Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Albert Gallatin to Thomas Jefferson, 10 September 1810

From Albert Gallatin

New York Septer 10th 1810

Dear Sir

I return the memoir on the batture, which to me appears complete and decisive.1 The legal parts of the argument being less within my competence I would probably have abridged;2 and my arrangement would have been somewhat different. But your’s may be better in itself, and I really cannot even3 suggest any important alteration or omission. I have in the enclosed paper, noted, as I read for the second time, such observations as occurred respecting details. That Congress ought to defend the suit there is no doubt. The only difficulty lies in the strange4 hold which Livingston had the address to take of some5 members in other respects6 friendly: which rendered it doubtful7 for a while whether that body would not interfere in an improper manner. Of such interference there is now no danger; and the suit against you has8 excited an indignation which must forbid his success in any shape with Congress. Still it may be difficult to induce men who have committed themselves by votes favorable to his pretensions to take now an opposite course. And it would be mortifying and dangerous to fail after having made the attempt. I therefore think that the best way will be to ascertain in the first place whether a resolution to defend the suit can be carried or not, before it is attempted. Precedents are not wanting. Congress by law advanced five hundred dollars to Dexter to defend the suit for damages instituted against him on account of the destruction by fire of the war-office: and I have directed numerous suits against collectors for seizures and detentions under the embargo9 to be defended by the district attornies or at public expense. Of the final result, as it relates to yourself there can be no doubt: but it is truly vexatious that your peace should be disturbed and your attention diverted from favorite pursuits by an10 unprincipled and delinquent speculator; and very11 unjust to compel you to incur the trouble of collecting at New Orleans evidence of facts notorious indeed but not legally proven. Yet of the necessity of doing this, if Congress does not,12 I am13 aware. You know I presume that Livingston sailed about eight weeks ago14 for New Orleans, and, as is reported, for the sole15 purpose of collecting such evidence as may favor his views. I will only add that a domestic affliction in the family of a near friend has prevented an earlier attentive perusal of your memoir, and that you will find your additional note to page 36 in its proper place. Is not Moreau’s opinion still in Rodney’s hands? I have never seen it.

I need not say how much shocked I was by Erskine’s dispatch. However reluctant to a news-paper’s publication and to a denial on matters of fact, I could not permit my name to be ever hereafter quoted in support of the vile charges of foreign partialities ascribed to16 you: and I knew that in that respect my disavowal would be decisive; for, if my testimony was believed they did not exist; and, if disbelieved, no faith could be placed in whatever I might be supposed to17 have said to Erskine. Although18 I never for a moment supposed that either his letter or any news paper attack could,19 after so long and intimate acquaintance, create a doubt in your mind of the sincerity and warmth of my sentiments towards you, or alter your friendship to me, the assurance was highly acceptable and gratefully received. The news papers publications to which you allude I have heard of, but not seen, having not received the papers south of this place during my stay here. But I had anticipated that from various quarters a combined & malignant attack would be made whenever a favorable opportunity offered itself. Of the true causes and real authors I will say nothing: and however painful the circumstance and injurious the effect, the esteem of those who know me, and the consciousness of having exclusively devoted my faculties to the public good & of having severely performed public duties without regard to personal consequences, will20 I hope support me against evils for which there is no other remedy.21 That a diminution of public confidence should lessen my usefulness will be a subject of deeper22 regret. Accept, I pray, the assurances of my sincere respect and of my constant affection & gratitude.

Your obedt Servt

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Sept. 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Dft (NHi: Gallatin Papers); endorsed by Gallatin. Enclosure: TJ’s Statement on the Batture Case, 31 July 1810.

On 14 Aug. 1810, during a visit to Montpellier, TJ requested James Madison to pass the enclosed memoir on the batture on to Gallatin. The president duly forwarded it on 17 Aug. to Gallatin, who received it three days later (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:484, 491, 499). On 8 Nov. 1800 the war office burned down. The owner of the property, Joseph Hodgson, sued Samuel Dexter, then secretary of war, for damages. Congress accordingly appropriated five hundred dollars to dexter for his successful defense (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States . . . 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:152 [14 Apr. 1802]; The Federal Cases: Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States [1894–97], 12:283–4; U.S. Reports description begins Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the United States, 1790– (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with U.S. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 5 [1 Cranch], 345–65). The domestic affliction was the death of the only son of William Few and Gallatin’s sister-in-law Catharine Nicholson Few (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:526). In former British minister plenipotentiary David M. erskine’s dispatch of 4 Dec. 1808 to George Canning, Erskine claimed that Gallatin had agreed in conversation that TJ was pro-French. In a 21 Apr. 1810 letter for the Washington National Intelligencer belatedly published in that newspaper on 18 July and reprinted in the Richmond Enquirer, 24 July 1810, Gallatin issued a vehement disavowal of the allegation and attested to TJ’s perfect impartiality between England and France in foreign affairs during his presidency.

1Dft: “conclusive.”

2Dft: “abridged in some respects.”

3Word added in margin of Dft.

4Dft: “incredible.”

5Dft: “many.”

6Dft: “in every other respect.”

7Reworked from “difficult.”

8Reworked in Dft from “must have.”

9Preceding three words interlined in Dft.

10Dft: “by the resentment of an.”

11Word interlined in Dft in place of “it is extremely.”

12Preceding four words interlined.

13In Dft Gallatin here canceled “fully.”

14Reworked in Dft from “sailed six or eight weeks ago.”

15Reworked in Dft from “as he left his wife behind, it must be solely for the.”

16Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “alledged against.”

17Preceding three words interlined in RC and canceled and then restored to Dft.

18Word interlined in Dft in place of “But.”

19Remainder of sentence interlined in Dft in place of “make an unfavorable impression on your mind, after your friendship to me, or create a doubt of the sincerity & warmth of my attachment respect & gratitude to you.”

20Reworked from “must” in Dft.

21Following sentence added above signature in Dft, keyed to this word with a pound symbol.

22Dft: “deep.”

Index Entries

  • Canning, George; British foreign minister search
  • Congress, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Dexter, Samuel search
  • Embargo Act (1807); A. Gallatin on search
  • Enquirer (Richmond newspaper); and allegations against A. Gallatin search
  • Erskine, David M.; conversation with A. Gallatin search
  • Few, Catharine Nicholson (William Few’s wife) search
  • Few, William; death of son search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and TJ’s statement on the batture controversy search
  • Gallatin, Albert; letters from search
  • Hodgson, Joseph search
  • Livingston, Edward; A. Gallatin on search
  • Madison, James; and TJ’s statement on the batture case search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Moreau Lislet, Louis; “Mémoire au soutien des droits des Etats-unis à la Batture du faubourg Ste Marie,” search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); and allegations against A. Gallatin search
  • Rodney, Caesar Augustus; and batture controversy search
  • statement on the batture case (Thomas Jefferson); copies of returned to TJ search
  • War Department, U.S.; fire at search
  • “Mémoire au soutien des droits des Etats-unis à la Batture du faubourg Ste Marie” (Moreau Lislet); TJ seeks search