckney’s opinion that the prisoners should be detained until JM’s views were known. Pinckney enclosed a 14 Oct. 1812 letter from Richard Moon, commander of the U.S. privateer Sarah Ann, describing the six prisoners taken from the vessel (3 pp.; printed in 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, 3:597–99).

3The enclosure marked “D” is John Borlase Warren’s letter to John Mitchell, agent for U.S. prisoners at Halifax, of 21 Oct. 1812 (2 pp.), explaining that Mitchell’s letter and enclosures relative to captured seaman Thomas Dunn had been received and that their records showed that Dunn was married in England, had been in British service for eight years, and received a government pension. Also, as Dunn had not applied for discharge, he would continue aboard the prison vessel Statira. The enclosure marked “E” is a letter received by Monroe from William H. Savage, agent for American seamen and commerce at Jamaica, of 1 Dec. 1812 (1 p.), enclosing four letters exchanged between himself, British Vice-Admiral Charles Stirling, commander of the Jamaica station, and Charles Stirling Jr., secretary to the vice-admiral. The letter marked “No. 1” is Savage to Stirling, 6 Aug. 1812 (4 pp.), requesting an order of discharge for four U.S. seamen held aboard H.M.S. Sappho, describing enclosed documents proving the citizenship of twenty-one other impressed seamen, and describing an enclosed list of forty-six others for whom relief was requested. The letter marked “No. 2” is Stirling Jr. to Savage, 7 Aug. 1812 (1 p.), explaining that all captured seamen who could prove U.S. citizenship were to be transferred to a prison ship to await exchange. The letter marked “No. 3” is Savage to Stirling Jr., 16 Sept. 1812 (5 pp.), requesting that three more captured seamen be removed from duty aboard the British schooner Découverte on the basis of their U.S. citizenship. The letter marked “No. 4” is Stirling Jr. to Savage, 19 Sept. 1812 (2 pp.), explaining that the vice-admiral did not believe that the three seamen mentioned in Savage’s previous letter had sufficiently proved their U.S. citizenship (printed in 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, 3:599–601).

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