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To James Madison from John Graham, 2 January 1806

From John Graham

New Orleans January 2nd. 1806


I have the Honor of enclosing you a Duplicate of my Letter by the last Mail1 and a Copy of the one I wrote to Mr. Morales.2 The Copy of his answer cannot be got ready in time for this Mail but the Substance may be found in my Letter to him for he agrees that I was correct in my understanding of what he Said.

This day week we received by a Ship in a very Short Passage from New York the Presidents Message to the Senate and House of Representatives of the 3rd. Ultimo.3 A copy was immediately Sent to the Governor, and if he receives it I am Sure he will hasten his return to the City, unless he finds it expedient to remain a little longer where he is to make some arrangements for the defence of our western frontiers. He may probably think this the more necessary as a report has gone abroad that the marquis of casa calvo has been tampering with the indians4 in that quarter. Whatever he may have done his journey I apprehend must have been undertaken from motives different from those he assigned to the Governor, for he has not yet I am told gone where he Stated he should go and he has been already absent longer than he led us to believe he would be. I should unwillingly raise in your mind any improper Suspicions against this gentleman but my own opinion is that he ought not to remain in this country. His manners and his character must give him an influence and that influence will be used against us whenever an occasion of doing so may offer. If we could get clear 1630 1644 of every spaniard in the country I should rejoice for we should then be free from our most dangerous enemies. From the returns made 1670 1593 to the mayor there are about two hundred & thirty of these people and they are generally of that description who would be ready to seize any moment of disturbance to commit the vilest depredations and whether in Peace or War they arc5 a nuisance to 1595 the country.

As the President’s Message induces me to believe that a rupture with Spain is not an improbable event, I have felt it my duty (the Governor being absent) to ascertain for your information 1598 1700 what arc6 our present probable means of defence: From the best accounts I can get we have in the city and its vicinity about three hundred and fifty men other than french, spanish, or natives on whose good wishes we may rely. In this estimate are included all the americans and in fact all those whose language is not french or spanish. I speak here 1642 of inhabitants; to these we may add a hundred or a hundred and fifty sailors and the regular troops in garrison from all which I calculate that we could not draw more than five hundred men fit for service. In making this statement, it is7 far from my intention to insinuate that there are not many among the natives, and some among the french who would join us but at present, it is impossible for me to form any thing like a conjecture how many would do so.

From what I hear, and from what I see, I am induced to think 1676 1599 that the prevailing disposition among these two classes of people is to remain neutral in case of a war between Spain and the United States: Yet I believe that this disposition will be more or less general according to the measures pursued by the Americans here. If we show a determination 1609 to resist any attack that may be made, many of them will I calculate join us; some from principle, and more from a conviction that we must ultimately8 succeed but if we do not form a rallying point for them they will I fear do nothing9 themselves. Under this impression, the Mayor of the City and myself are endeavoring 1690 to draw all our countrymen into a military association for the defence of the city in case it should be fund ase tacked10 by the spanish forces now on our eastern or western frontiers that they will enter into it with 1615 zeal and avidity, I have no doubt, and if they do so, I feel a confidence that 1625 1597 they will be joined by many of the natives in fact by so many as to deter the spanish governors from making a hasty attack upon us, and I trust that the president has taken effectual measures11 to secure us from any other. This association will be put into no regular form, until the return of the Governor, and he will then give it that which seems to him most proper. The object of it is to 1590 1650 draw out under the exigency of the 1699 moment, and put12 military array men who would not, otherwise, subject themselves to the inconvenience of doing militia duty. The expedient will answer but for a time and I fear but for a very short time for the Spanish forces are increasing in our neighbourhood and might even with their present numbers, 1596 if they are brave, bear down any opposition we 1650 could make—This at least is the 1700 prevailing opinion and the very circumstance of it’s being so 1596 is alarming for we have few men here who would take what they believe to be the weaker side: to save their property would be the great object 1700 of nearly all and to take arms on the weaker side might be supposed the readiest means 1593 to losing it.

The peculiar circumstances attending the mulattoe13 corps will require much delicacy of management: I have therefore thought it most prudent not to say any thing to them until the return of the Governor. With Sentiments of the Highest Respect I have the Honor to be Sir, Your Mo: Obt Sert14

John Graham

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 8). RC 6 pp.; in clerks’ hands, except for Graham’s complimentary close, address, and signature; docketed by Wagner. Unless otherwise noted, italicized words are those decoded by Wagner using the code provided by the State Department and decoded here by the editors. For a description and copy of the code, see Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 419–30. The numerals scattered throughout the letter were inserted by Graham’s clerks and do not correspond to numbers in the code. For enclosures, see nn. 2 and 14.

