Thomas Jefferson & James Madison, Document, Signed – Mediterranean Ship’s Pass
Jefferson and President, Madison as Secretary of State
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Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both sign this document, a ship’s passport, for the Brig. Triton of Norfolk with David Frazer as Captain, to pass “without any hindrance, seizure, or molestation.” The Triton was mounted with approximately 170 tons and a crew of 9.
Mediterranean passes are quite desirable because of their back-story. These ship’s passports were created after the United States concluded a treaty with Algiers in 1795. During the early years of independence, America was one of several nations paying tribute to Algeria and later the Barbary states in exchange for the ability to sail and conduct business in the Mediterranean area without interference. Instituted by Jefferson, who was against this “tribute,” but business interests insisted.
The passports were cut along a waved line through the engraving and the top portion (with all relevant information as to the vessel) sent to U.S. Consuls along the barbary coast. The Consuls provided copies to the corsairs, whose commanders were instructed to let all vessels proceed that had passes that fit the scalloped tops.
Mediterranean passports were sent to the various customs districts pre-signed by the president and secretary of state. The collector would then insert the vessel’s name and tonnage, master’s name, number of crew members, the cargo, and the number of guns.
Jefferson’s signature is large and bold; Madison’s signature is somewhat faded but certainly legible – same with the accomplishments.
Jefferson, Thomas & Madison, James. Partly Printed Vellum Document (Mediterranean Ship’s Pass), signed in full (Jefferson as President; Madison as Secretary of State). Norfolk & Portsmouth Virginia: 7 May 1805. Folio; 1p. with scalloped top; docketed on verso.