Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from William C. C. Claiborne, 30 May 1803

From William C. C. Claiborne

Near Natchez, May 30th. 1803.

Dear Sir,

In my last Letter, I anticipated the resignation of Mr. Seth Lewis, the Chief Justice of this Territory;—I was yesterday informed by that Gentleman, that his resignation had actually been forwarded.

If Judge Jackson of Tennessee (the Gentleman I named to you in my last Letter) should not be offer’ed the Appointment of a Judge for this Territory, or be unwilling to accept, permit me Sir, to suggest the propriety of selecting another Character of Law Talents, from some one of the States;—If however, you should deem it advisable to make the appointment within the Territory, I will ask the liberty to mention a Mr. George Poindexter as a deserving young Man, and whose Law Information is very respectable.—I have understood, that a Mr. Abner L. Duncan has been recommended as Mr. Lewis’s Successor.—I do not think this information is correct, should1 it however be so, I feel it my duty to state, that Mr. Duncan’s Talents as a Lawyer are not more than equal to Mediocrity, and that he is unworthy of your Confidence.—

I have not heard of any appointments under the Land Law; It would I think be most satisfactory, if the Surveyor General, Commissioners and Registers were not selected from among the Citizens of this District, and I do also believe that this mode of appointment, would be most beneficial to the public service; There are indeed Sir, but few men of Talents in this quarter, and these few are either mediately or immediately interested in the existing Titles for Land.—

Finding in the Land Law, that an office is to be opened, “at such place in the County of Adams, as shall be designated by the President,” I will take the liberty to mention the Town of Washington (our present Seat of Government) as the most elligible position; It’s situation is healthy, and central to the population of this Division of the Territory;—As to the most eligible position for the Office in Washington County, I cannot particularly say, but I will venture to recommend either the place where the County Courts are holden, or at (or near) Fort Stoddart, perhaps the latter position will be best.—

The Pamphlet signed Algernon Sidney, which you did me the honor to enclose me, I have read with great satisfaction;—The writer has done Justice to the Government, and must carry Conviction to every Candid and Rational Reader;—The pamphlet will be reprinted at Natchez, and generally circulated.

I enclose you the prospectus of a News-paper, contemplated to be printed at Natchez, the intended Editor is without printing Materials or pecuniary Resources, but I hope, he will receive sufficient private support, to enable him to prosecute his Design.—A Republican paper has long been wanting in this District.—In no part of the Union, are the Citizens less informed of the principles of our Government, and (generally speaking) involved in as much mental Ignorance;—The Federalists availing themselves of that Credulity, which invariably attaches to Ignorance, have nearly deluged this District with the New-York Herald, and the Calumnies circulated thro’ the Medium of that paper, have made some unfortunate impressions;—these however, I trust will be removed, when the people are better informed.—

The Port of New-Orleans is open, and I hope it will never more be shut against us.—The well disposed part of your Constituents, rejoice at the restoration of the Deposit, & thank the Government for averting from their Country the Calamities of War.—The French Prefect continues at Orleans, but without authority, and of Victor & his Army, there is no late Intelligence.

It appears from the late papers, that War between England and France would speedily ensue;—on the score of humanity, an event of this kind, is to be regreted, yet for my Country’s Interest, it might (probably) be desirable—Perhaps it would enable Mr. Monroe to obtain (with the more facility) from France and Spain, such concessions on the Missisippi, “as a regard to Justice, and our future security may require.”—

With assurances of my very sincere & respectful Attachment, I remain Dr Sir, Your affectionate friend & Hb Sevt

William C. C. Claiborne

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Tho Jefferson Esqr. President of the U. States”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 June and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “Town of Washington for the Adams land office Fort Stoddert for the Washington office.” Enclosure not found.

my last letter: the Editors have found no communications from Claiborne to TJ since his last extant letter of 20 Apr., nor are any recorded in SJL.

On 16 Apr. 1803, seth lewis informed James Madison of his determination to resign as chief justice of the Mississippi Territory, to take effect on 15 May, and asked the secretary to inform the president of his decision. He had been appointed in 1800 (RC in DNA: RG 59, RD, endorsed by TJ: “Lewis Seth to mr Madison. resigns office of judge of Missipi”; 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- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , 4:523; Vol. 37:4n).

judge jackson: presumably Andrew Jackson, who served as a judge of the Tennessee superior court from 1798 to 1804 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

Virginia lawyer george poindexter arrived in Natchez in 1802 and was appointed attorney general of the Mississippi Territory by Claiborne the following year. He went on to a distinguished, if sometimes tempestuous, political career that included service as a congressman, federal judge, governor, and U.S. Senator (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ). In 1805, he became involved in a quarrel with leading Natchez attorney abner l. duncan (Richard Aubrey McLemore, ed., A History of Mississippi, 2 vols. [Hattiesburg, Miss., 1973], 1:238). A letter from Poindexter to TJ, dated Washington, Mississippi Territory, 30 May 1803, is recorded in SJL as received 3 July and “to be judge Missipi,” but has not been found.

pamphlet signed algernon sidney: A Vindication of the Measures of the Present Administration (see John Langdon to TJ, 8 May).

Established in 1802 and possessing a national circulation, the new-york herald was the semiweekly edition of the New-York Evening Post, the influential Federalist newspaper edited by William Coleman and associated with Alexander Hamilton (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , s.v. “Coleman, William”; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:631, 649; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 26:2).

as a regard to justice: Claiborne quotes from TJ’s Circular Letter to the Governors of the States, 25 Feb. 1803.

1MS: “shoul.”

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