Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James Wilkinson, 7 March 1800

From James Wilkinson

Natchez Head Quarters [Mississippi Territory] March 7th 1800


I wrote you on the 27th Ulto. over land, via Fort Washington agreeably to the enclosed duplicate, which was accompanied by the papers and documents therein mentioned.

I avail myself of a safe opportunity to New Orleans, to send this to our Consul there, Mr Jones,1 with directions for its transmittal by sea, for your satisfaction and that of the Executive.

The garrisons of Fort McHenry and Sargent are ordered to evacuate those posts,2 and will in the course of the ensuing week, be incorporated with that of Fort Adams, the national barrier on the Mississippi; and the proposed transfers and organization of the detachments, will take place so soon as the muster and inspection rolls which have been ordered are completed.

I hear nothing of the approach of Lieut. Col. Gaither, whose presence here will be highly necessary, anterior to my departure;3 I propose to wait for him until the 15th or 20th of the next month, but no later.

On my arrival at New Orleans, I found the Captain of the Snow laden with ordnance4 &c, which preceded me at that place had very improperly handed the manifest of her cargo, to the Spanish Custom house. It became indispensable I should immediately know whether permission would be given to the passage of the articles intended for Fort Stoddert, thro’ the Spanish dominions; and also whether any objections would be made to the Snow’s ascent of the river; and I at the same time discovered, that our Consul Mr. Jones had not been received, and that the exequator of the Vice Consul Mr. Hulings5 had been revoked. Under these circumstances the correspondence No 1.6 took place, in which I succeeded to accomplish my immediate views and to procure some official consideration for Mr. Jones, which may I hope meet approbation.

The military officers of Louisiana testify every respect to the American commission; I was received at several posts, with the honors due to my rank, and the day after my arrival at New Orleans, the Governor paid me a visit of ceremony, at the head of the Officers of the Garrison and of the Militia: and it may be proper to add, that in all things his conduct has appeared, so far, to correspond with his professions.

You have also under cover No 2. a letter from the Governor of Louisiana, with my answer,7 respecting Mr. Bowles, which may I hope prove satisfactory; it is believed that the British connive at the conduct of Bowles, but it is doubtful whether he acts under a commission; whatever may be the fact, or whatever his intentions, his proclamations and other measures have a mischievous tendency, in relation to our interests, and are highly disrespectful. The sympathies and attachments among Indians of the same nation are indissoluble, and of course a commotion or discontent excited in one tribe however insignificant, may soon extend itself to others more powerful, and when once their passions are put in motion, they will find vent, and are easily turned to the purposes of an artful agent. The Spaniards have been greatly alarmed, by the vapourings of Mr. Bowles, but for my own part, I must confess I consider him a vain boaster; yet should the British contemplate an attack on New Orleans and Pensacola, which from Jamaica would be readily practicable and certain of success, or should the same power look forward to a rupture with the United States, Bowles views may be solid, extensive and pernicious. He should therefore be well watched on the side of Georgia and if he could be put out of the way on fair principles, I think it would be well.

I shall direct the Asst. Quarter Master General to offer the ruins of Fort Sargent and Fort M’Henry with their appendages to public sale for the national account, and to apply the proceeds to the works of Fort Adams, should purchasers be found.

The ordnance Brig is ascending the river but I have no information, by which to mark her progress or present position.

Capt. Guion will sail for the seat of government in the course of the month,8 and by him, should no earlier occasion present, I will again have the honor to address you. With perfect consideration and respect, I am Sir,

Your most obedt. servant

Ja: Wilkinson

Major General,
Alexander Hamilton.

LS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; LS, marked “duplicate,” Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Evan Jones.

2On February 21, 1800, Wilkinson issued a general order, which reads in part: “Forts McHenry & Sargent are to be abandoned & their respective Garrisons with their appertenants are to be concentred at this Post with the utmost dispatch consistent with oeconomy and safety in the transition …” (LC, RG 94, Adjutant General’s Office, General Orders, General James Wilkinson, 1796–1808, National Archives).

5William Empson Hulings had been appointed vice consul at New Orleans on March 4, 1798 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 265–66).

In 1799 the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Marqués de Casa Calvo, revoked the exequatur of Hulings and refused to recognize the appointment of Evan Jones as consul. For Jones’s appointment, see Wilkinson to H, December 15, 1799, note 6. On November 14, 1799, Timothy Pickering wrote to Hulings: “The suspension of your functions, by order of the Spanish Government, is a little misterious. The reason intimated by the Governor, viz: that your commission should have been submitted to the Minister of State [Mariano Luis de Urquijo], is not satisfactory; since without doubt the authenticity of it was sufficiently verified by Governor [Manuel] Gayoso [de Lemos], when he permitted you to exercise it, and who must have rendered a favourable account of your character to his superiors. This revocation, however, need not prevent your giving requisite aid to American Citizens, or granting certificates to them and taking their protests …” (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 5, December 3, 1798–September 28, 1801, National Archives). Pickering’s letter to Gayoso informing him of the appointments of Jones and Hulings is dated May 18, 1799 (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 5, December 3, 1798–September 28, 1801, National Archives). In a letter to Carlos Martinez, marqués de Casa Yrujo, the Spanish Minister to the United States, dated January 8, 1800, Pickering refuted Yrujo’s charge that Jones could not serve as consul because he was a militia officer of Louisiana and added: “Whatever causes may operate against the admission of american Consuls generally into the Colonies of his Catholic Majesty, there ought clearly to be an exception in respect to New-Orleans, because the citizens of the United States have a right to resort there to deposit their merchandizes and effects, and to export the same: and it is obviously right and necessary for the United States to have there an Agent to superintend & protect the commerce and persons of American citizens” (ALS, letterpress copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). Pickering sent copies of the commissions of Jones and Hulings to David Humphreys, United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain, and instructed him to “apply for the King’s exequaturs” (Pickering to Jones, December 20, 1799 [LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 5, December 3, 1798–September 28, 1801, National Archives]). See also Pickering to Humphreys, December 20, 1799, April 29, 1800 (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 5, December 3, 1798–September 28, 1801, National Archives).

6Wilkinson to Casa Calvo, February 12, 1800; Casa Calvo to Wilkinson, February 14, 1800 (copies, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

In this exchange of letters Wilkinson asked Casa Calvo for permission for the snow Acteon to proceed up the Mississippi and announced that Jones was the accredited consul for the United States at New Orleans. Casa Calvo granted the permission requested and stated that he would “pay attention to any communications which may come from Mr. Evan Jones.”

7Casa Calvo to Wilkinson, February 15, 1800; Wilkinson to Casa Calvo, February 28, 1800 (copies, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

In this correspondence Casa Calvo complained of the activities of William Augustus Bowles and proposed that the United States cooperate with Spanish efforts to capture Bowles. In his reply Wilkinson agreed with Casa Calvo’s low estimate of Bowles, but stated that he could do nothing as long as Bowles remained outside the boundaries of the United States.

For Bowles, see Wilkinson to H, February 12, 1800, note 4.

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