Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson’s Memorandum on James Bowdoin’s Letter, 18 September 1810

Memorandum on James Bowdoin’s Letter

Mr Bowdoin’s letter of May 1. 1807 with Ch. M. Somers’ affidavit as to the negociation for 3. millions of as of land in the Floridas between Omeely, D. Parker & Izquierda is this day delivered to the President of the US.

Th: Jefferson
Sep. 18. 1810.

MS (DLC); written on a small piece of paper.

James Bowdoin (1752–1811), Boston-born merchant and diplomat, received his degree from Harvard College in absentia in 1771, having gone to England to improve his health and pursue further studies. He represented Dorchester in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1786–91, supported the new federal constitution at the state’s ratifying convention in 1788, and served in the state senate, 1794 and 1801–02. Bowdoin supported the Republican party’s opposition to British trade restrictions and hoped to succeed Rufus King as minister to Great Britain. Instead, TJ appointed him minister plenipotentiary to Spain in 1804 with the task of acquiring West Florida from that country and resolving Louisiana boundary issues. Bowdoin clashed with John Armstrong, American minister to France, with whom he was instructed to negotiate a treaty with Spain. He resigned in 1808 without reaching Madrid. Bowdoin’s lifelong agricultural and charitable interests included a translation from the French of Louis Jean Marie Daubenton’s 1782 work on sheep, Advice to Shepherds and Owners of Flocks, on the Care and Management of Sheep (Boston, 1810; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 794; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 6 [no. 263]), the organization of a fund drive for the Massachusetts General Hospital, and sizable donations of land and money to Bowdoin College in Maine, named after his father (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 ; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John L. Sibley and others, eds., Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 1873– , 18 vols. description ends , 17:487–500; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:472–4, 2:25, 29 [19, 20 Nov. 1804, 28 Feb., 17 Mar. 1806]; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 524; Boston Columbian Centinel, 16, 19, 23 Oct. 1811).

Bowdoin’s letter of 1 May 1807 (DNA: RG 59, CD, Paris) and the enclosed 5 Feb. 1807 affidavit by Charles M. Somers reported that Armstrong planned to purchase three million acres of Florida land in a scheme that implicated Michael O’Mealy (omeely), Daniel parker, and Eugenio Izquierdo de Ribera y Lauzan (izquierda). Prompted by a 6 May 1810 letter from Armstrong notifying President James Madison of Bowdoin’s accusations and the existence of the sworn statement, State Department clerk John Graham unsuccessfully tried to locate the document in the office’s files. Madison presumably asked TJ for a copy of the letter and affidavit during his mid-September visit to Monticello (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:332–3, 502–3, 527–8; C. Edward Skeen, John Armstrong, Jr., 1758–1843 [1981], 80–4).

Index Entries

  • Advice to Shepherds (Daubenton; trans. Bowdoin) search
  • Armstrong, John; U.S. minister to France search
  • Bowdoin, James (1752–1811); Advice to Shepherds search
  • Bowdoin, James (1752–1811); identified search
  • Bowdoin, James (1752–1811); U.S. minister to Spain search
  • Daubenton, Louis Jean Marie; Advice to Shepherds search
  • Florida; land schemes search
  • Graham, John; State Department clerk search
  • Izquierdo de Ribera y Lauzan, Eugenio search
  • King, Rufus; U.S. minister to Great Britain search
  • Madison, James; seeks documents from TJ search
  • O’Mealy, Michael search
  • Parker, Daniel (of Paris); and Fla. land scheme search
  • Somers, Charles M. search
  • Spain; U.S. minister to search