Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John F. Mercer, 16 May 1803

From John F. Mercer

In Council May 16 1803


I have submitted to the Council the result of the conversation which I had the honor of holding with you on the Application which the Executive of Maryland were directed to make to you on the subject of the Stock of this State in the British Funds.—I have stated to them the Measures which you have directed in conformity with the views and wishes of this Legislature in which they have expressed their entire concurrence, but as it will be their duty to communicate their proceedings under these Resolutions to the Legislature at their next Session, they would be gratified by being furnished with a Copy of the Letter which you have caused to be written to Mr. William Pinkney on this subject, if no wise inconsistent with the rules you may have established on similar subjects.

I have also communicated to the Council the result of my application to you respecting this State’s Claim on the United States for Arms and Military Stores furnished during the Western Insurrection, as well as the substance of a personal conference I had with the Secretary at War to whom you had referred this subject.—they appear impressed with an opinion that the Secretary has given a force to some expressions of a Letter of Mr. McHenry, the late Minister, to this Executive, which they had not themselves discovered, but which in every view can in no wise affect the justice and legality of the demand.—If however there shall exist objections to this Claim on the part of the Executive of the United States, they hope to be furnished with them, in order that they may communicate them to the Legislature of their State, who will no doubt resort to some mode that may remove the doubts, or present the demand in some form that may be more acceptable.

I cannot close this letter without praying you to receive my warm acknowledgements, in which the Council have expressed their entire concurrence, for the interest you have at all times taken in the attainment of that Justice which has so long been withheld from the State and more especially for your prompt attention to their late application.

With perfect respect & devotion I have the honor to be, Sir Your Most obedient Serv.

John F. Mercer

FC (MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council); in a clerk’s hand; at foot of text: “The President of the United States.” Recorded in SJL as received from Annapolis on 17 May.

The date and place of Mercer’s conversation with TJ are unknown, but Mercer had written recently that he hoped to see TJ in Washington on 28 Apr. (Mercer to TJ, 23 Apr. 1803).

stock of this state in the british funds: for the ongoing efforts by the state of Maryland to gain control of funds invested in the Bank of England before the American Revolution, see Vol. 23:589, 609n; Vol. 37:547–8. On 31 Dec. 1802, the Maryland legislature passed a joint resolution authorizing the governor and council to seek the assistance of the president in the matter (Jacob M. Price, “The Maryland Bank Stock Case: British-American Financial and Political Relations Before and After the American Revolution,” in Aubrey C. Land, Lois Green Carr, and Edward C. Papenfuse, eds., Law, Society, and Politics in Early Maryland [Baltimore, 1977], 25).

On 3 May 1803, James Madison wrote william pinkney, one of the American claims commissioners in London, and enclosed a power authorizing him to negotiate the transfer of the Bank of England stock to the state of Maryland in place of Rufus King, who had recently resigned as the American minister to Great Britain. Citing Pinkney’s intimate acquaintance with the subject and his Maryland citizenship, Madison informed him that the “President therefore invests you with powers for this purpose,” and instructed him to apply to the ministry and courts “in such manner as may be judged proper & effectual for terminating the claim of the state and for receiving a transfer of the stock for its use.” Agreeable to Mercer’s request, Madison sent him copies of the power and instructions on 19 May, adding that the originals would be sent to London as soon as the governor sent him “the communications you may think necessary to add to Mr. Pinkney” (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , 4:568–9; 5:15).

claim on the united states for arms: in an address to the Maryland legislature on 10 Nov. 1802, Mercer suggested that the shortage of arms for the state militia could be offset in part by an arrangement with the United States regarding “an unsatisfied claim for military supplies furnished during the western insurrection” (Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, 10 Nov. 1802). The date and substance of his application to TJ and conference with Dearborn on the subject are not known, but see Dearborn to TJ, [on or before 28 May 1803].

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