Thomas Jefferson Papers

Topics for Consultation with Heads of Departments, 10 February 1803

Topics for Consultation with Heads of Departments

[on or after 10 Feb. 1803]

Sy. War. Wafford’s settlemt. qu. if Indns. wd accept rent?
instruct Meigs to bring settlemt. of Cherokee road to an end
 settle Wafford’s affair.
Wilkinson & Dinsmore to purchase above Yazoo of Choctaws
 to examine our rt betw. Tombigbee, Alibama
Harrison to buy of Kaskaskias
 of the Pioria chief
 to settle bounds with Kickapoos, Poutewatamies & Weauhs.
gallies at Fort Adams.
ord. to posts on Ohio & Missi to stop persons going down with hostile views.
Sy. Treasy. Genl. Dearborne’s case.
Ellicot’s case.
Natchez. Acts. 1801–2. pa. 145.
Sy. Navy. guncarriages Marocco.
Council. Removals. Boston.
Sy. of state. Lincoln’s opn on Danish ship. case of War onskan. 2. Rob. 299.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 234:41852); entirely in TJ’s hand, apparently consisting of notes of subjects for discussion with members of the cabinet; undated, but not completed before 10 Feb., the date of Levi Lincoln’s opinion on the Hendrick case (see below); TJ did not fill all the space he allowed for some sections of the document.

sy. war: for the matters pertaining to Indian affairs, see also TJ to Dearborn, 15 Feb.

wafford’s settlemt.: on 19 Feb., Dearborn asked Return Jonathan meigs, the U.S. agent for the Cherokees, to seek some accommodation that would let William Wofford and his neighbors remain on land within the Cherokees’ boundary. If the Cherokees would not agree to sell the land, Meigs was to try to obtain their consent to a seven-year lease. Dearborn also instructed Meigs to hold a conference with the Cherokees to get permission for a road from the vicinity of Southwest Point in Tennessee to the headwaters of the Oconee River. It would be well if the agent could also obtain agreement for the establishment of public houses along the route—but, Dearborn insisted, “at all events we must have a road.” All nations allowed other countries access through their territories in time of peace, Dearborn stated, “and we shall not consider the Cherokees as good neighbours unless they will allow, their best friends who are taking every means in their power to make them happy, to make a road at their own expense to pass through their Country from one settlement to another” (Dearborn to Meigs, 19 Feb., in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Josiah Tattnall, Jr., to TJ, 20 July 1802).

Dearborn wrote to James wilkinson on 18 and 21 Feb. about measures to obtain lands between the yazoo and Mississippi Rivers. Acquisition of land in that area was of higher priority, Dearborn indicated, than on the tombigbee River. Silas Dinsmoor, the agent for the Choctaws, was to begin talks with the upper Choctaw towns for the tract west of the Yazoo (Dearborn to Wilkinson, 18 Feb., in DNA: RG 107, LSMA, and 21 Feb., in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Vol. 37:447).

For Dearborn’s instructions of 21 Feb. to William Henry harrison, see the Memorandum for Henry Dearborn on Indian Policy, 29 Dec. In addition to asking Harrison to begin negotiations for land at Kaskaskia and at the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Dearborn in February and March issued orders for the establishment of an army post at the mouth of the Illinois River with one company of soldiers. There were existing posts with small garrisons at Massac on the Ohio River and at Kaskaskia (Dearborn to Amos Stoddard, 19 Feb., in DNA: RG 107, LSMA; Dearborn to Matthew Lyon, 9 Mch., in DNA: RG 107, MLS).

Dearborn took steps to put two additional companies of soldiers at fort adams by summer (Dearborn to Daniel Vertner, 9 Mch., in DNA: RG 107, MLS).

ord. to posts on ohio & missi: on 19 Feb., Dearborn initiated orders to the army’s officers at Pittsburgh, Massac, Chickasaw Bluffs, and Fort Adams “to use all prudent means in their power to prevent the passage of any armed force, not authorised by the Government,” that might attempt to pass downriver with hostile intent against New Orleans. To Wilkinson on the 18th, Dearborn confided that he did not think there was “any good reason to fear such a movement.” He referred to the reports of an armed force being recruited in western Pennsylvania as a “rumour” and did not mention Carlos Martínez de Irujo’s representation to Madison on the matter. It was, however, “thought advisable” to issue the orders (Dearborn to Wilkinson, 18 Feb., and to Thomas H. Cushing, 19 Feb., in DNA: RG 107, LSMA; TJ to Madison, 8 Feb.).

genl. dearborne’s case: see Dearborn to TJ, 5 Feb.

ellicot’s case: see Gallatin to TJ, 8 Jan.

See Thomas Marston Green to TJ, 3 Feb., on making natchez a port of entry and deposit; TJ in the document printed above repeated Green’s citation to a page in the acts of Congress.

marocco: although the prospect of war with Morocco prompted a decision in September to stop the shipment of gun carriages to Mawlay Sulayman, following the resolution of the dispute the sultan still expected to receive the gift. TJ discussed the matter with Robert Smith, probably in the first week of March, and the navy secretary suggested that it would be cheaper for the United States, and perhaps more satisfactory to Sulayman, to send money that the sultan could use to purchase gun mounts made to his specifications (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 3:608n; 4:222; Madison to TJ, 22 July 1802; TJ to Smith, 6 Sep.; Smith to TJ, 12 Mch. 1803; Madison to TJ, 17 Mch.; TJ to Madison, 19 Mch.; TJ to Smith, 29 Mch.).

removals: TJ may have wanted to discuss with the cabinet Uriah Tracy’s demand for information regarding certain nominations; see Gallatin to TJ, [9 Feb.], and TJ to Gallatin, 10 Feb.

