Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1 August 1810

To George Hay

Monticello Aug. 1. 10

Dear Sir

Your favor of July 20. was recieved on the 24th. your conjecture is right that the plank Etc which Livingston’s declaration charges as taken away, was never touched by the marshal. the marshal, attended by his posse, ordered Liv’s people off, and they went off at once & without any opposition. if they left their tools Etc it was their folly. this was on the 25th of Jan. the river begins to rise sometime in February. the earth said to have been taken, was I suppose by the people in the usual way. Grymes, the Atty of the district, undertook to give a written permission. I believe this was after I was out of office. it was without authority from the govmt, and he was instructed by them, as soon as it was known, to withdraw the permission, and leave the matter as it stood before, without either permission or prohibition on the part of the government; and so I presume the people now continue to take earth.

With respect to pleas, I think, if the government should take an interest in the case, I should omit none which may defeat the action in any way. the plea to the jurisdiction therefore, if it can be maintained, should be put in, and especially as it is recommended by the Atty Genl. the plea that he is a citizen of no state, if a good one, might be tried also, but I think you said that my oath would be requisite to the fact. that sanction I cannot give, because I know nothing of the fact. if the action should be got rid of in any of these ways, I should immediately lay the case before the public, either directly, or by addressing the justification to Congress.

It has been impossible for me sooner to finish copying the inclosed. new matter occurred as I went along, and you will find some additions of importance. it was ready for the last post; but just as I was concluding it Govr Claiborne arrived, and I put it into his hands for correction. he set some local facts to rights, so that it stands now with his entire approbation. he considers the case as I do, merely intended as a trial of title, and that the expence of defending the right to the batture ought not to be left on me. my defence would not require a single witness. that I did it as the servant of the public, denying corruption, malice or any other criminal motive which could subject me by law. the printed & written information we recieved was sufficient to justify the interposition of the Executive, who cannot wait for jury-findings before he acts. the course therefore which the trial is to take is merely to support the right of the public to the batture, in which N.O. is most vitally interested. he will therefore recommend to his legislature the taking the defence on themselves, & presumes they will authorize him to do so. but they do not meet till January. it is interesting to us to use all the delay possible for reasons before explained in conversation. after you shall have satisfied yourself, by a perusal of the inclosed, as to the pleas to be used, be so good as to re-inclose it to me, that I may forward it to mr Tazewell. I learn that mr Wirt is in Buckingham, and will be here in a few days. I must communicate the same paper to some friend in both houses of Congress. in their present uninformed state, they might by the sollicitations of Liv. be led to take some erroneous step, which might in the eye of a jury amount to an opinion against us; and might encourage the partialities of the judge. we must carefully retain a right of correcting every opinion he gives, by carrying it before the supreme court. I wish it were possible to force it into our state court. the federal condition of all those of the general government leaves me without confidence in a fair decision by any of them. Accept the assurances of my esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. since writing the above Govr Claiborne informs me that Livingston’s people left nothing on the beach, but carried away their tools with them.

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “George Hay esq.”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure: TJ’s Statement on the Batture Case, 31 July 1810.

Index Entries

  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; and Congress search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; communications between TJ and his counsel concerning search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; consults with TJ on batture case search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; visits Monticello search
  • Congress, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • D’orgenoy, Francis Joseph Le Breton; and batture controversy search
  • Grymes, Philip; and batture controversy search
  • Hay, George; and TJ’s statement on the batture case search
  • Hay, George; letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; statement on the batture case search
  • Livingston, Edward; bill of complaint against TJ search
  • Marshall, John; and batture controversy search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Claiborne, William C. C. search
  • Rodney, Caesar Augustus; and batture controversy search
  • statement on the batture case (Thomas Jefferson); sent to TJ’s attorneys search
  • Tazewell, Littleton Waller; and batture controversy search
  • Wirt, William; and TJ’s statement on the batture case search