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To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 8 March 1804

From Albert Gallatin

8 March 1804

Dear Sir

I enclose a letter from Mr Briggs. I think his leaving the territory without leave of absence extremely wrong; and Mr Williams ought also to have staid. They will arrive after the adjournmt. of Congress, and there is now a bill before Congress embracing every amendment which they had suggested. That board is altogether deficient; and their decision not to take up any claims until after they had been transcribed on the record is the cause of their having done nothing. I wrote to the Register that it was wrong, and had a section introduced in the new bill to remove any doubt on the subject. I believe also that the degree of correctness contemplated by Mr Briggs could not be obtained for five times the sum allowed by law which is 4 dollars per mile—

Respectfully Your obt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as a letter of 8 Mch. received from the Treasury Department on 7 Mch. and “Briggs. Williams” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Isaac Briggs to Gallatin, Washington, Mississippi Territory, 10 Feb. 1804, reporting that he has halted the business of surveying because it cannot be done “for the compensation allowed by law”; his deputies have resigned, and “without a relief, beyond what the present law enables me to give them, they are ruined”; with the business of the land commissioners proceeding very slowly, there is no prospect that Briggs will be able to commence the survey of claims for 12 months; Briggs declares: “I, myself, as Surveyor general, am here entirely idle; here, I am of no service to my country”; he and Robert Williams are leaving for Washington, D.C., in three or four days to “communicate some information, useful to our country, respecting the defects of the land-law of this territory—the situation of land-claims here,—and of those likely to occur in Louisiana”; Briggs requests that Gallatin “show this letter to the President”; the surveyor general and Williams “hope to be able to make such oral communications, as will secure the President’s and thy approbation of our attending, at this time, the seat of Government” (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47-51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 9:246-7; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 5:304-6).

every amendment which they had suggested: see Gallatin to TJ, 4 Jan. TJ signed the legislation on 27 Mch., the day Congress adjourned (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820-21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:403, 404).

On 25 Jan., Gallatin wrote to the register, Edward Turner, that the filing of documents constituted “the legal date of the record” and the board ought to “proceed in their decisions” as soon as all the claims were filed even though the documents had not been “yet actually transcribed on the recording books of the Register” (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 5:302-3). section introduced in the new bill: Section 2 of the act of 27 Mch. stated that nothing in the legislation on disposition of the lands “shall be construed to prevent” the commissioners from deciding any claims that had been “exhibited in the manner prescribed by law, although the evidence of the same may not, at that time, have been transcribed on the books of the register” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855-56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:304).

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