Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 26 May 1812

To James Monroe

Monticello May 26. 12.

Dear Sir

With this letter I put into the post office a very large packet containing all the papers respecting the Batture which I recieved from your office. for these papers I gave a specific receipt, subscribed to a list of them. I had stitched them together in quires to prevent their separation or loss in the hands of counsel. I hope mr Graham will take the trouble to examine them by my receipt, and, finding all returned, that he will certify at the foot of the reciept that all have been returned. he will find more than all, because I have annexed others procured from other quarters, which I have thought might as well go & remain with the rest, as belonging to the same subject, and making part of the justification of the Executive.

Of a very superior importance is the copy of Crozat’s charter sent me by Genl Armstrong, and seperately inclosed herein with his letter. this charter, being the original establishment of the limits of Louisiana, is all-important to us. I deposit it therefore in your office for public use. you will consider whether it’s importance does not render it expedient to give it all the authenticity possible, by requesting Genl Armstrong to annex to it a Certificate on oath, stating all the circumstances of time, place & occasion of his getting it, which may shew it to be a copy admitted by the French offices & functionaries, authenticating his affidavit under some public seal. the only copy we had before was an English translation annexed to the English translation of Joutel (& not to Joutel’s original) which I possess. I think this paper of great public concernment.

ever affectionately yours

Th: Jefferson

RC (DNA: RG 59, LCBNO); upper right corner torn, missing text supplied from PoC; at foot of text: “James Monroe, Secretary of State.” PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosure: John Armstrong to TJ, 2 May 1812, and enclosure.

The papers respecting the batture that TJ received from the State Department are listed in the enclosures to Robert Smith to TJ, 4, 6 June 1810, and repeated with some additions in TJ’s specific receipt enclosed in his letter to Smith of 20 Mar. 1811. TJ placed this and some additional material in the hands of counsel with his letter to George Hay and William Wirt, 23 Mar. 1811.

