James Madison Papers

To James Madison from P. Philibert, 14 April 1815

New orleans 14 april 1815


It has not been until after all other resources of Redress have failed, and circumstances become of so Imperious a nature as forbid their further neglect, tha⟨t⟩ I have determined upon addressing an officer of So high a Standing, upon Subjects of this Kind; at a time too, when I am convinced, the other duties of his office Are So peculiarly pressing: but I trust, Sir, when You shall have perused the Statement of facts I am about to lay before You, You will not conceive Your Time mispent in bestowing upon this Subject, the attention it so loudly calls for from You, Not only in an official capacity, but likewise in Your own Individual character of a citizen of these United States, ⟨receving⟩ the laws and wishing to see them respected by both the civil and military branches of our ⟨Govmt.⟩ Without further preface, therefore, I shall open the object of this communication. I was appointed a Midshipman on this Station, by Comdre ⟨Shaw⟩ in the Year 1811, and continued to exercise all the duties of my office until the 8th August 1813 when I was put under arrest by order of Lieut. Thos. Ap, Catesby Jones⟨,⟩ then commanding Gun Vessel No 156, upon charges of negligence disobedience and contempt; of these charges I was acquitted (they being sometime after withdrawn by Lieut Jones with the approbation of the ⟨   ⟩) My Sword was returned me and I went to the discharge of my usual duties on the 27th October. On the 6th november following, I was drawing out charges against Lieut T⟨hos.⟩ Ap Catesby Jones, founded upon what I had witnessed with my own eyes, and also upon the Statements of eight of the men, when I was sent for by Lieut Jones, who demanded in a preremptory tone whither I had charges aga⟨in⟩st h⟨im⟩ Upon my replying in the affirmative, he ordered me to produce them, and whatever papers else relating to them; I did so, whe⟨n⟩ Lieut Jones read them in My presence as drafted ⟨   ⟩ ⟨considerable pains⟩ ordered me to follow him upon deck; when there he called upon the eight men, who had put their names to the statement, upon which my charges were predicated & going up to each one, demanded whether those were their Signatures, when all but one, overawed by his Known power and disposition, answered in the negative: the Solitary Individual ⟨who⟩ had dared to speak the truth was by Lieut Jones’s orders put into Irons and has since lingered in confinement. As to Myself, my Sword was taken from me and I ordered below, Lieut Jones reviling me in the bitterest terms: a Sentry was placed over the hatchway and I was deprived of the use of pen ink & paper, Nor Suffered to approach the deck except when the calls of Nature made it absolutely necessary. during the time I was thus confined, I laboured under disease and upon application to Lieut Jones for Medical aid, received for answer, "that if I was Sick I might remain So." the inclosed copies of depositions, regularly authenticated, I Send to Satisfy You that it was not upon light circumstances that my charges against Lieut Jones were formed; the originals are in my possession ⟨   ⟩ are documents too important to be trusted to the conveyance by mail. but to return - I remained in this Situation until 29 March 1814 when I was moved on board of another vessel Here my case was not So deplorable as while on board ⟨the⟩ other, and I consequently found means to make out another Sett of charges, adding those of cruelty and oppression as You, Sir, may judge I had some reason to do. these charges I intended to have forwarded to Comde. Patterson who had Succeeded Comde. Shaw, but I learnt with inf⟨i⟩nite chagrin that my being under arrest precluded ⟨me⟩ from pressing them. about this time it was, that I obtai⟨ne⟩d permission to write to my family for the first time. [  ] the 8th April, I was again removed from G. V. No. ⟨25⟩ to the ⟨   ⟩ and ordered to confine myself Within the Prec⟨incts⟩ of the Yard; upon Urging my long arrest and complaining ⟨of⟩ never having been furnished with a copy of the charges ⟨agst.