November 24, 1809

President James Madison Tracks Down His Shipment, Seized in the Embargo, of 114 Gallons of Brandy

Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages
SMC 932
Lest one think that presidential brandy is not a presidential priority, this rare presidential Autograph Letter tells a different story. Here President Madison writes to the Collector of the Port of New York, David Gelston, that a pipe of brandy – some 114 gallons – which was sent him but “carried into England”, resulting in the condemnation of the offending vessel; although the brandy, being “neutral cargo”, was saved. Now Madison asks that the brandy be sent to him in Washington, and he will be obliged if Gelston will take care of the matter…

Gelston’s position was the plum of the patronage system, inasmuch as collector, he received a percentage of all the customs collected in the busy port of New York. Not surprisingly, he routinely performed a number of favors for President Madison, chief among them, the procurement of brandy for his household.

History actually records that Madison received his brandy, that December.
Autograph Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, Washington, November 24, 1809. To David Gelston.
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