Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 4 June 1810

From James Madison

Washington June 4. 1810.

Dear Sir

I have recd your two letters of the 25. & 30. Ult. I have not yet seen any of the Secretaries to whom you have written on the subject of the papers relating to the Batture. I take for granted they will readily comply with your request. Mr Gallatin is absent on a visit to his Farm in the Western parts of Pennsa. But his chief Clk will I presume be able to furnish the papers, if any, lying in that Dept. The Argument of Moreau de Lislet has never been printed; nor, as I believe, fully translated. The original Manuscript, if not in the hands of Mr Rodney, will be forwarded from the Dept of State. What Poydras has said on the subject is herewith inclosed. Altho’ the ground to be taken in the suit agst you, is not disclosed, I think it not difficult to conjecture it. The Act of Congs will be represented as Unconstitutional, and the case of the Batture as not within its scope; and the misconstructions as too obvious to be resolvable into Official error of Judgment. In any event there will be the chance of an Obiter Opinion of the Court, on the merits of the case, strengthening1 the cause of Livingston. Till I recd your letter, I had scarcely yielded my belief that a suit had been really instituted. If the Judiciary shd lend itself for such a purpose, it cannot fail I think, to draw down on itself the unbounded indignation of the Nation, and a change of the Constitution, under that feeling, carried perhaps too far in the opposite direction. In a Governmt whose vital principle, is responsibility, it never will be allowed that the Legislative & Executive Depts should be compleatly subjected to the Judiciary, in which that characteristic principle is so faintly seen. My overseer left this on friday at noon, with our Merinoes under his charge. He will write to you on his arrival, that when you chuse, you may send to have them divided & your share removed. He will concur in any mode of division that may be preferred. That the result may be as equal as possible, I wd propose, that the owner of the Ewe with a lamb, should furnish the other party, with the first Ewe lamb that may follow from the same Ewe. I suggest this on the supposition that the other Ewe is not with lamb, a point which is not absolutely certain.

The John Adams Still keeps us in suspence; & when she arrives, will probably increase, rather than remove the perplexity of our situation.

The drought here is equal to what you experience, and I find by newspaper paragraphs, that it is nearly universal. We had a slight shower on wednesday evening, and as much this morning as lays the dust; but the effect of both together will not be sensible.

Yrs always & most affectly

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 June 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

William C. C. Claiborne sent Madison the argument of Louis Moreau Lislet on 2 Jan. 1809, and TJ must have read it shortly thereafter. The manuscript was sent to him again in October 1810 (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., 2:17–8; Caesar A. Rodney to TJ, 18 Oct. 1810). Since 1808 Julien Lalande poydras had written five pamphlets supporting the public’s right to the Batture Sainte Marie, one or more of which were enclosed in this letter (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends nos. 3485–9). The act of congs of 3 Mar. 1807 authorized the use of force to remove intruders from public lands (note to TJ’s second letter to Claiborne of 3 May 1810). obiter: “in passing,” “incidental” (Black’s Law Dictionary description begins Bryan A. Garner and others, eds., Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th ed., 1999 description ends ). Gideon Gooch was Madison’s overseer.

1Manuscript: “strengtheing.”

Index Entries

  • An Act to prevent settlements being made on lands ceded to the United States until authorized by law (1807); and batture controversy search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; and U.S. Constitution search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; J. Madison on search
  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; TJ receives documents search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; procures batture documents for TJ search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Duvall, Gabriel; comptroller of the Treasury search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and batture controversy search
  • Gooch, Gideon; and merino sheep search
  • John Adams (ship); arrival of anticipated search
  • Madison, James; and batture controversy search
  • Madison, James; and merino sheep search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Moreau Lislet, Louis; on batture controversy search
  • Poydras, Julien Lalande; and batture controversy search
  • Rodney, Caesar Augustus; and batture controversy search
  • State Department, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • Treasury Department, U.S.; and batture controversy search
  • weather; drought search
  • weather; rain search