James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Elbridge Gerry, 12 February 1812

From Elbridge Gerry

Boston, Council Chamber 12th February 1812

Dear Sir

I have heard with concern that the Yazoo Company in this State have agreed to divide their lands into small parcells, to locate & to dispose of them, under the title confirmed by the Judiciary of the UStates.1 His Excellency Governor Hull being fortunately here on a visit, & informed of this proceeding, has endeavoured to stop it; from a conviction of unpleasant consequences; & has also recommended conciliatory measures. They have suspended their measures on condition of his taking the agency of this matter; & this he has acceeded to so far as merely to make to Government a proposition of compromise, on the plan formerly proposed. I hope this will be adopted, because as far as I understand it, Justice requires it; & it will be grateful to a number of respectable citizens, who are friends to Government, & are noways culpable for their purchases of these lands.

I feel extremely anxious, for the state of our national Concerns; being fully persuaded that the policy of GB will be to recede so (far & no farther), as to divide the Government & people on the question of War. But having freely conferred with Governour Hull on the subject, & finding that our veiws are the same in regard to our danger, & the best mode of preventing the consequences to be apprehended, I will trench no longer on your important moments, than to assure you of the continuance of my highest respect, unfeigned esteem, & sincere wishes for your health & happiness—being your Excellencys affect. friend

E. Gerry

P. S. Mr Azor Orne of this town, Grand son of the late Honble Azor Orne, a Counsellor & one of our most respectable revolutionary Characters, is amongst the candidates for a Captaincy in the new Corps; & his appointment is much desired by the friends of the national & State Governments.2

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Gerry was referring to the efforts made by members of the New England Mississippi Land Company to obtain compensation following the 1810 Supreme Court decision in Fletcher v. Peck, in which Chief Justice John Marshall had declared unconstitutional the 1795 Georgia law invalidating that state’s sale of the Yazoo lands. The goal of the New England Mississippi Land Company had always been passage of a federal law indemnifying its shareholders, and while the 1810 Supreme Court decision confirmed the legality of the claims of the company’s members to the Yazoo land in question, its immediate legal impact established no more than the fact that Peck had not defrauded Fletcher by selling him 15,000 acres of that land. The New England Mississippi Land Company, backed by all of the region’s Republican leaders, subsequently launched a major campaign in 1813 and 1814 for federal compensation that was ultimately to prove successful (see Magrath, Yazoo: Law and Politics in the New Republic, pp. 85–100).

2JM nominated Azor Orne to be a second lieutenant of infantry on 24 Feb. 1812 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:214).

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