Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Patrick Magruder, 20 March 1811

To Patrick Magruder

Monticello Mar. 20. 11.


Having just now made up the Exhibits to be used in the suit of mr Livingston on the subject of the batture, and finding a printed copy of the petition of the Mayor Etc of N.O. to Congress sufficient for our purpose, I return you the original one which you were so kind as to send me from your office, with my thanks & assurances of great esteem & respect

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of text: “Mr P. Magruder”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure: Petition from the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of New Orleans to the United States Congress, 11 Nov. 1809, arguing that Jean Gravier’s estate, now represented by Edward Livingston, lies behind the Faubourg Sainte Marie and thus contains none of the batture; that at Bertrand Gravier’s death the batture was not listed in his inventory and therefore never passed to Jean Gravier; that the sale made by Jean Gravier to Claude François Girod, on which Livingston bases his pretension that the batture is private property, is unsubstantiated; that Girod himself regarded the sale as null, because he subsequently asked the Cabildo on 28 May 1801 to rent him the batture so that he could erect a mill on it; that the Cabildo denied the petition, convinced that the batture was public property; that the batture cannot be considered alluvion; that the law permits building on seashores but prohibits construction on the banks of rivers because their undisturbed use belongs to the public; that the batture must either be a part of the port of New Orleans, or a dependency of a riparian estate; that on the former supposition Livingston is excluded from the batture, because ports are public; that on the latter, he cannot claim a right to build, unless it is acknowledged that all riparian landholders have that right; that such an acknowledgment would subject vessels to tolls and expenses anywhere along the river—a state of oppression more intolerable than feudal barbarity; that boats landing on crowded docks rather than the open batture would encounter filth and spread pestilence; and that the city would suffer irreparable harm by losing the use of the soil of the batture for building purposes (copies of printed version in DLC: Rare Books and Special Collections and in DNA: RG 59, LCBNO, each with handwritten notation of approval on 11 Nov. 1809 and each signed by James Mather, Charles Trudeau, and Maurice Bourgeois; manuscript version not found; also in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Public Lands, 2:3–4).

Index Entries

  • Bourgeois, Maurice search
  • Girod, Claude François; and batture controversy search
  • Gravier, Bertrand; and batture controversy search
  • Gravier, Jean (John); and batture controversy search
  • Magruder, Patrick; clerk of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Magruder, Patrick; letters to search
  • Mather, James; and batture controversy search
  • New Orleans; petitions from inhabitants search
  • Trudeau, Charles search