James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Porter, 21 September 1810

From David Porter

Chester Sept. 21st. 1810


I have the honor to state to you that I have received letters from N Orleans informing me of the resignation of the Marshall of that District.1 A number of applications will no doubt be made for the office and as I have had cause to attend the District court of that place on important trials for some time past, and have been an eye witness of the proceedings there, I take the liberty to state the impossibility of Justice being Administered there so long as the marshall is any other than an American in principle.

While the Marshall is a frenchman there will be allways a large Majority of frenchmen on the Juries and a frenchman can never be convicted however heinous his crime, for the truth of this assertion I beg leave to refer you to the trials of Jean Marie Arbo a Pirate,2 Batigue for Piracy, Aury3 for Smugling slaves into the Territory, and Branquet for the same offence.

Excuse me sir for the liberty I have taken and accept assurances of my high respect and consideration. I have the honor to be Your Obedient Humble servant

D Porter4
of the U. S. Navy

RC (NHi).

1J. Michael Fortier resigned this office on 11 Aug. 1810. Martin Duralde, Jr., was nominated in his place on 10 Dec. 1811 (Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:895; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:156).

2Jean Marie Arbeau, who claimed to be the commander of a French naval vessel in distress, had been tried for piracy in July 1809. His acquittal, despite evidence that he seized ships and cargoes belonging to American, British, and Spanish nationals, greatly distressed territorial governor William C. C. Claiborne (Claiborne to Robert Smith, 29 July 1809, and Claiborne to M. Deforgues, 27 July 1809 [Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917) description ends , 4:391–99]).

3Louis-Michel Aury (ca. 1786–1821), born in France, moved to the West Indies in 1803 and became a privateer, a career he continued to pursue after the War of 1812 in various locations, including Amelia Island and Galveston. He was also, briefly, governor of Texas during the period of the Mexican rebellion against Spain (Lancaster E. Dabney, “Louis Aury: The First Governor of Texas under the Mexican Republic,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 42 [1938]: 108–16; Stanley Faye, “Commodore Aury,” La. Historical Quarterly, 24 [1941]: 611–97; Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr., and Gene A. Smith, Filibusters and Expansionists: Jeffersonian Manifest Destiny, 1800–1821 [Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1997], pp. 137–40).

4David Porter (1780–1843), son of a naval officer of the same name, entered the navy in 1798. He served aboard several ships in the Caribbean before receiving orders in 1808 to command a force off the coast of New Orleans to protect commerce against piracy. Promoted to the rank of captain in June 1812, Porter was in command of the Essex throughout the War of 1812 and was forced to surrender the vessel to the British after the Battle of Valparaiso in March 1814 (David F. Long, Nothing Too Daring: A Biography of Commodore David Porter, 1780–1843 [Annapolis, Md., 1970], pp. 4, 12–15, 36–55, 57, 142–57).

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