James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Smith, 6 September 1809

From Robert Smith

Washington Sep. 6. 1809.


You will perceive that the enclosed papers from Gov. Claiborne state a Case, which has not been provided for by the Act of Congress.1 It is to be hoped that it will not occur. If it should, as is apprehended by the Governor, what instructions ought to be sent to him? Ought any to go in anticipation of such an event?

I have acknowledged the receipt of the enclosed letter from Genl Turreau and have informed him that I would lay it before you.2 More than this, I beleive, he does not expect. At least he has so stated to me in Conversation.

The account from Balto of a second battle on the Danube, being founded only on the report of the Captain of the vessel not supported by any paper, printed or written, may not be true. Such an event, however, is reasonably to be expected. If it should have taken place, we will the more easily keep our intended Course with respect to G. Britain.

Mr Jackson, who, it seems, reached Annapolis on sunday Evening last, has not yet arrived here. Respectfy Yours

R Smith

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Date may be in error (see n. 2). For enclosures, see nn. 1, 2.

1Smith appears to have forwarded the Orleans territorial governor’s letter of 9 Aug. in which Claiborne asked “to be advised of the President’s opinion, as to the proper course for me to pursue, in the event that the French should be ordered to depart from all the Spanish American possessions” (letter and enclosures printed in Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books, 4:402–9; Smith to Claiborne, 12 Sept. 1809, Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:850).

2From the context of JM’s 15 Sept. reply it appears that Smith forwarded Turreau’s 7 Sept. letter to the secretary of state that dealt with the arrest in New Orleans of Jean Marie Arbeau, who was charged with piracy. Arbeau was acquitted, but his ship and crew were detained by U.S. authorities. Turreau implied that the legal question involved was a French concern, and therefore Arbeau’s crew should be returned to France for trial (Turreau to Smith, 7 Sept. 1809 [DNA: RG 59, Notes from the French Legation]; Claiborne to Smith, 29 July 1809, and enclosures, Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books, 4:391–95, 397–99).

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