James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, 13 April 1807

April 13th 1807

The number of seamen employed in American vessels may be deduced either from the hospital money paid by them, or from the actual tonnage of the United States.

The hospital money paid in 1805 was 58,000 dollars, but allowing for ⟨   ⟩ omitted, may be stated at 60,000 dollars. Supposing each Seaman to have paid for eight months service or 1 dollar & 60 cents, it would give only 37,500 seamen, paying hospital money 37,500
Add. seamen in fisheries, who are exempted 4,500
 Officers & boys who do not pay 20,000
 crews of small craft, say 5,000
Total  67,000

The tonnage is returned for 1805 at 1,140,000 tons; and although vessels sailing with sea-letters only are not included; yet as it is known that a number of vessels are returned as in the coasting trade who no longer exist, the whole amount may be computed at 1,100,000 tons vizt.

  In foreign trade 740,0000
Whale & cod fisheries 60,000
Coasting trade 300,000
1,100,000 tons

From the best data in my power I estimate the whole number of persons of every description employed on board & including officers at the rate of something less than six persons for every hundred tons in the foreign & coasting trade, and at the rate of eight persons for every hundred tons in the fisheries, making the aggregate

  on vessels in foreign trade 42,000
 fisheries 5,000
 coasting trade 17,000 64,000
crews of small craft as pr. above 5,000
total, 69,000
which calculation is I think, rather over-rated & exceeds by 2,000 that derived
from the hospital money; which last as above stated gives 67,000

Those 69,000 seamen excluding officers may be arranged under two classes, able seamen or real sailors; and ordinary seamen & boys. The proportion of the last class to the whole number is more than one fourth part in vessels employed in foreign trade and fisheries, and nearly two thirds in those employed in the coasting trade. The number of each class may be

including officers { thus stated. Foreign trade Fisheries Coasting trade Small craft Total
Able seamen 30,000 4,000 6,000 40,000
Ordy. Sn. & boys 12,000 1,000 11,000 5,000 29,000
Total 42,000 5,000 17,000 5,000 69,000

Although the preceding calculations can be considered only as approximations, yet they are believed to be sufficiently correct for any general inferences. But it is much more difficult to estimate the proportion of British seamen. Comparing the returns & letters of the collectors who have answered the queries on that subject, with some other private information; & judging by analogy in relation to ports from which no information has been received, I incline to the opinion that very few are found on board the vessels employed in the coasting trade & fisheries; but that they constitute at least one fifth of the whole number of persons employed on board vessels in foreign trade, that is to say that they amount altogether to about Nine thousand. An important consideration is that they almost exclusively consist of able seamen, making nearly one fourth of the total number of that description employed in every species of vessels; nearly one third of those employed in vessels in foreign trade; and, when the officers who are chiefly americans are deducted, making almost one half of the Sailors able seamen employed in the last mentioned vessels, vizt. vessels in foreign trade.

General recapitulation

foreign trade fisheries coasting trade small craft Total
Officers 12,000 1,000 7,000 (2) 20,000
Able seamen British 9,000 9,000 }
do. american & all other foreigners 9,000 3,000 3,000 15,000
Ordinary seamen, cooks, boys, &ca. 12,000 1,000 7,000 5,000 25,000
Total 42,000 5,000 17,000 5,000 69,000
  (2) 3,000 able seamen
4,000 ordy. &ca.

From that view of the subject, the number of English seamen being larger than we had estimated, and particularly as it relates to able seamen, it is to be apprehended that the measure proposed would materially injure the navigation of the United States. Indeed it appears to me that the only positive good resulting from it would be that the British would then abstain from impressing in future. For the release of our seamen on board their vessels would be partial & slow: and there is no advantageous modification in our commercial regulations with them which could indemnify us for the relinquishment of their seamen on our part. For that measure would more effectually curtail our commerce than any restrictions they can lay upon it.

Albert Gallatin

DLC: Papers of James Madison, Rives Collection.

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