James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Gideon Gardner, 4 January 1814

From Gideon Gardner

Washington 4th January 1814

The Petition of Gideon Gardner in behalf of the
Town and County of Nantucket—

Respectfully sheweth,

That a petition from said town was on the 28th of December last, presented to the Congress of the united states, praying them to take into their serious Consideration, the distresed situation of that Island, and in their wisdom grant them such relief as their existence absolutely requires—which petition is now under consideration of their select Committees.1 Your petitioner, believing it to be his duty to represent to you, that there are about seven thousand inhabitants upon this Island, which is situated about thirty miles from the Continent, they are obliged to bring provisions of all discriptions, together with fire wood, and all other necessaries of Life from the Continent, by yesterdays mail they inform me that there was not a barrel of flour to be bought in the place. Those people are so Situated, that the only means they have to procure a Subsistence is by fishing and whaleing by the 7th Section of the Embargo Law, it appears it was not the intention of that Law, to prevent Vessels from fishing and whaleing—but they are fearfull the other Sections of the Law renders the 7th Section entirely nugatory—and may put it out of the power of the Collectors to furnish necessary documents for such Voyages to be prosi[c] uted according to the Law of our Country2—and they most seriously and respectfully solicit the aid of the Executive to enable them to fish and Whale—it being the only means in their power to procure a Subsistence.

Gideon Gardner


1The petition of the citizens of Nantucket was presented in the U.S. House of Representatives on 28 Dec., and in the Senate on 29 Dec. 1813 (Journal of the House of Representatives at the Second Session of the Thirteenth Congress [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 33241], 64–65; Annals of Congress, description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends 13th Cong., 2d sess., 564). Gardner wrote James Monroe on 9 Jan. 1814, stating that he had “drawn another bill, and left out the word Licence,” which he enclosed with the hope that the committee could report the next day, as he had to return to Nantucket to carry out his duties as collector of the direct tax (DNA: RG 59, ML). On 25 Jan. 1814 JM signed “An act authorizing the President of the United States to grant certain permissions to the inhabitants of the island of Nantucket,” which allowed the transportation of “fuel, provisions and other necessaries” from the mainland to the island and the shipping of “oil, spermaceti candles and fish” in return (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 3:94).

2For the questions concerning interpretation of the Embargo Act’s provisions regarding fishing and whaling ships, see William Jones to JM, ca. 20 Dec. 1813, and n. 1.

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