James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 1 March 1804

From William C. C. Claiborne

New-Orleans March 1st. 1804


Having understood that there were several Parishes or Districts in Louisiana, whose former Commandants had declined acting under the American Government; that the inhabitants were becoming discontented and in some instances that disorders had ensued, I deemed it adviseable immediately to appoint the necessary Civil Officers, and by some verbal communications to endeavor to impress the minds of the Citizens favorably, towards the change of Government. My acquaintance with Characters being too limited, to enable me promptly to take the first measure, and my necessary presence in this City, preventing me from executing (in person) the other, I solicited Doctor John Watkins to proceed on a mission to these Districts, and which he was pleased to undertake.

Doctor Watkins was formerly of Kentucky; but having married a lady of this Province, has settled in this City; he is perfect master of the French and Spanish languages, possesses good general information and supports the character of a very honest man.

The enclosure No. 1,1 is a Copy of Dr. Watkins’s Instructions; that No. 2,2 of his Credentials, and the enclosure No. 3,3 of the Doctor’s Report; to this latter document, I beg leave particularly to refer you. It states the wishes of the people on several subjects highly interesting to Louisiana, and which will no doubt receive the attention of the General Government.

With respect to the importation of Slaves from Africa, which is mentioned in the report, I think it my duty to state, that on this subject, the people generally appear to feel a lively interest, and the prevailing opinion expressed here is, that a prohibition would tend greatly to the injury of the Province. I believe also that the solicitude of the people on the coast for a Delegate to Congress (which Doctor Watkins mentions) is not greater, than that of the citizens of New-Orleans; perhaps in the formation of a Government for Louisiana, Congress may make provision for a Delegate and extend to him like privileges, with those enjoyed by Delegates from other Territories. Such a provision would certain⟨l⟩y give general Satisfaction here, and I hope Congress may deem it adviseable. Accept assurances of my respectful Consideration

William C. C. Claiborne

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