⟩ me, the Comde. gave me the most positive assurances that a court should be convened as shortly as possible for my ⟨trial⟩ I remained at ⟨Chesuneta⟩ until the 21 August, during which time my pay was stoped by the Comdes. orders, but upon my informing him by letter, that I must inevitably starve if thus deprived of my pay when unable to recieve any assistance from my family, he permitted me to draw for ⟨   ⟩ half of it monthly. I also wrote to the Comde. reminding him of his promises to have a court convened for my trial, but ⟨in⟩ vain: at length grown desperate by a course of conduct that taught me what I had to expect from my Persecutors, upon the 20th. July, addressed a letter to Comde. Patterson, describing the peculiar hardships of my Situation, declaring my determination no longer to submit to them, and demanding a trial or lib⟨erty⟩ to resign. They produced an order for my removal to New Orleans to be confined on board the U.S. Ship Louisiana, until my trial, which, I was now taught to believe, would be had immediately: I also received, upon my arrival, a letter from the Comde. inclosing - charges indeed - but what charges - Not those which could authorise the treatment I had met with. No, they were no other than the Same charges verbatim of Negligence disobedience &c under which I had been arrested on the 8th. August 1813, which had afterwards been withdrawn by the person who had prefered them, with the approbation of the then Comde. and had become entirely Nugatory by my having had my Sword redelivered me, as well as my having been ordered to return to my exercise of my usual duties. These Sir, were the charges that were about to be palmed upon me as the causes of my arrest on the 6 Novr. and of the inhuman manner in which I had been treated Since. Upon discovery of the Imposition, I wrote to the Comde. but recd. no answer: Sometime after, upon my mentioning the Subject to him, his only Reply was, that if, "I had been acquitted of those charges it was time enough to Say so upon My trial"! The reason why this trick was resorted to will be obvious to You, Sir, if You consider what the adverse party has at stake. In fact it was very difficult to furnish charges when they really had none. I remained confined on board the Louisiana, Indulged Sometimes, but at others deprived of the liberty of Seeing, or writing to my friends in the city, or of going upon deck, until the 12 Decr. My pay was frequently stoped, even the Small pittance allowed by the Comde ⟨   ⟩ During this period (when permitted) I wrote to the Comde., begging him for Gods Sake and for his own, to have my innocence or my Guilt, if he really thought me Guilty, established. I appealed to him in behalf of aged parents, whose Grief ⟨   ⟩ in fact, urged every argument which, I thought could bring him to a Sense of justice or touch his humanity: finding him ⟨   ⟩ to be moved, I applied to the humanity of the Commander of the Ship, Sailing Master Gaits, for his ⟨interference⟩ ⟨   ⟩ I believe he, as well as others to whom I applied, ⟨   ⟩ could for me, but all ⟨   ⟩ upon the ⟨   ⟩ of the British forces upon our shores I was releived ⟨   ⟩ me. I will only Say, that ⟨   ⟩ Genl. and those persons who had an opportunity to witness my conduct at the ⟨   ⟩ttery during our arduous Struggle here, will do me the ⟨justice⟩ to Say that I did not disgrace it. I fondly flattered ⟨myself⟩ that the vindictive spirit that had so long perse⟨cuted me⟩ ⟨   ⟩ the Waves of the Borgne where Lieut. Jones was Supposed to have recd. a mortal wound in the affair between the Gun Boats and British barges, but was not permitted long to remain in the dear delusion, for on the 15th. Feby of the present Year I was again ordered to return to the situation in which I was before the arrival of the Enemy. In this Situation have I remained to this day; and were it not for the Kind offices of a friend, I should have been unable, even now, to have laid before You, an account of my sufferings for a period of 17 months without having the Satisfaction of Knowing why or wherefore I have Suffered, without being accorded the right, provided for both by law and reason, of having my conduct enquired into. I trust, Sir, You feel with me, that in time a Court Should be convened for my trial, and that Your authority Should Interfere to control where Justice has long called in vain; I expect this from You, the proper officer in this case to Stay the hand of oppression long extended over my devoted head.

I expect this from You as a man; alive to Sentiments of Indignation against unmerited persecution and Injustice of any Kind. a trial is all I ask - all I wish for - but a trial is the rock upon which My Persecutors must Split and they had determined that none should be had, in hopes, no doubt, that death, in ridding them from the Victim to their Power, would also Shield them from the retribution due to him, and that crimes of the blackest dye would thus be forever concealed from the World. I will only add, to give You a clue to the Unravelling of the Combination against me, that Lt. Thos. Ap Catesby Jones is a near relative of Comde. D. J. Patterson’s. And now Sir, Indulging in a hope that You will cause Justice to be done as Speedily as possible, I have the honor to Remain Your obdt. & Humble Servant.

P: Philibert

DNA: RG 45--Miscellaneous Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy.

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