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Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes and William B. Giles, 12 November 1810

To John Wayles Eppes and William B. Giles

Monticello Nov. 12. 10.

Dear Sir

You have heard of the suit brought by E. Livingston against me on the subject of the Batture. this has rendered it necessary for me to make a statement of the facts for the use of my Counsel; and the justification which these offer being derived from certain systems of foreign law in force at N. Orleans, which I have had more time to enquire into than they, I have been led into a full investigation of both the law and fact of the case. this I have inclosed to mr Giles & desired him, when read, to forward to you, with this view.1 I am apprehensive that L’s assiduities and intrigues may induce Congress to some vote referring his claim to judges or Commissioners. the countenance of such a vote would impress a jury sensibly and unfavorably to me. I wish the matter to rest as it does till the trial and Congress may leave it so with the more propriety, inasmuch as L. himself has transferred it from before them to another tribunal. I have thought I might ask of the justice as well as friendship of mr Giles & yourself to attend in your respective houses to this case so far as to prevent L. from procuring any measure which might give him an undue advantage over me.2 and to satisfy your conscience that this will do him no injustice, I ask your perusal of the Statement you will recieve from mr Giles, long as it is with a request, made to him also3 that no communication of the topics of my defence may be made to any body, unless indeed any attempts in Congress might render it necessary to use them there. you are sensible of the advantage which4 a knolege of them would give my adversary. I must depart from this injunction however so far, as to propose that you should give a perusal of the Statement to mr Clay and mr Johnston, both of Kentucky in whose friendly dispositions I have confidence, and who, as Western members are peculiarly interested in this case. for should L’s works destroy the landing on the batture, the Kentucky boats (about 1000. annually) will have no place of landing at or any where near N.O. of this mr Poydras can satisfy you. if that landing is not destroyed, the Western boats will have a limited use of it, on extortionate fees, instead of an unlimited one gratis. I have thought the aid of these gentlemen, one in each house, might be useful to me as well as to their & the other Western states; only enjoin them against making any communication of the contents, or on any consideration allowing the Statement to go out of their own hands. indeed, under the same injunctions I should have no objections to give mr Poydras the perusal. it may enable him to procure facilities for the trial. be so good as to press as prompt perusals as these gentlemen can give it, and then return it to me, as my counsel will need it.5 were this case before an impartial court, it would never give me a moment’s concern. but L. would never have brought it in such a court. the deep-seated enmity of one judge and absolute nullity6 of the other, with the precedents of Burr’s case, lessen the confidence which the justice of my case would otherwise give me. should the Federalists, from Livingston’s example, undertake to harrass and run me down with prosecutions before federal judges, I see neither rest nor safety before me7—can you not let Francis stay with us during the winter. I will send for him if you will give me leave and name the time. I was just setting out to Bedford when I had the misfortune to lose my mill dam. this will delay my journey I know not how long.with my respectful compliments to mrs Eppes, accept the assurance of my constant affections.

Th: Jefferson

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

William Branch Giles (1762–1830), United States senator from Virginia, 1804–15, attended Hampden-Sydney College and graduated in 1781 from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). He studied law under George Wythe and began a legal practice in 1786. Giles served in the United States House of Representatives, 1790–98 and 1801–03, represented his native Amelia County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1798–1800, 1816–17, and 1826–27, and was governor of Virginia, 1827–30. He was a passionate states’ rights Republican and political associate of TJ’s from 1793. In that year he introduced, as his own, unsuccessful House resolutions drafted by TJ, which attacked Alexander Hamilton’s stewardship of the nation’s finances. Their alliance held throughout TJ’s presidency and Giles supported the accession of James Madison, but he soon went into opposition. His aversion to banks, tariffs, and federally funded internal improvements eventually led him to public attacks on Albert Gallatin, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1776–1783, pp. 325–30; Dice Robins Anderson, William Branch Giles: A Study in the Politics of Virginia and the Nation from 1790 to 1830 [1914; repr. 1965]; Mary A. Giunta, “The Public Life of William Branch Giles, Republican, 1790–1815” [Ph.D. diss., Catholic University, 1980]; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 32 vols. description ends , esp. 16:22–4, 25:280–96; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 211, 215, 285, 333, 353; Richmond Enquirer, 9, 16, 18 Dec. 1830).

TJ referred to the deep-seated enmity of John Marshall and the nullity of Cyrus Griffin. Of the damage to his mill dam, TJ wrote in his Farm Book: “Nov. 9. 10. there fell in the course of 48. hours about 4¾ I. of rain. it raised the river to the brim of the bank between the mill dam & ford on this side and carried away the middle of the dam, & tore very much to pieces the Eastern . it barely entered the lowest parts of the low grounds there & at Milton. the water was about 4.f. deep on the lowest floor of the Manufacturing mill” (Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, 1953 (in two separately paginated sections; unless otherwise specified, references are to the second section) description ends , pt. 1, 135).

1Sentence in Giles PoC reads “this I now inclose to you with the following view.”

2Sentence in Giles PoC reads “I have thought I might rely on your justice as well as your friendship to attend to this case in the Senate so far as to prevent his obtaining there any vote injurious to a fair trial.”

3Sentence from “perusal of the Statement” to this point in Giles PoC reads “perusal of the inclosed. I am sensible it is of a revolting length; but the variety & novelty of the points it brings forward will not be unentertaining to you as a lawyer. when you shall have read it be so good as to send it by post to mr Eppes, for which purpose I inclose a franked cover. I have requested of him to bestow in the H. of R. the same attention I ask of you in the Senate; and from both I request.”

4Giles PoC: “sensible what advantage.”

5Section from “I must depart from this injunction” to this point is omitted in Giles PoC.

6Giles PoC: “utter nullity.”

7Giles PoC ends: “wishing you the pleasures of a smooth session, I salute you with all affection. Th: Jefferson.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John Quincy; mentioned search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; and Congress search
  • Clay, Henry; and batture controversy search
  • Congress, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); at Monticello search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); and batture controversy search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); letters to search
  • Federalist party; and batture controversy search
  • Giles, William Branch; and batture controversy search
  • Giles, William Branch; identified search
  • Giles, William Branch; letters to search
  • Griffin, Cyrus; TJ on search
  • Hamilton, Alexander (1757–1804); secretary of the treasury search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; E. Livingston search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. Marshall search
  • Johnson, Richard Mentor; and batture controversy search
  • Johnson, Richard Mentor; TJ on search
  • Kentucky; and batture controversy search
  • Livingston, Edward; TJ on search
  • Marshall, John; TJ on search
  • Milton, Va.; flooding near search
  • Mississippi River; and commerce search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); heavy rain at search
  • Poydras, Julien Lalande; and batture controversy search
  • Senate, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Shadwell mills; dam at search
  • statement on the batture case (Thomas Jefferson); sent to congressmen search
  • weather; rain search