Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from William C. C. Claiborne, 28 October 1803

From William C. C. Claiborne

Natchez October 28th. 1803.

Dear Sir,

About 20 minutes since, I received a Letter from my friend Docter Sibley, enclosing me a Map of the Country West of the Mississippi, which I hasten to forward to you:—The Doctor’s Letter contains much useful Information, & therefore I have taken the liberty to transmit it for your perusal & must beg you to receive it in confidence.—

The Northern Mail is now closing, and the Post-Master allows me but two Minutes to close my Communication, which I hope will be received as an apology for its brevity:—

Accept my best wishes.— I have the honor to subscribe myself Your faithful friend & mo: Obt. Servt.

William C. C. Claiborne

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the U. States”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Nov. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “Sibley’s lre.” Enclosures: (1) John Sibley to Claiborne, Natchitoches, 10 Oct., responding to Claiborne’s letter of 30 Sep., Sibley expresses his exhilaration at the news of the coming cession of Louisiana and the possibility of West Florida’s cession; even without Florida, the acquisition will secure free passage to the Tombigbee settlement, control of both banks of the Mississippi, and possession of Baton Rouge, “the Best Situation for a large Town between the Balize & Chickasaw Bluff”; he holds high hopes for Natchitoches, which has access to the “Great Road towards Mexico” and which could easily be connected by road to Natchez; he apologizes for not being able to obtain a map of the interior country, but he has learned the names of the rivers between the Mississippi and Rio Grande; west of the Red River is first the “Quelqueshoe” (Calcasieu), which is “not of much Account for its Navigation” but “affords some beautifull Bodies of Pararie Land” and some land for sugar cultivation and is under Louisiana’s jurisdiction; next comes the Sabine, which appears navigable in high water, has much good land, particularly for livestock, and is said to have formed the ancient limit of Louisiana; next is the Angelina River, which flows by Nacogdoches and which, along with the Sabine, bounds an “Excessively Rich” area of land; then come the Trinity, Brazos, Colorado, San Antonio, Guadalupe, Nueces, and Rio Grande; from Nacogdoches to the settlement of San Antonio is a fine country, with only about 100 families at the former town and more than twice as many at the latter; there is also a small settlement of Christianized Indians along the San Antonio River, and throughout the area are “numerous tribes of Indians”; beyond the Rio Grande the country has many towns and mines, and high up the river is New Mexico, with Santa Fe sitting on the east side of the river amid mountains and towns; the head of the Red River is understood to be in Louisiana and in the same mountains as the Rio Grande; its length is unknown, but it is navigable 600 miles to the lands of the Pawnees and is said to be navigable for 1,000 miles more, flowing always through fine country; he acknowledges the article printed in the City Gazette of Charleston, which he attributes to Judge Elihu Hall Bay, with whom he is well acquainted; the judge has stated the limits of Louisiana and Florida correctly but has grossly mischaracterized the area along the Red River between its mouth and Natchitoches, and Sibley suspects that the judge has been trying to prop up his “famous Walnut Hill Tract” in the Natchez area; Sibley adds that the lands along the Red River already have about 25 cotton gins that produced 3,000 bales of cotton last year and an equal amount of tobacco and peltries, and an estimated 7,300 horses also passed through Natchitoches; he adds that the area between the Red and Calcasieu Rivers could support some 1,000 sugar plantations and produce more tobacco of a superior quality than is presently made in all of the United States; he describes the method of growing tobacco near Natchitoches; a leader of the Caddos has been visiting Natchitoches and has inquired about the prospects of American control of the region; Sibley has been circumspect but has assured him of Americans’ good intentions and believes that though dwindling in numbers, the Caddos might make useful allies; there is talk of the Spanish reoccupying their presidio at Los Adaes, which, lying 40 miles east of the Sabine, is uncontestedly part of Louisiana, and Sibley urges that the Americans occupy this area before the Spanish; he describes the lands between the headwaters of the Calcasieu River and the Sabine River, as well as the land northwest of Natchitoches; he encloses a map he sketched out the previous evening; he discusses the prospects for shipbuilding on the Red River and the Great Raft, a logjam 30 miles above Natchitoches that forms a not insurmountable barrier between the lower and upper parts of the river; he thanks Claiborne for writing on his behalf to Daniel Clark and believes that he no longer faces any trouble from Trudeau, the commandant at Natchitoches; he does not hold a high opinion of the local residents’ capacity for self-government or for conducting trials by jury; he advises the safekeeping of “Nearly a Cart Load of Old Records”; as to public property, he notes only the jail but adds that there exists a large church and a fine parsonage house (RC in same: TJ Papers, 135:23369-74; endorsed by TJ: “Sibley John to Govr. Claiborne.” Printed in Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 9:72-8). (2) Map not found.

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