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To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne (Abstract), 10 May 1805

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

10 May 1805, New Orleans. “The Enclosures Nos. 1 and 21 are Translations of a Communication to me from the Marquis of Casa Calvo; Nos. 3 and 42 are Copies of my answer to the Marquis and of a Letter which I have addressed to Governor Williams of The Mississippi Territory.

“Upon a perusal of those Documents you will find that Kempers Insurrection is not yet Subsided, and, that the movements of that Man and his associates are yet Sources of anxiety to the Spanish Authorities.

“It is certainly true that the people of West Florida are at present discontented, and that many would attach themselves to any well organized party, whose object would be to rescue the District from the Dominion of Spain; but I do not believe that the information received by the Marquis can be, throughout, correct. Of the departure of the Agents for Providence, and the intention of indiscriminate Slaughter and plunder which is talked of, I cannot give credit to: I however esteem it a duty to take some measures of precaution, & shall accordingly request the Captain of the Revenue Cutter to apprize me of any armed Vessel that may enter the Lake, and will Solicit Colonel Freeman to Strengthen the Fort of St. John, which is not far from the Rigolets.3 I shall also take Special care that the Insurgents shall receive no aid or assistance from this Territory. How far it would be proper in me to prevent a British force from entering into that part of West-Florida which is claimed by the United States, is a question which I cannot well decide; and should therefore be happy to receive from you, such instructions as would enable me to meet the views of the President.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 6); letterbook copy (ibid.); letter-book copy and letterbook copy of enclosures (Ms-Ar: Claiborne Executive Journal, vol. 15). RC 2 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Claiborne. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted. For enclosures, see nn. 1–2.

1Claiborne enclosed a translation of Casa Calvo’s 6 May 1805 letter (2 pp.; marked “No. 1.,” certified by interpreter Moreau Lislet; printed in Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books, description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends 3:43–44) and a translation of its enclosure (3 pp.; marked “No. 2.,” certified as a true copy by Andrés López Armesto; printed ibid., 44–45). Casa Calvo stated that the Kempers and their allies were trying to renew their designs on West Florida thus disturbing the tranquility of the province, requested that Claiborne ask the governor at Natchez to keep “a vigilant eye” on them, and commented that at this critical juncture in the negotiations between the United States and Spain, both he and Claiborne should do whatever they could to preserve harmony. The enclosure in Casa Calvo’s letter was a copy of the 22 Apr. 1805 “Extract from a letter of a Gentleman of respectability in the District of Baton rouge” stating that between 1 and 9 Apr. Reuben Kemper, Arthur Cobb “the son,” and an unidentified man sailed from New Orleans to New Providence hoping to obtain British commissions. They planned to return “in an armed Vessel loaded with every necessary military stores,” to leave the Gulf near the Rigolets, and come through lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas to the Amité River, where together with partisans waiting there, they would attack the Baton Rouge district from opposite directions. The writer said Gov. Carlos Grand Pré, an army officer, and others were marked for assassination. He listed as abettors of the scheme “Kimbell the Father, and E[d]ward Randolph of Pinckneyville,” the latter of whom was “capable of doing everything; but a good action.” The event was expected to take place about 1 June. Edward Randolph, a partner of Daniel Clark, and North Carolinian Frederick Kimball of St. Francisville, West Florida, were also active in the 1810 West Florida revolts ( James A. Padgett, ed., “The West Florida Revolution of 1810, as Told in the Letters of John Rhea, Fulwar Skipwith, and Others,” La. Historical Quarterly 21 [1938]: 107 n. 96; Padgett, ed., “Official Records of the West Florida Revolution and Republic,” ibid., 740 n. 83). For an analysis of the Kempers’ activities in West Florida, see Andrew McMichael, “The Kemper ‘Rebellion’: Filibustering and Resident Anglo American Loyalty in Spanish West Florida,” Louisiana History 43 (2002): 133–65.

2Claiborne enclosed copies of: (1) his 8 May 1805 letter to Casa Calvo (2 pp.; marked “No. 3”; printed in Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books, description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends 3:45–47), acknowledging the latter’s 6 May letter, stating his own concern lest anything upset local peace or the ongoing negotiations and his belief that Mississippi Territory governor Robert Williams would take steps to prevent any illegal actions on American soil, expressing his doubts that the British would support such an expedition, promising to take all possible steps to prevent a violation of American neutrality, and saying he would transmit “a Copy of our present correspondence” to the president for his advice; and (2) Claiborne’s 8 May 1805 letter to Robert Williams (1 p.; marked “No. 4.”; printed ibid., 3:47), enclosing copies of JM to Claiborne, 12 Nov. 1804 (PJM-SS, description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 8:285), Casa Calvo’s 6 May 1805 letter to Claiborne (see n. 1 above), and his 8 May 1805 reply, and stating that although he thought the reports were exaggerated, it was his duty to transmit them to Williams in the assurance that Williams would undertake the enquiries and measures the case required.

3The Rigolets is a waterway north of New Orleans connecting lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne.

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