Pertinent papers procured from other quarters, not described above at any of these documents, now returned by TJ, and also forming part of DNA: RG 59, LCBNO, include: (1) Deed of Jean Gravier to Julien Poydras, 5 July 1799, according to which Poydras pays Gravier $50 for a piece of property in the Faubourg Sainte Marie constituting the “overplus of the Lot to him Sold” by Bertrand Gravier through a deed of 19 Apr. 1788, with the said property fronting the river and having been conveyed to Jean Gravier on the death of Bertrand Gravier (Trs; in Spanish and English, the former in Pierre Pedesclaux’s hand, both witnessed by Santiago Lemaire, Fernando Percy, and Celestino Lavergné; originally certified by Pedesclaux, with and copy attested by him on 9 Jan. 1806; at head of text: “No 3”; filed with Governor William C. C. Claiborne’s certification that Pedesclaux is a New Orleans notary public, New Orleans, 11 Nov. 1809, printed form with blanks filled in, signed by Claiborne). (2) Deposition of Jacques M. Livaudais in the case of Jean Gravier v. the mayor, alderman, and inhabitants of the City of New Orleans, 25 Mar. 1807, recalling that the Spanish colonial governor, Baron de Carondelet, had issued a verbal order for Bertrand Gravier to repair the road; that Gravier answered that “having sold the lots faisant face au fleuve he had abandoned the Batture to the Town” and that neither the road nor the levee were his responsibility; that Carondelet accepted Gravier’s position; and stating the deponent’s recollection that from his earliest memories the city and its inhabitants had used the dirt at the Batture and that the Cabildo had once actually had it enclosed, until the pieces were “taken away and destroyed by different persons” (Tr; with subjoined note: “I agree that the above copy of a deposition shall be filed instead of the original, & that it shall have equal weight with the said original on all occasions Signed Edw Livingston I agree to the same signed L. Moreau Lislet”; copy certified by John W. Smith, 29 Dec. 1808). (3) Deposition of Laveau Trudeau, [25 Mar. 1807], summarizing the chain of ownership of the Batture; commenting that while he had always considered it to be an alluvion that belonged to the proprietor, he had spoken frequently to Bertrand Gravier on the subject and Gravier always took the position that, having sold the lots fronting the river, he considered himself free from the expense of the road and levee and that he had no right to sell the alluvion; and concluding that when Gravier said that he had abandoned the property, Trudeau believed he meant the Faubourg generally (Tr; copy certified by John W. Smith, 29 Dec. 1808). (4) Deposition of Charles V. Mansuy Pelletier, Jean Hyacinthe Laclotte, and Hilaire Boutté taken by Alexis Cesar Bonamy, New Orleans, 5 Dec. 1807, stating that since October 1806 they have at different times visited the Batture, surveyed its level, and found that it has increased in elevation from 8 inches to nearly 3 feet during the present year; annexing a plat of the Batture and a drawing (neither found) depicting their efforts to ascertain the level of Magazine Street and showing that the natural slope from the highway or levee is about 2 feet 6 inches; declaring that at the time of the final judgment awarding the Batture to Jean Gravier it was entirely covered with water, as a result of which it was impossible to determine how much it had increased in elevation that year (Tr). (5) Deposition of Pelletier taken by Bonamy, New Orleans, 5 Dec. 1807, stating that by order of the city of New Orleans he had drawn a plat based on 14 July and 4 Nov. 1763 procès verbaux (written records of oral testimony) of Olivier De Vezin, grand voyer (surveyor of roads) and surveyor general; noting that De Vezin’s original plat had been lost; describing discrepancies in the two surveys made by De Vezin; reporting that in the current plat Pelletier has corrected a mistake he had made when he was called as a witness in the last trial concerning the Batture; and concluding that, based on the procès verbaux of De Vezin, Pelletier believes that the Faubourg Sainte Marie was laid out on land that had formerly belonged to the Jesuits; that about two-and-a-half years ago he had been asked to measure said land by Jean Gravier, its proprietor; that according to De Vezin’s procès verbaux, the depth should have been 50 acres; but that it actually appeared to extend to 56 acres before encountering a tree marking Macarty’s boundary (Tr; filed with a certification of nos. 4–5 by James Mather, mayor, New Orleans, 31 Dec. 1808). (6) Deposition of Pelletier, taken by Pierre François Missonnet, New Orleans, 22 Oct. 1808, describing two maps (see no. 8 below) he drew about fifteen days ago, one showing the Batture in its normal state, the other illustrating conditions during the annual floods, and expressing the opinion that Edward Livingston’s works have hindered river navigation and caused damage to neighboring riverfront property (MS; in French; in Missonnet’s hand, signed by Pelletier). (7) Deposition of Jacques Tanesse taken by Missonnet, New Orleans, 14 Nov. 1808, stating that he is surveyor of roads for New Orleans and formerly a certified land surveyor in Saint Domingue; that he has lived in the city for four years and observed the Batture completely covered by water four or five months each year; that although he did not measure the Batture exactly in previous years, he can state from observation that the works Livingston began last year have caused a much greater augmentation of the Batture than normal; that the resulting land spur obstructed river navigation and led to faster currents; and that the works had been detrimental to neighboring riverfront property (MS; in French; in Missonnet’s hand, signed by Tanesse; subjoined to no. 6). (8) Two maps of the Faubourg Sainte Marie by Pelletier, each dated 15 Oct. 1808, one showing the Batture before the annual floods and the other depicting it covered by the Mississippi River (MSS; in Pelletier’s hand; with water-coloring added by hand; nos. 2–3 and 6–8 filed with certification by Mather, New Orleans, 31 Dec. 1808, that Smith is the clerk of the Superior Court of Orleans Territory and Missonnet is a New Orleans justice of the peace; nos. 2–5 and 8 included on TJ’s List of Batture-Related Papers and Pamphlets sent to Counsel, enclosed in TJ to Hay and Wirt, 23 Mar. 1811, but not described in note to that document). (9) Stephen de Quiñones, notary public for Orleans Territory and the city of New Orleans, certification of 13 Nov. 1809 that he has examined the estate papers of Bertrand Gravier and that no documents therein contain information relevant to the Batture Sainte Marie (MS in French, in Quiñones’s hand; Tr in English).

Index Entries

  • A Journal of the Last Voyage Perform’d by Monsr de la Sale (Joutel) search
  • Armstrong, John; and A. Crozat’s charter search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; TJ returns documents search
  • Bonamy, Alexis Cesar search
  • Boutté, Hilaire search
  • Carondelet, Francisco Luis Hector, baron; and batture search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; and batture controversy search
  • Crozat, Antoine; charter of search
  • De Vezin, Olivier search
  • Graham, John; and batture controversy search
  • Gravier, Bertrand; and batture controversy search
  • Gravier, Jean (John); and batture controversy search
  • Jean Gravier v. the mayor, aldermen, and inhabitants of the City of New Orleans search
  • Joutel, Henri; A Journal of the Last Voyage Perform’d by Monsr de la Sale search
  • Laclotte, Jean Hyacinthe search
  • Lavergné, Celestino search
  • Lemaire, Santiago search
  • Livaudais, Jacques M. search
  • Macarty, Jean Baptiste; and batture controversy search
  • Mansuy Pelletier, Charles V.; and batture surveys search
  • maps; of New Orleans batture search
  • Mather, James; and batture controversy search
  • Missonnet, Pierre François search
  • Monroe, James; as secretary of state search
  • Monroe, James; letters to search
  • Moreau Lislet, Louis; on batture controversy search
  • Pedesclaux, Pierre search
  • Percy, Fernando search
  • Poydras, Julien Lalande; and batture controversy search
  • Smith, John Witherspoon; certifies documents search
  • State Department, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Tanesse, Jacques; and batture controversy search
  • Trudeau, Lavau search