Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Mather, 2 August 1810

To James Mather

Monticello Aug. 2. 10.


At the request of Governor Claiborne, I inclose you a letter from him on the subject of the Batture. you have probably seen by the public papers that Edward Livingston has brought an action against me for arresting his works there. he is too skilful a lawyer to believe he can recover any thing from me; because if there were even error in the proceeding, it will not be pretended that it was done thro’ either corruption or gross malice, which alone could render me personally responsible. my defence therefore, if it regarded myself alone, would be simple, and would not require a single witness to be examined. the printed & written communications which I recieved, were sufficient to justify executive interposition. but he expects to make this action a trial of his title to the batture, & calculates probably that I may not go to the expence or trouble of examining witnesses at such a distance, or employing lawyers to defend a title in which I have no personal interest, and which is not material to my justification. could he, through a remissness of defence, obtain a decision of the Chief Justice of the US. in favor of his right, his claim would be placed on respectable ground before Congress. but a contrary decision would I believe for ever put it to rest. believing the case to be as clear an one as I ever had occasion to consider, and that the public right to the batture cannot fail to be established if duly defended, I have but obeyed my own sincere wishes for the prosperity of N. Orleans, in suggesting to Govr Claiborne, the expediency of attention to it, on their behalf. I shall with zeal devote all my efforts to a vindication of the interests of the city but it will need a collection of evidence not accessible to me, but easily obtainable in New Orleans, under the auspices of the proper authority. the Governor appearing fully sensible of the importance of preventing an unfavorable decision from being obtained by surprise, & of establishing rights so interesting to the city by a full investigation, has made it the subject of the letter which I have now the honor of inclosing to you, with a tender of every service I can render on the occasion, and the assurances to yourself personally of my high respect & consideration.

Th Jefferson.

PoC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); at foot of text: “The honble mr Mather”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure not found.

James Mather (d. 1821), a merchant from England, moved to Louisiana early in the 1770s and by 1780 established the New Orleans firm of Mather & Strother, a company that later provided the Spanish government with imported English goods to trade with the Indians. Governor William C. C. Claiborne placed him on the Legislative Council of Orleans Territory in 1804, and TJ reappointed him to that post two years later. He was a judge and deputy register for La Fourche County in 1805. Early in 1807 Claiborne appointed Mather mayor of New Orleans, an office he resigned in May 1812 (DLB; William S. Coker and Thomas D. Watson, Indian Traders of the Southeastern Spanish Borderlands: Panton, Leslie & Company and John Forbes & Company, 1783–1847 [1986]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:45, 48 [15 Dec. 1806, 16 Jan. 1807]; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , esp. 9:251, 347, 426, 562, 659–60, 723–4; New Orleans Louisiana Gazette, 12 Oct. 1821).

Index Entries

  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; and Congress search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; TJ requests documents search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; procures batture documents for TJ search
  • Congress, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Marshall, John; and batture controversy search
  • Mather, James; and batture controversy search
  • Mather, James; identified search
  • Mather, James; letters to search