Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Stephen Sayre, 20 October 1803

From Stephen Sayre

Point Breeze 20th octor 1803.


I have received a letter dated 8th of sepr. of Mr Lewis le Coutould, who is now at Detroit, & is, I presume, well known by all the principal officers of government.

He informs me, that the inhabitants were then about petitioning the President to appoint a Governor over that part of our Territory; and he requests me to make immediate application, for the appointment, because, he supposes I should be well received by the people, for many reasons; but especially, for the proofs I can give of my attachment to the french nation the services I have render’d, & my knowledge of their language.

Will you Sir, do me the justice, to look back, & call to your memory the period which tried mens souls. Do I offend your Secretary of State because all my past applications have been made on the ground of past services? My opinion of his good sense, & integrity, forbid flattery, or mean sollicitation thro’ others; and if he can find any citizen of the union, who has done half the services, or who has suffered a tythe of what I have done—or who is capable of doing more honor to the Administration in the above named territory, let him be sent there, & I will not complain

I shall be at Washington some few days hence, when I shall produce the above letter. Inclosed I take the liberty to send you my printed case, so long before Congress, that you may see how ungratefully I have been treated, both by the old & new Congress

My Claims here stated do not reach the most important of my services, which respect the armed neutrality   I am very respectfully yours &c &c

Stephen Sayre

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Oct. and “to be Govr. Detroit” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: The Case of Stephen Sayre (Philadelphia, 1803; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 5022).

Lewis Le Couteulx (coutould), a French native who became an American citizen in 1789 and settled in New York, had been arrested in Niagara on his way to Detroit in 1798. Unjustly imprisoned in Quebec as an enemy alien and natural-born subject of a nation at war with Great Britain, Le Couteulx was eventually released and received Madison’s assistance in obtaining British compensation for losses due to imprisonment (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:213; 5:1-2, 11).

A memorial of 20 Mch. 1803, signed by certain inhabitants of Detroit, supporting the creation of an independent Michigan territory separate from Indiana was introduced in the Senate on 21 Oct. 1803. Detroit petitioners also submitted a similar request to Congress dated 1 Sep. 1803. The act for division of the territory, which would mandate the appointment of a governor, was not approved until early 1805 (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 7:99-106, 118-23).

For Sayre’s past applications for government patronage and claims for compensation for Revolutionary War services, see Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 1:186-7, 226, 284-7; 2:190-1. Sayre’s petition came before the Senate again on 2 Feb. 1803. He had the printed case, along with accompanying papers, issued as a 21-page pamphlet later that year (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Claims, 1:81-3, 123-4, 223-6; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834-56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 12:51; Vol. 35:416-17).

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