James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Tatham, 1 January 1811

From William Tatham

January 1st. 1811.


Observing that Government are now occupied on the claim of the United States to West Florida,1 & having some idea of that subject through my researches in London, at the instance of our late Minister Mr. Monroe, I shall be pardoned for offering to the executive aid certain evidences tending to strengthen our pretensions—viz.

1st. An old Map (heretofore mentioned to you)2 procured by me at the request of Mr. Monroe, and most probably deposited in the London office of our legation.

2dly. An old Map published by Emanuel Bowen3 Geographer in London, in political reference to European claims, wherein the French claim to “New France,” or Louisanie, is distinctly coloured—from Rio Perdido to the river Guardalope; which is the river eastwardly of the river St. Mark, in the bay of St. Louis, Mexico, comprehending the 29th. degree of lattitude—north.

This map will be put into my hands by a friend, when he is assured that you want it.

3dly. An official Copy, by one of the French Engineers employed at New Orleans in the national transactions of France and Spain. This document fell into my hands in the official collection of General Montresor,4 Engineer general of the British forces in America; and corresponds with the two former.

You will, I doubt not Sir, recollect the valuable collection of Florida Charts & Surveys which you have seen in my library; and the value a Report in Congress (1806)5 has stamped on them: may I also hope that while a suffering Soldier of the Revolution is entering his sixtieth year under misfortunes which that revolution has heaped on his eve of life, (and wishes you many happy returns of the season) that you may recognize in his services, or acquisitions, enough to keep him & his infants from Starving?6

It will only remain to address your commands, through the Post office, Norfolk, to your well known friend & H: Servt.

Wm Tatham

RC and duplicate (DLC). RC docketed by JM. Duplicate has a postscript not on the RC: “P. S. Dated August 18th. 1809, I wrote you on this & other subjects; it may now, be well to refer to that letter. W. T.” (see n. 2).

1On 18 Dec. 1810 William Branch Giles had introduced in the Senate a bill to extend the laws in force in the Orleans Territory to that part of West Florida up to the Perdido River annexed by JM in his proclamation of 27 Oct. 1810. The Senate began debate on the measure on 27 Dec. 1810 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 11th Cong., 3d sess., 25, 37ff.).

2Tatham had already offered JM much of the material relating to Florida and Louisiana in his 18 Aug. 1809 letter (calendared in PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 1:332; printed in McPherson, “Letters of William Tatham,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 2d ser., 16 [1936]: 383–87).

3Emanuel Bowen (d. 1767) was a map engraver to both George II and Louis XV. His “Accurate Map of North America: Describing and Distinguishing the British, Spanish, and French Dominions on this Great Continent” was first published in 1755.

4John Montresor (1736–1788), like his father James Gabriel Montresor, had extensive experience as an engineer and a draftsman with British forces in North America. He was appointed chief engineer in America in 1775 and was actively involved in many campaigns in the American War for Independence until his retirement in 1779.

5For the House report of 1 Apr. 1806 recommending an appropriation for the purchase of books, maps, and charts from Tatham’s collection deemed to be of “public use” by the secretary of war, see ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:456–61.

6The secretary of the navy expressed some interest in acquiring Tatham’s maps, but after examining them he decided that, although “well executed,” they were “drawn upon a scale too small for a public Department” (Paul Hamilton to Tatham, 18 Mar. 1811 [DNA: RG 45, Misc. Letters Received]).

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