James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Aderton, [ca. 15 December] 1813

From Thomas Aderton

State of North Carolina Port of Wilmington
[ca. 15 December 1813]

The Petition of Thomas Aderton Commander of the private armed Brig call’d the Saratoga.

Your Petitioner for himself and on behalf of the Owners, officers & Crew of the said private armed American Brig Saratoga, respectfully represents, that he arrived at the Port of Wilmington North Carolina on the 26th. day of November 1813. with a quantity of goods &c taken on the high seas from several Vessels belonging to the British Government, which property he has regularly libell’d in the District Court of North Carolina.

That amongst other property taken from the Enemy were Ten Negro men Slaves—Nine taken from the British Schooner Fame of Barbadoes, William Greenidge Master on the 29th. September 1813. the other from the British Sloop General Hodgson A. Hermender Master on the 7th. Novr. 1813. Your Petitioner understands that the Judge of the District Court of N. C. has decided that a Libel cannot be sustained for Slaves. It will follow as a natural consequence that the Brig Saratoga and Slaves will be seized and perhaps condemned under the Act of Congress prohibiting the importation of Slaves, and your Petitioner be subjected to a heavy penalty.1 Your Petitioner cannot perceive the policy or necessity of condemning the said property under the Act of Congress aforesaid, when Justice woul’d afterwards dictate the propriety of restoration, for if the object be to ascertain whether the said Slaves were taken on the high Seas from the Enemy, this proof he is ready to furnish and herewith transmits testimony to establish the fact.2 And when the consequences that will result to the Petitioner and Owners from a detention of said Brig are taken into consideration the necessity of your interference will be still more apparent.

Your Petitioner will take the liberty of remarking that after capturing the aforesaid Vessels (property of the Enemy) he must either have restored them, brought the Slaves in, as he has done, or thrown them over board, policy forbid the first, and humanity the latter.

Your Petitioner also respectfully represents, that the Slaves are now in possession of and under the controul of Robert Cochran Collector of the Port of Wilmington who has given to your Petitioner an opportunity, thus to represent his case.

Your Petitioner therefore humbly solicits your interference, and that such order may be given for the relief of your petitioner as will comport with the views and interests of the United States, and your Petitioner will ever pray &c &c.

Thomas Aderton

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, ML). RC undated; conjectural date assigned on the basis of evidence in n. 2 and the petition’s having been forwarded by Cochran to James Monroe on 15 Dec. 1813, with a request for JM’s opinion on the matter (ibid.). Docketed by Monroe: “For the President—petition to be relievd from penalty of law respecting importn of slaves—these being taken from enemy by privateer Saratoga.” Docketed in pencil in an unidentified hand: “Recd from [illegible] 11 Apl 1814.” For enclosures, see n. 2.

1Aderton referred to the 2 Mar. 1807 “Act to prohibit the importation of Slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States …” (U.S. Statutes at Large, description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends 2:426–30).

2Aderton enclosed a 14 Dec. 1813 affidavit (2 pp.) sworn by himself and Nathaniel Davis, sailing master of the Saratoga, before Judge John Hogg, giving the names of the captured slaves, stating that according to the British captains, all ten slaves were the property of British subjects, and reporting that both prize ships had been stranded on attempting to enter U.S. harbors. A 15 Dec. 1813 certificate of Hogg’s identity signed by Wilmington notary public Kingsley Thurber (1 p.) accompanied the affidavit. Also enclosed were an 18 Sept. 1813 letter from Ben Thomas of Barbados, owner of the slave Ned, to John Thomas, commissariat at Demerara (2 pp.), requesting that Ned be sold there because he had caused “much trouble” by “attempt[ing] … to poison himself with Laudanum,” and a 15 Dec. statement by Cochran (1 p.) certifying that Aderton had brought Thomas’s letter to him along with other papers taken from the Fame, and that Ned was one of the captured slaves.

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