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Topics for Consultation with Heads of Departments, 15 May 1804

Topics for Consultation with Heads of Departments

May. 15. 04


Judge Davies’s enquiries

mr Merry’s case

Pichon’s memorial

he hazards general assertions neither proved nor true

the law of nations does not make1 a nation responsible for acts of individuals out of it’s limits.

yet friendly nations do watch to a certain degree.

does France watch the atrocities of it’s privateers

men with & without commissions

it to be assurd. on our part of superintendence

but also a strong recrimination & requisition

reestablish the rules of 1793

question as to right of trading with an independt. nation

impressmt of a Frenchman. is Savage still an Agent in Jamaica

R.R.L’s successor

War. Gratiot, Choteau’s sons to military academy.


Cherokee permission for Kentucky road.

Forbes’s statement of Indian debts.

Creeks 113,512.
Cherokees     2,358
Chickasaws   11,178
Choctaws   46,091.

Spanish refusal to let our goods pass.

is Dr. Hunter gone?

R. Bland Lee’s proposn to sell lands @ 20. D.

Poutawattamees applicn for liquor one moon in the year

Jouett’s state of Indians in his departmt.

Chippewas   892
Wyandots   606
Shawanees   625
Ottawas 1606
Poutawatamis     80
Munseys   309
Senecas     78

the garrison at St. Louis is on land private property

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 140:24332); entirely in TJ’s hand; on same sheet as Topics for Consultation with the Secretary of War, 16 May, and Notes on Dispatches from William C. C. Claiborne, 4 July 1804.

davies’s enquiries: in a letter to Madison dated 15 Apr., Thomas T. Davis asked for clarification of his duties regarding the jurisdiction of the governor and judges of the Indiana Territory over the Louisiana District. Specifically, Davis wished to know if the Indiana judges would receive new commissions or should act under their old ones, and whether they could expect an official act of the president. Davis did not wish to commence his new duties before receiving some instructions from the executive. “General Satisfaction prevails” among the inhabitants of upper Louisiana regarding their annexation to the Indiana Territory, he noted. Davis added that the judges believed an increase in salary should have accompanied the increase in their responsibilities (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 39 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 11 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 8 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 3 vols. description ends , 7:66).

merry’s case: writing to Madison on 4 and 11 May, Anthony Merry complained of the seizure on 2 May of a black servant in his household, Henry Scott, by Henry Suttle, the agent of Scott’s master. Suttle took Scott from Merry’s garden without application to Merry or his permission, which the British minister deemed a violation of the diplomatic immunities and privileges of his position. Suttle claimed that Scott had hired himself to Merry’s household without the permission of his owner. A “Kind of Apology” by Suttle failed to assuage Merry, and Scott remained confined in jail. Replying to Merry on 19 May, Madison stated that his letters had been laid before the president, who wished to assure Merry that the United States respected the immunities granted to public ministers and sought to maintain them “in all their legal Extent.” To prosecute Suttle for violating his household, Merry needed to provide proof of the fact from proper sources, and Madison noted that persons of color were not allowed to act as witnesses against free whites. Because Scott was a slave, he could not return to Merry’s service upon his release from jail without the legal consent of his owner. To do otherwise was a violation of the law, for which both the owner of the slave and the person hiring him were liable. How far Scott’s case violated diplomatic immunity “is a Question not without Difficulty and Delicacy,” but Madison assured Merry that it would receive all the attention “which the Establishment of Facts may require” (same, 7:150-2, 205-7, 231-2).

pichon’s memorial: Louis André Pichon wrote to Madison on 7 May regarding reports that American vessels trading with Saint-Domingue were arming themselves in U.S. ports, contrary to the law of nations, in order to thwart the efforts of French cruisers to stop them. These vessels were also carrying contraband cargoes to the rebels on the island. In particular, Pichon cited reports that the brig Betsey and the ship Connecticut were being armed in Philadelphia at that very moment. Pichon asserted that American citizens, with the knowledge of their government, were carrying on a private and piratical war (“une guerre privée et piratesque”) with a nation at peace with the United States. He protested those overt infringements on the rights of the French government, which had so recently abandoned its national interests in order to strengthen its friendly relations with the United States. The present contact between the United States and Saint-Domingue was not the same as in the time of Toussaint-Louverture, who acted under French authority and at a time when the island was under French control. The current rebel leaders had avowed their independence from France, Pichon asserted, and sought to destroy all that remained French on the island. Americans could not be unaware of this situation, and the law of nations clearly demanded that foreign nations at peace with France should not interfere with its prerogatives or tolerate actions that supported the rebels on Saint-Domingue in a private war against French forces combating the rebellion (same, 7:185-9).

atrocities of it’s privateers: since the French evacuation of Haiti in late 1803, French privateers from Santo Domingo, Guadeloupe, and Cuba had been attempting to block U.S. trade with Haitian ports. While some carried official letters of marque, other French-flagged vessels, especially from Cuba, operated under questionable authority and with the collusion of Spanish officials, particularly at the port of Santiago. Acting under the pretense of preventing trade with the Haitian rebels, French privateers frequently preyed on American merchant vessels in the West Indies regardless of their cargo or stated destination, carrying their prizes into friendly ports or simply plundering them at sea. Writing Robert R. Livingston on 31 Mch., Madison complained that these “highly irritating” depredations were “laying the foundation for extensive claims and complaints” against France. Attempting to placate American anger, Pichon informed Madison on 15 May that he disavowed the actions of these privateers as contrary to French intentions as well as the laws governing privateering. Pichon also pressed the governor of Cuba to take measures to end such activities in his jurisdiction (Gordon S. Brown, Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution [Jackson, Miss., 2005], 230-1, 240-4; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 39 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 11 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 8 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 3 vols. description ends , 6:643-4; 7:90-1, 120-1, 144-6, 218-20; Vol. 42:609, 610n; Jacob Crowninshield to TJ, 14 July 1804).

sons to military academy: Meriwether Lewis and Amos Stoddard wrote to Dearborn from St. Louis on 28 Mch. and 2 Apr., respectively, recommending sons of Charles Gratiot, Pierre Chouteau, and Louis Lorimier for appointments to the U.S. military academy at West Point (DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; William Henry Harrison to TJ, 28 May).

cherokee permission: a 14 Apr. letter to Dearborn from the agent to the Cherokees, Return Jonathan Meigs, enclosed a message from “a Cherokee Chief” and “a grant for opening a Road from Kentucky to S. West Point” (DNA: RG 107, RLRMS).

British merchant John Forbes wrote to Dearborn from Georgetown, D.C., on 3 May regarding indian debts owed to Panton, Leslie & Co. and enclosed an abstract of the amounts due (same). For the firm’s efforts to enlist the help of the federal government in obtaining payment of these debts, see Vol. 39:280n, 380, 381n, 529, 530n; Vol. 40:422; Vol. 42:127-31.

Richard Bland Lee wrote to the War Department on 12 May offering to sell a tract of land near the public works at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (DNA: RG 107, RLRMS). Replying on 17 May, Dearborn declined the offer, stating that a source of wood for fuel was not needed and that the public already owned more land in the vicinity than it could use (DNA: RG 107, MLS).

jouett’s state of indians: writing to Dearborn on 20 Mch., Charles Jouett enclosed a table “shewing the different Nations of Indians, their Numbers &c, in the neighborhood of Detroit” (DNA: RG 107, RLRMS).

In another letter dated 2 Apr., Amos Stoddard informed Dearborn that the garrison at st. louis “stands on land Private property” (same).

1Word interlined in place of “oblige.”

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