1The last letter found from Graham to JM is dated 30 Nov. 1805, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (11 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 10:600–601.

2The enclosure (2 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Graham; docketed by Wagner as received in William C. C. Claiborne’s 15 Dec. 1805 letter, with penciled note: “incorrect”) is a copy of Graham’s 23 Dec. 1805 letter to Juan Ventura Morales stating his understanding of what Morales had said in their conversation of 21 Dec. 1805: that Morales’s powers as intendant of Florida had been recognized by Vicente Folch; that consequently the commandant of Mobile would be under Morales’s command; that Morales would have to request an “informe” from the commandant about the duties laid on American ships passing through Mobile, since Morales had never authorized them; that the only order Morales had given which could be considered to bear on the subject said nothing about duties but would, had it been executed, prohibit the passage of all such vessels into or through Mobile; that while Morales remained in New Orleans he could do nothing and that after his arrival in Pensacola any means of accommodating Governor Claiborne’s request to have the duties rescinded would be suggested by a general council of the intendancy officers. Graham added that Morales had said he did not see how he could do anything, since he had previously asked the Spanish Court if he could permit Americans to navigate the Mobile, and the reply had been that he was to strictly execute the Treaty of San Lorenzo, which Morales interpreted as not allowing such navigation. Graham asked that his understanding be corrected if it was faulty, since he intended to give his government an account of the conversation and wished it to be accurate.

3For Jefferson’s fifth annual message to Congress, 3 Dec. 1805, see Ford, Writings of Thomas Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (10 vols.; New York, 1892–99). description ends , 8:384–96.

4Encoded “indinans”; decoded “indians.”

5Encoded “arc”; decoded “are.”

6Encoded “arc”; decoded “are.”

7The clerk omitted “is”; inserted here in Wagner’s hand.

8Encoded “ultitely”; decoded “ultimately.”

9Wagner inserted “[toward]” here.

10Encoded “fund ase tacked”; decoded “attacked.”

11Encoded “taken effection val measures”; decoded “effectual measures.”

12Wagner inserted “[in]” here.

13Encoded “mulatonguee”; decoded “mulattoe.”

14Also filed with this letter is a copy of Morales’s 24 Dec. 1805 reply to Graham (4 pp.; in Spanish; docketed by Wagner as received in Claiborne’s 15 Dec. 1805 letter) acknowledging that Graham’s understanding of their discussion was correct but reminding him that the conversation had been much more extensive and that each of them had made statements from their own perspectives. He added that Graham had omitted Morales’s suggestion that the petition about American navigation of the Mobile differed from Claiborne’s request in his 22 Oct. 1805 letter, which Morales had shown to Graham. Morales noted that if the goods on which duties had been exacted were U.S. government property, he could have repeated what had been done on other occasions in demonstration of his desire to cultivate harmony and friendship, but the question of allowing American ships to navigate the Mobile River was of such seriousness that a subaltern officer could not decide it, even for convenience, and that it would have to be decided by the council of the royal treasury with the concurrence of the military chief. He observed that although Graham had said Folch was inclined to allow passage with conditions, he compared the situation to Spain’s navigation of the Mississippi, allowed by the Treaty of San Lorenzo, noting that the impeding of Spanish traffic to Baton Rouge could be construed as a violation of the treaty. They had also discussed the rights each country judged itself to have to West Florida from Baton Rouge to the west bank of the Perdido River and that Graham had founded his position on the Louisiana Purchase Treaty and Morales had founded his on the right of conquest, which he had witnessed. He added that his resistance to resolve anything about the navigation of the Mobile was also founded in the fact that Claiborne had tied Morales’s hands on the issue of land sales, resulting in damage to Spain’s interests, therefore it was not proper that Morales should assist in anything that could be useful to the views of the United States in the territory under Claiborne. For Claiborne’s 22 Oct. 1805 letter to Morales, see Claiborne to JM, 24 Oct. 1805 (PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (11 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 10:465, n. 2); for Folch’s suggestions about passage on the Mobile and Mississippi rivers, see Claiborne to JM, 9 Dec. 1805 (ibid., 640–41, n. 1).

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