James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, 4 November 1801

From Joseph Hamilton Daveiss

Frankfort. 4. Novr 1801.


My letter of the 9th of Septr. on the subject of your panther creek lands, remains unanswered; being sent by private hand, it may have miscarried, and I now state its contents.

Your father claimed 10,000 acres of land on panther creek, near Green-River—it was entered to adjoin Wm Moores1 10,000, who had entered to adjoin George Masons 8300; these three claimants had one common agent, Hancock Lee,2 in locating, and one, H. Taylor, in making their surveys. George Wilson under whom I claim, entered 30,000 acres—or rather surveyed that quantity, upon a larger entry, to include, all these three claims; cross caveats have been depending for many years with each claimant. That with Mason was removed into the District court of U. S. & now depends upon appeal before the supreme court at Washington. You have a Caveat against Wilson in the state court. The cross caveat against you is in the Circuit court for the U. S. That in which you are plaintiff has I Am satisfied been taken to the state court by your fathers agent, there to rest untill the event of the contest with Mason should be known, and with design to endeavour to obtain a different decision of the question in the state court, should the appeal eventuate unfavourably.3

I am informed, that upon the death of Mr James Madison, your father, this land has descended or been devised to you and the suit is r[ev]ived in yr name. I refer you to the papers of the case of Wilson vs Mason in the Supreme court the platt in which will shew you, with the inclosed entries,4 the true state of these claims, and that they turn on the same question & circumstances with Masons. I have therefore now to propose before the event of the case of Mason is known (& which will be known in Decer) to agree that our dispute shall end according to the decision of it. For tho, if that cause should terminate against me, I should surely be justifiable in dismissing my Caveat in the Circuit court & bringing it in the state court, for the very purpose Mr. Madison’s agent has put his there—yet, I would even to save a valuable property feel the deepest reluctance in such a measure: For if different adjudications on our land law are made by these two courts the greatest evils must attend it in this country—especially on a question of so extensive influence. Two laws of property are at once established; two hostile principles of Tenure. And supposing each court decides for the plaintiff, the powers of the two courts are at once brought to ⟨a⟩ trial, whose judgment the Register shall obey. I am entire owner, now, of this 30,000 acres in name of Wilson; I am persuaded the State court would conform to the decision of the Sup. court, but lest they should not, and at any event, to prevent a tedious and expensive controversy between us, I make this proposal. If you accept of it before the 1st of December, when the Sup. court will meet, and notify me of it, you are to consider this proposal, so accepted, as creating a stipulation absolutely obligatory on me, and entitling your counsel in Kentucky to have the final judgment entered for you, if the sup court decides in favour of Mason. If you accept, you will advise your agent & counsell here of it, that such an entry may be made for me should the judgment at Washington entitle me.

Mr John Tho. Mason was counsell for Mason, and has I suppose certified copies of the inclosed entries (which were copied at my office from authentic copies, to day,) and also of the record in above named suit. I would have sent the authentic copies but must shortly file them in court.

I spoke to Col. Barbour,5 Your fathers agent on this subject, but he requires some act of yours renovating his powers, before he will act for you—the former warrant being of course revoked by the death of his constituent.

You will soon be able to satisfy yourself whether I am correct in stating these cases to rest on the same points, and then I presume will loose no time in advising me of your decision, that I may not be remiss in preparing for trial should you resolve not to end it otherwise.

The spirit of faction is not yet laid, If I am correctly informed; nor has the fermentation yet reached its crisis.

I dont envy you, the pleasure of your office.

Express my esteem for Mrs Madison and Miss Payne, and believe me to be with great respect Sir Your most obedt

J. H. Daveiss.

Index Entries