James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James McGreggar, 13 November 1807

Saint Thomas 13th: November 1807.


This Island has for some ⟨time⟩ past been blockaded by a Squadron of British Ships of War ⟨un⟩der command of Admiral Cockrane, in a very unprecedented manner, Permitting American Vessels to enter with Cargoes, but ⟨no⟩t to depart in Ballast, or with Cargoes, although bound to a British ⟨Is⟩land.

On or about the 24th. ulto., the Schooner Ranger Captn. ⟨   ⟩ of Philadelphia left this port for Tobago, having on board ⟨the⟩ Cargo she brought from America; She was detained by the Squa⟨dro⟩n off this Island; on the principle of having Prohibited ⟨Ar⟩ticles on board, bound to a British Colony, Vizt Gin, Beef, ⟨Po⟩rk &c: One of the Owners being here called on me and request⟨ed⟩ I would go off and Demand her. I however declined it, ⟨con⟩sidering it foreign to my Duty, the Schooner being detained there for an intended breach of their Revenue Laws, and at ⟨tha⟩t time out of the limits of my consulate. Mr: Cannon went ⟨on⟩ Board himself, and she was given up to him, upon condition ⟨that⟩ she should return into this port. On the 29th. ulto the Ship ⟨Wil⟩mington of Wilmington, Captn. Childs left here for Jamaica. She was ⟨ordered⟩ to return into port. The Captain however refused and ⟨ins⟩isted on proceeding on his Voyage. She was sent for Tortola, ⟨   ⟩ as I since understood, the Admiral ordered her to be im⟨med⟩iately released. The same day the Brig Mount Vernon, Capt. ⟨Mar⟩tin of Providence (R. I.) left this port in Ballast. She was ⟨order⟩ed to return, and his Register endorsed. He returned the ⟨sa⟩me day into port. On the 31st: October I got permission from this Government, to go on board the Commodore’s Ship to Know the reason why American Vessels were not permitt⟨ed⟩ to proceed on their intended Voyages, or if Sufficient cause exi⟨sted,⟩ why they were not sent in for adjudication. I went on board ⟨the⟩ Latona, Capt Woods, their Senior Officer of the Blockading S⟨qua⟩dron.

The Lieutenant informed me that Captn: Woods was sick, and could not be seen. I then stated the object I ha⟨d⟩ in coming on board and presented it as a matter of very co⟨nsider⟩able importance to the Commercial interest of the United St⟨ates.⟩ He informed me that it was the Admirals orders, that every American Vessel, which attempted to leave the port, sho⟨uld⟩ be compelled to return. I then requested the Lieutenant to inform Captn: Woods, that I would make the requests in w⟨rit⟩ing, if he would have the goodness to give me an answer in writing to that effect, (that he acted from the orders of ⟨his⟩ Superiors) which he refused to do, alledging that he was too ill ⟨to⟩ write, and sent his compliments to me, that the Island was under a strict Blockade. Some conversation took place betw⟨een⟩ the Lieutenant and myself respecting the principles of Blocka⟨de⟩ and upon my observing to him, that I had it in contemplation to go in search of the Admiral, he appeared to equivocate and say that the American Vessels were returned into port on account of the Island being Blockaded, and that he did not Know with whom the orders originated &c: The Brig Richmond, Captn. Gilman of Portsmouth N. H. and the Brig ⟨Melan⟩tho Captn Fowler of New York, left here on the 4th inst: expecting ⟨to⟩ be permitted to proceed, as Captn: Foy had arrived and was sen⟨ior⟩ Officer on the Island in lieu of Captn: Wood. They were however treated in the same manner by Captn: Foy. The Richmond returned the same day, but Captn: Fowler persisted in prosecu⟨ting⟩ his Voyage. On being detained, the Melantho was brought to ⟨an⟩chor among the Squadron. On the 6th. inst I made application ⟨to⟩ the Commandant of this Island, for permission to go to Tortola, ⟨be⟩ing informed by Captn: James Stevenson of the Brig Union of ⟨P⟩hiladelphia, that Admiral Cockrane was there, and that he (Captn. Stevenson) had brought dispatches from the Secretary of State for me, which had been detained by Mr: John Dougan ⟨at⟩ Tortola. The Commandant gave me a flag of Truce to go to Tortola, and on the 7th: I left St: Thomas accompanied by Captn: Robert Harrison of the American Ship Catharine. On my way ⟨   ⟩ I went on board Captn: Foy, and informed him the nature ⟨of⟩ my Business with the Admiral. A few hours after I left the ⟨Shi⟩p, I observed that the Melantho was released and proceeded ⟨on⟩ her Voyage. I arrived on board the Admirals Ship at 5 Oclock on the 8th: where I was received with every possible Mark of Politeness and attention by the Admiral and ⟨a⟩ll his Officers. After communicating my Business, he ⟨in⟩formed me that he would do every thing for the American Vessels in the Harbour of St: Thomas, that his orders would admit of. The Next day he informed that he should ⟨give⟩ orders to the Senior Officer of the Blockading Squadron ⟨off⟩ St: Thomas to permit any American Vessel that had ⟨en⟩tered the port previous to the Blockade, to depart in ⟨B⟩allast, or with the Cargoes they brought in, provided ⟨it w⟩as bona fide American Property.

I made application to Mr: Dougan for my dispatches from the Department of State, which he gave me. ⟨They⟩ contained nothing except the Laws passed the last Session of Congress. They had been opened by Mr. D[  ] and he told me, that there were no other enclosures.

The present situation of this Island has left me a ⟨nu⟩mber of distressed Seamen to support, Several Vessels having been condemned in this port as unfit for sea, and th⟨e⟩ Seamen having little or no wages to receive, have become a Pub⟨lic⟩ Charge. Others whose Vessels have been condemned in the British Courts of Admiralty at Tortola and elsewhere, have also come here for support, and to obtain passages to their Own coun⟨try.⟩

I likewise have Captn. Smith of the Brig Esperanza of Philadelphia and his Crew. The Brig sank under the⟨m⟩ at Sea, and they arrived here, after being sixteen days in their Boat. Another considerable disadvantage I labo⟨ur⟩ under ⟨is⟩ the unwillingness of Captains in General to take Seam⟨en⟩ agreeable to the Laws of our Country, and in many ins⟨tan⟩ces I have been under the necessity of compelling them to a compliance. I here inclose a letter I wrote to Captn: Jeremiah Martin of the Brig Mount Vernon of P⟨rovi⟩dence (R. I.) who refused to take a seaman I sent on board. The day before Captn: Martin sailed I sent Wm Gain an American on board, but Captn: M. called on m⟨e⟩ and represented that Gain was a troublesome Character a⟨nd⟩ requested I would send some others. I then informed hi⟨m⟩ if Gain was disagreeable to him I would send another I accordingly sent John Leckey, whom he also refused to take. I have the Honor to be, with much estee⟨m⟩ Your Obedient and very Humble Servant,

James McGreggar

DNA: RG 59—CD—Consular Despatches, St. Thomas.

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