Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: William C. C. Claiborne’s Address to the New Orleans City Council, 9 August 1813


William C. C. Claiborne’s Address to the New Orleans City Council

Mr Recorder, & Gentlemen of the Council,

Had my health permited, I should have availed myself of the Honor of your Invitation, and been present at the sessions of the council on saturday last. … The question as to the right of property to the batture in front of the suburb1 Ste mary is of very general concern. … that the Public right should be maintained2 against the claims of Individuals, is not only interesting to the city but to the state, and the whole western Country;—to this end therefore, any measure which the laws authorise, will3 meet my best wishes, and zealous Co-operation. … a decision of the honorable the district court of Louisiana, in the suit brought by Mr Livingston against mr Dorgenoy late marshal of the district, Declares the removal of Mr Livingston from the Batture by order of Mr Jefferson late President of the united States, illegal and directs the Plaintiff to be restored to his possession. I am sorry the defendant has declined appealing from this decision to the supreme Court of the united States, The High4 standing of the officer whose authority is denied; the importance of the stake,5 and of the principles involved, make it desirable (for the satisfaction of all parties)6 that the case should have been carried before the highest Judicial Tribunal of this Nation. … I beleive however, there is no way of obtaining an appeal but thro’ the agency of mr Dorgenoy, and that the arrêté of the council which proposes an appeal in the name of the city Council & the Governor of the state will be in operative.7 Neither the one nor the other are parties to the suit, and it is understood to be an established Rule, that a party can alone take an appeal.—The operation of the Rule, in the present case, is unfortunate, since mr Dorgenoy has in fact been only, an Agent, and his personal interest much less, than that of the public, involved in the issue. The title of mr Livingston is not embraced by the decision of the Honorable the district Court. This title however has long been the subject of private & Public discussion. my opinions formed at an early period of this discussion were (as my duty enjoined) fully and freely expressed in my official Correspondance with the General Government, whilst I acted as Governor of the late Territory of Orleans.—From what I have seen, the Batture can only be considered a shoal of the mississippi, a part of the port of new Orleans, covered with water from four to five and six months in every year, and is the spot, where Boats and Barges Coming from the Upper Country can lie and land with greatest convenience & safety. From what I have heard, there exists no doubt in my mind,8 but the Batture at low-water, has from the foundation of the city (with the extent, it had from time to time) been used as a Public Landing and common, where Boats were loaded and unloaded and where the Inhabitants of New Orleans obtained Earth for building and for raising the streets and Court yards; and that the French and Spanish Governors of Louisiana had invariably prevented the exercise of Individual ownership over the same, and removed all intruders. Should the batture be reclaimed, from my own observation on the mississippi, and the information of much older settlers than myself I verily beleive it would change the Current of the River in front of the City, to the Great injury of the Port of new-Orleans, and the lower suburbs and Plantations.—Such have been, and such are still my impressions; Perhaps they are erroneous; Contrary sentiments are intertained by others, and it is Contended that the Batture is alluvion land susceptible of private ownership & the property of Mr Livingston. The laws must ultimatly decide, and to maintain the Public Right, we must alone resort to the means, which these Permit.

Considering the Batture as a part of the Bed of the mississippy, it is an object of enquiry What measures ought or can be taken by the state authorities, to prevent obstructions on that Great High way, the free use of which as well to the Inhabitants9 of this state, as of all the other states, is made one of the conditions upon which Louisiana was admitted into the American Union.—the subject has been submitted to the Consideration of the attorney General, the constitutional adviser of the executive, and the result of his enquiries, shall be communicated to you.—as far as the laws and the Principles of the Government authorise my immediate Agency, or give me a Controul over public functioneries, whose province it may be to enterfere, you may be assured of a Prompt and faithful discharge of duty.—But if upon examination the powers of the state authorities, should on the Present Occasion, be found incompetent, we must speedily & respectfully solicit the further enterference & support of the General Government. More we cannot do,—to proceed further than the laws justify would furnish an example of evil tendency, & injure the best of causes.—

Tr (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, with corrections and emendations by Claiborne, only the most important of which are noted below; ellipses in original; at head of text in clerk’s hand: “Batture in front of the Suburg [Suburb] Ste Mary. The city Council of New Orleans, having solicited the Governor to assist at their deliberations on the subject of the batture he attended at the city Hall on the 9th of August 1813. and addressed the council as follows”; on verso of last page: “C.”

The city council’s recorder was Pierre François Missonnet. arrêté: “decree.” Louisiana’s attorney general was François Xavier Martin.

1Manuscript: “suburg.”

2Reworked by Claiborne from “entertained.”

3Here is canceled “not.”

4Reworked by Claiborne from “slight.”

5Manuscript: “state.” A transcription based on a different text renders this word as “Stake” (Claiborne, Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816, 1917, repr. 1972, 6 vols. description ends , 6:254).

6Here is canceled “I should.”

7Reworked by Claiborne from “operation.”

8Preceding seven words interlined by Claiborne in place of “exerts on my mind.”

9Manuscript: “Inhabitans.”

Index Entries

  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; and New Orleans city council search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; W. C. C. Claiborne on search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; and batture controversy search
  • D’orgenoy, Francis Joseph Le Breton; and batture controversy search
  • Livingston v. D’orgenoy search
  • Louisiana (Spanish and French colony); laws governing search
  • Louisiana (state); conditions for statehood search
  • Louisiana (state); U.S. district court in search
  • Martin, François Xavier; and batture controversy search
  • Missonnet, Pierre François; and batture controversy search
  • New Orleans; city council of search
  • New Orleans; port of search
  • Supreme Court, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • United States District Court, Louisiana District search