James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 6 September 1819

To James Monroe

Montpr. Sepr. 6. 1819

Dear Sir

Capt: OBrien1 having extended a ride into Virga. thus far, has during his stay with me, communicated the State of a Claim he has agst. the U. S., being part of a claim, the other part of which was settled & allowed whilst I was Secretary of State. I understand from him that the vouchers to the settled part had certain references to the part not allowed, and that he afterwards procured documentary proof, with the aid of which the same vouchers would now support the latter. But these it appears were destroyed when the public offices in Washington were burnt in 1814; and he is desirous of obtaining some evidence of their contents from personal recollections, and from mine among others. I need not express the reluctance with which I should recur to such transactions: Still I might not be justified in refusing to do so, in a case where justice had no other resource. But in this case, I have no recollection either of the particular contents of those papers, or of any other circumstances which might throw light on it. This want of recollection however can have no adverse bearing on the claim of Capt: OBrien, for whom I entertain friendly wishes, & whose personal character & interesting public career are equally known to you & myself. With perfect consideration & respect.

James Madison

RC (NN: Monroe Papers); draft (DLC). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1Richard O’Brien (c. 1758–1824) was born in Maine and went to sea at a young age, serving on a privateer in the American Revolution. Taken by Algerine pirates in 1785, he spent a decade in captivity, only to return to Algiers as U.S. consul general in 1797, a post he held until 1803. In 1804 he returned to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania, where in 1808 he served a term in the state legislature. On 15 May 1820 Congress authorized his remaining accounts to be settled, with the exception of O’Brien’s claim for part of the “cargo of the polacre Vickelage, captured on her passage from Algiers to 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 , 6:250). For the Vicklehadge, see O’Brien to JM, 23 Nov. 1802, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (8 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986—). description ends , 4:136, 137 n. 4.

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