Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Robert Smith’s List of Batture-Related Papers Sent to Thomas Jefferson, 6 June 1810


List of Batture-Related Papers Sent to Thomas Jefferson

List of Papers sent to Mr Jefferson 6th June 1810—from the Dept of State.

Three Letters from Mr Livingston to the Secy of State the one without date the others dated 27th June and 5th Octr 1809.

Letter from Govr Claiborne to the Secy of State dated 14th June 1808—

—from the attorney General to the Same dated 27th1 Sepr 1809—

Copy of a Letter from the Secy of State to Mr Grymes dated 5th Octr 1809—

—to Mr Livingston 13th Octr 1809—

MS (DLC); in John Graham’s hand, with his notation on verso: “List of Papers inclosed.” Enclosures: (1) Edward Livingston to Robert Smith, [1809], indicating that this is not an official communication, but rather, a friendly reiteration of topics they recently discussed for Smith’s “free time reflexion,” of which he has kept no copy and to which he expects no written response; expressing confidence in the ultimate success of his claims; noting, however, that delay in their resolution is an evil of no small magnitude and subjects him daily to fresh obligations; complaining that he alone is singled out while hundreds of other territorial inhabitants remain in undisputed possession of their alluvial property, even as they reclaim it under the eye of government officers and hold it under the same grant as his own; arguing that a congressional debate or judicial investigation will subject the administration to violent invective and popular declamation; maintaining that no plausible reason exists to justify the proceedings against him, and that men of all parties now assure him this is the general sentiment; suggesting that TJ’s reputation and the present administration might benefit if Congress were informed that the president (James Madison) had discovered that the marshal had exceeded his authority in removing Livingston from the Batture contrary to the injunction of the Superior Court; proposing that Congress also be advised that the corporation of New Orleans had misinformed the president on the law governing the controversy and on Bertrand Gravier’s status as a riparian proprietor, facts it has since acknowledged to be false;leaving it to Attorney General Caesar A. Rodney to recover all alluvial lands if he thinks that the United States has title, and expressing confidence that no “cruel & invidious distinction” will be made to his prejudice;observing in a postscript that after it had been “loudly insisted” that his works were damaging the Batture, last December Governor William C. C. Claiborne obtained opinions on the subject from some port wardens, which he suspects that Claiborne has suppressed; and referring Smith to his publication for the testimony of masters of vessels and the letter of Samuel B. Davis the harbormaster (RC in DNA: RG 59, LCBNO; undated).(2) Livingston to Smith, Washington, D.C., 27 June 1810, stating that Congress would probably adjourn without acting on his petition against his removal from the Batture by TJ; that since he was injured by an executive act, executive power should provide him relief; that he will soon ask Smith to transmit to the president his proof from published documents that the United States has no title to the land, and that even if it did, TJ should not have used the act of 3 Mar. 1807 to remove him; that he hopes the president will no longer deny Livingston his estate without a trial; that his present application seeks the interference of government in a dispute over the city of New Orleans’s alleged right to dig and remove soil from the Batture; that this dispute led to a lawsuit in which Livingston was quieted in his possession and the city enjoined from digging the soil; that after this judgment, the city claimed that it had never had title to the land, but that the United States did; that this new claim was used to dispossess him by force despite an injunction by a competent court; that TJ told Congress that he acted to prevent any changes until Congress could settle the title; that when Livingston applied for redress he was told that while Congress considered the matter the president could not dispose of the property; that what the president considered as beyond his power, the United States attorney for the district of Orleans (Philip Grymes) has taken on himself, thereby doing great injury to the freehold and ignoring the president’s message; that he encloses Grymes’s permission to the inhabitants of New Orleans to use the property; entreating Smith to have the marshal put a guardian on the property and prevent people from carrying away soil; and indicating that he has no desire to control the Batture’s use as a public landing (RC in same).(3) Livingston to Smith, Red Hook, 5 Oct. 1809, acknowledging a letter of 5 Sept. from the State Department indicating that his application had been referred to the attorney general; stating that he accordingly wrote Rodney; that on this day he has learned from Rodney that the attorney general does not agree with Grymes; that the great injury he sustains daily induces him to request again that the executive take appropriate measures to stop the trespass on the Batture; that if it is not stopped, the land will deteriorate greatly, reducing its value to the government or, if he is restored, giving him a greater claim for damages; and requesting notification of what course has or will be taken (RC in same). (4) Rodney to Smith, 27 Sept. 1809, returning a letter from Livingston and a paper by Grymes that had been sent from Smith’s office in a blank cover with no question stated for Rodney’s opinion; noting that a recent communication from Livingston had recalled his attention to them; inferring that his opinion was desired on Grymes’s announcement that New Orleans citizens could continue to use the Batture; giving as his opinion that he agrees with TJ’s message to Congress of 7 Mar. 1808; agreeing also that if the title of the United States is deemed valid, only Congress has the authority to decide how to use the land and that nothing should be done to the Batture until Congress so decides; that it is not for him to determine whether Congress will allow New Orleans the fee simple use of the land or the right to use it in the customary manner; and relaying Livingston’s desire for a speedy decision (RC in same). (5) Smith to Grymes, Washington, 5 Oct. 1809, enclosing Livingston’s letter to Rodney and Rodney’s reply, with which Madison agrees; and ordering that Grymes’s permission of 25 Sept. 1808 to the citizens of New Orleans to continue removing earth from the Batture be withdrawn.(6) Graham to Livingston, Washington, 13 Oct. 1809, informing him of the order given to Grymes in no. 5 (Trs in same).Other enclosure (Claiborne to Madison, 14 June 1808) not found.

1Second digit, poorly formed in manuscript, inferred from the enclosure in question.

Index Entries

  • An Act to prevent settlements being made on lands ceded to the United States until authorized by law (1807); and batture controversy search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; and Congress search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; TJ receives documents search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; and batture controversy search
  • Congress, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Davis, Samuel B. search
  • D’orgenoy, Francis Joseph Le Breton; and batture controversy search
  • Graham, John; and batture controversy search
  • Gravier, Bertrand; and batture controversy search
  • Grymes, Philip; and batture controversy search
  • Madison, James; and batture controversy search
  • Orleans Territory; superior court of search
  • Rodney, Caesar Augustus; and batture controversy search
  • Smith, Robert; and batture controversy search
  • State Department, U.S.; and batture controversy search