Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Paine, 2 August 1803

From Thomas Paine

Bordenton on the Delaware Augt. 2. 1803

Dear Sir

I enclose a letter for Mr. Breckenridge, but as I know not his residence in Kentucky, I will be obliged to you fill up the direction and forward it to him after putting a Wafer in it. I send it to you open as it relates to the order of the day, Louisania.

I know not what are your Ideas as to the mode of beginning Government in the ceded country; but as we have thought alike on several subjects I make you a present of mine.

I take it for granted that the present inhabitants know little or nothing of election and representation as constituting a Government. They are therefore not in an immediate condition to exercise those powers, and besides this they are perhaps too much under the influence of their priests to be sufficiently free.

I should suppose that a Government provisoire formed by Congress for three, five, or seven years would be the best mode of beginning. In the Meantime they may be initiated into the practice by electing their Municipal government, and after some experience they will be en train to elect their state Government.

I think it would be not only be good policy but right to say that the people shall have the right of electing their Church Ministers, otherwise their Ministers will hold by authority from the Pope. I do not make it a compulsive article but to put it in their power to use it when they please. It will serve to hold the priests in a stile of good behavoir, and also to give the people an Idea of elective rights. Any thing, they say, will do to learn upon, and therefore they may as well begin upon priests.

The present prevailing language is french and spanish but it will be necessary to establish schools to teach english as the laws ought to be in the language of the Union.

As soon as you have formed any plan for settling the Lands I shall be glad to know it. My motive for this is, because there are thousands and tens of thousands in England and Ireland and also in Scotland, who are friends of mine by principle, and who would gladly change their present country and condition. Many among them, for I have friends in all ranks of life in those Countries, are capable of becoming Monied purchasers to any amount.

If you can give me any hints respecting Louisania: the quantity in Square Miles, the population, and amount of the present Revenue I will find an opportunity of making some use of it. When the formalities of the Cession are compleated the next thing will be to take possession and I think it would be very consistent for the president of the United States to do this in person.

What is Dayton gone to New Orleans for? Is he there as an Agent for the British as Blount was said to be?

As there will be but little time from the 17 October to the completion of the six Months it will require dispatch to be strictly in form. I know not your Manner of communicating with Congress, but as both houses have already acted upon the business I think it would be right to send a Copy of the Cession to each of them. This is not done in the case of Treaty; but as the instrument of the Cession is not of the Nature of a Treaty, because it does not connect us with a foreign Government which Treaties always do, the communication of it to Congress should keep clear of all the formalities of a Treaty. The federal Papers appear disposed to throw some stumbling block in the way and I see none they can lay hold of but that of construing it into a Treaty and rejecting it by a Minority.

Report says that Mr Monroe is gone to Madrid to Negociate for the Floridas. If it be so and is not a secret I should be glad to know it.

Yours in friendship

Thomas Paine

I will be obliged to you to let your servant take the enclosed to Mr Coltman.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Thomas Paine to John Breckinridge, Bordentown, 2 Aug.; offering advice on the impending congressional session called to finalize the acquisition of Louisiana, Paine notes that the “faction of the Feds who last Winter were for going to war to obtain possession of that country and who attached so much importance to it that no expense or risk ought to be spared to obtain it, have now altered their tone and say it is not worth having”; he worries that the cession will be deemed a treaty even though it does not entail “reciprocal consequences” and therefore “is not a Treaty in the constitutional meaning of the word subject to be rejected by a minority in the senate”; he thinks it possible that the Federalists will insist on taking up the matter as a treaty, thereby enabling the minority to block ratification; he urges also that the cession be accepted “in toto,” as adding conditions or terms would “hazard the whole”; he praises the purchase amount and expresses some desire to go to New Orleans to help the inhabitants acclimate to representative government; he believes that the province should adopt the religious policy of France, where “no ceremonial of religion can appear on the streets or highways”—Anglo-Americans “will not move out of the road for a little wooden Jesus stuck on a stick and carried in procession nor kneel in the dirt to a wooden Virgin Mary”; as the United States are to absorb Louisiana’s inhabitants as equal citizens, Louisianans should be treated as “a part of the national sovereignty,” not provincial subjects (Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, 2 vols. [New York, 1945], 2:1442-6). Other enclosure not found, but see below.

forward it to him: see TJ to John Breckinridge, 12 Aug.

New Jersey senator Jonathan dayton, who had financial interests in the West, spent about six weeks in New Orleans, beginning in late May (New York American Citizen, 29 July 1803; William Bache to TJ, 1 June).

mr coltman: possibly William Coltman, a longtime resident of the District of Columbia (Georgetown Centinel of Liberty, and George-Town and Washington Advertiser, 1 Nov. 1799; National Intelligencer, 1 Apr. 1833; Allen C. Clark, “The Mayoralty of Robert Brent,” RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895-1989 description ends , 33-34 [1932], 289).

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