James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Matthew Lyon, 26 January 1810

From Matthew Lyon

Washington Jany 26th. 1810


Had not Mr Brent came in & interupted our Conversation I should have mentioned some applications to me from Kentucky to Solicit the Appointment of Governor of Louisiana Territory Particularly one from John Rowan Esqr1 in behalf of Joseph H Davies Esqr.2 Mr Rowan calls Mr Davies an honest federalist, & presumes that you will have no Objection to Call forth tallents such as Mr Davies Possesses in the service of the Nation. Col Posey3 whose character you must be acquainted with, & a gentleman by the Name of John Allen4 of Burboun Cy desire to be named to you—supposeing that as Kentucky has had the last Territorial Governor it might be thought too much to ask for an other from there so suddenly I intended to Mention to you My old friend Judge Witherill5 from Vermont who is now one of the Judges of the Michigan Territory. He is a man eminently calculated for a Station so arduous & difficult as that of Governor of a Territory, a Man of the right sort of Tallents to conciliate & reconcile the People to the Goverment, his family are not Moved to Detroit & would much more Willingly go to the Western Country, his letters to me shew that he would preferr it much. Governor Edwards wishes most sincerely to be transferred to Louisiana as he cannot have the benefit in Illinois of his Property in Slaves, he has Solicited me to use my interest to get him Transferd. & as his Situation would better Suit a Northern Man I intended to have mentioned Judge Witherill to you, I do not think any man in the Nation would better do the duties to be required of him, more effectually serve the Goverment, or give Greater Satisfaction to the people. I am very respectfully your obedt Servt

M Lyon

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17, filed under “Davies”).

1John Rowan (1773–1843) was a Republican congressman, 1807–9, and U.S. senator, 1825–31, from Kentucky.

2Joseph Hamilton Daveiss (or Davies; also Davis) (1774–1811), a native of Bedford County, Virginia, was married to John Marshall’s sister and had served as U.S. district attorney in Kentucky. Daveiss was one of the first to accuse Aaron Burr of treasonable activities, but his charges were at first discounted because he was a Federalist. He was killed at the Battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811 (William B. Allen, A History of Kentucky … [Louisville, Ky., 1872], pp. 251–53; Malone, Jefferson and His Time description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time (6 vols.; Boston, 1948-81). description ends , 5:237–38).

3Thomas Posey (1750–1818) lived at The Wilderness in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and served in the Continental line during the Revolution. John Dawson defeated him in the 1797 election for JM’s vacated seat in the House of Representatives. Posey then settled in Kentucky, where he became active in state politics. Appointed a U.S. senator from Louisiana to fill a vacancy, he served for four months in 1812–13 but lost the subsequent election. JM then appointed him governor of the Indiana Territory (WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 1st ser., 6 [1897–98]: 65; Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 16 Dec. 1796).

4John Allen (1749–1816), a native of James City County, Virginia, studied law in Charlottesville under George Nicholas and migrated to Kentucky in 1786. He served on the Bourbon County bench (Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky [1980 reprint], p. 289).

5James Witherell (1759–1838) was a Republican congressman from Vermont, 1807–8, and a U.S. judge for the Michigan Territory, 1808–28.

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