James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne and James Wilkinson, 11 March 1804

From William C. C. Claiborne and James Wilkinson

New Orleans 11. March 1804.


Since our last of the 27. ulto. a Duplicate of which goes under Cover, the Spaniards have sent off a small Part of their Troops; and we have received repeated verbal Assurances from several of their Officers that a final Evacuation by them is fixed for the 20 of the present Month; and appearances seem to indicate the Reality of their Intention.

We have received two Letters from the Commissioner of France of the 2d inst. in one of which he informs us, that he shall leave in this City a Commissioner charged with the commercial Relations of the Republic and with the unfinished Business of the Commission, and in the other he observes, That France had expected us to take her Cannon & military Stores; that being disappointed in that Expectation, and the War which is now raging, preventing their being transported to the Territories of France, he shall reserve a Portion of the public Store Houses & Magazines for the Preservation of the Property of France.1

To the former of these Letters we replied that by our Constitution & Laws the Prerogative of accrediting public Agents of every Kind was vested in the President of the United States, and that the proposed Delegate could not be recognized in a public Character here by any other Authority. To the latter we answered by proposing to receive the Cannon & military Stores of France in this City by way of Deposits and to keep them in Safety, ready to be restored, when it might be more convenient to remove them from the Province.

We have this Morning received Replies to our Letters on these Subjects. The Commissioner of France still insists upon the Right of naming a commercial Agent to remain in this City, after his Departure to execute the Business of the Commission which may remain unfinished; he however concludes by mentioning, that he had written to Mr Pichon, Chargé d’Affaires at Washington City & expected that he would obtain an Exequatur from the President of the United States, for the Cit. Blanque whom he has designated to remain in character of commercial Agent here.2

He still persists in his Determination to reserve a Portion of the Store Houses and Magazines for the Use of France.3

We have not yet made our Protestation grounded on the Nondelivery of that Part of West Florida as far as the River Perdido which was formerly a Part of French Louisiana. We think it best to postpone that Measure to near the close of the Business, lest it might create some Embarrassment. We renew to you the Assurances of our sincere Respect & high Consideration.

William C. C. Claiborne

Ja Wilkinson

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