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

November 24, 1809

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President James Madison Tracks Down His Shipment, Seized in the Embargo, of 114 Gallons of Brandy
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 932

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      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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      Washington  Nov. 24. 1809

      Dear Sir

      I have read your favor of the 20th. I can not doubt the pipe of Brandy to which it relates belongs to me. I have long known that one sent by Mr. Lee was carried into England, where I understood that the neutral part of the cargo was [text was crossed out] acquitted, the vessel  being condemned. Mr. Jos. Forrest was in H.S. with a vessel coming round hither, has been requested to take charge of the Article. You will oblige me therefore by making sure of the [...]: taking into consideration whether a case over the Pipe be necessary to secure the Brandy w/out adulteration. Be pleased also to drop me notice of whatever expenses are to be rep'd you: and to accept my friendly respects.


      D. Gelston Esq.

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      Page 2 transcript
      Mr. Madison
      24 Nov. 1809