TJ probably intended to consult with his advisers about the projected use of smaller vessels in the ongoing war with tripoli. According to the plan he favored, the squadron in the Mediterranean would consist of one or two frigates and four schooners (TJ to Smith, 29 Mch.). News of Sweden’s peace treaty with Tripoli had arrived during December. William Eaton’s project of using Ahmad Qaramanli against his brother Yusuf, the dey of Tripoli, had gone awry when Ahmad accepted an offer from Yusuf—who held Ahmad’s wife and children hostage—to become the governor of the province of Derna. Ahmad’s agents remained in contact with the U.S. naval commander Richard V. Morris, however, urging that with support from the United States, Ahmad could raise an army against his brother. Stating that he had no authority to grant the requested assistance, Morris advised Ahmad to write to Washington and explain “the specific sum that may be wanted, and the probability of success that will attend the undertaking.” Accordingly, Ahmad addressed a letter dated 20 Jan. 1803 to “his Excellency the President of the United States of America.” Calling himself “the lawful Bashaw of Tripoli” and declaring his intention to raise 100,000 men, Ahmad asked that the United States “advance me Forty thousand spanish Dollars, also some Guns, Powder &ca. for which I promise to repay them whenever we take Tripoli.” He pledged that he would “always remain the faithful friend” of the Americans. It is likely that TJ never saw the appeal for aid, which is not in his papers and not recorded in SJL. A copy is in the papers of Edward Preble, who took over as commander of the Mediterranean squadron in September 1803. Richard Farquhar, a merchant on the island of Malta, acted as Ahmad Qaramanli’s intermediary in this attempt to communicate with TJ. A letter from Farquhar to TJ of 15 Nov. 1803 is also in Preble’s papers and did not reach TJ (Ahmad Qaramanli to TJ, 20 Jan., Tr in DLC: Edward Preble Papers, in English with signature in Arabic, endorsed; Farquhar to TJ, 15 Nov. 1803, in same; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939-44, 6 vols., and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801-1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:317, 347; 3:222; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 3:45, 519, 557, 576; 4:389; New York Morning Chronicle, 15 Dec. 1802; Christopher McKee, Edward Preble: A Naval Biography, 1761–1807 [Annapolis, Md., 1972], 141–2, 187; Madison to TJ, 3 Sep. 1802; Farquhar to TJ, 18 Mch. 1804, in DNA: RG 59, CD, Tripoli; TJ to Madison, 7 Aug. 1804).

lincoln’s opn on danish ship: in 1799, a French privateer in the West Indies captured a Danish brig, the Hendrick. The U.S. revenue cutter Pickering then captured the Hendrick from the French and had it condemned by a British admiralty court. Applying a rate of salvage from U.S. law, the court awarded the American captors half the value of the vessel and its cargo. In June 1801, Swedish consul general Richard Söderström, who at the time also represented Denmark’s interests in the United States, protested that the U.S. law of salvage did not apply to neutral ships or cargoes. He argued too that the matter should have been handled by an American court rather than by a British tribunal in the West Indies. By February 1803, Söderström acted as attorney for the owners of the Hendrick and asked Peder Blicher Olsen to submit a claim to the U.S. government. After receiving the documents on 9 Feb., Madison referred the matter to the attorney general. Replying with a “hastely formed” opinion on the 10th, Lincoln ventured that the actions of the British court were “binding, untill reversed by a Judicial proceeding.” He added that it “would be dangerous for the legislature or the Executive of the U States to adopt a different principle.” Lincoln believed that the claimants should seek redress from individuals, not from the United States government. The Hendrick and its cargo were subject to salvage not under U.S. law, he contended, but by “general principles” of laws of salvage, and rulings by British courts, as well as by American courts in “one or two instances,” justified the recapture of a neutral vessel from a belligerent nation. “I know of no principle by which the U.S. are bound to compensate for the injuries complained of,” Lincoln stated (Lincoln to Madison, 10 Feb., in DNA: RG 59, LOAG; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 1:293–5, 296n; 4:312–13, 318; enclosure to TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 23 Feb.).

In the case of the war onskan, a Swedish ship that had been captured in 1799 first by the French, then by the British, the British High Court of Admiralty upheld the granting of salvage on neutral property. Salvage awarded a portion of the value of property to those who saved the property from perishing; the court held that the likelihood of condemnation of the War Onskan by capricious French prize courts had presented a danger of total loss that had been averted by the British capture of the ship. “When these lawless and irregular practices are shewn to have ceased,” Sir William Scott wrote of the French prize tribunals in his ruling in the case, “the rule of paying salvage for the liberation of neutral property must cease likewise” (Christopher Robinson, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the High Court of Admiralty; Commencing with the Judgments of The Right Hon. Sir William Scott, Michaelmas Term 1798, 6 vols. [1799–1808], 2:299–302).

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