Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William C. C. Claiborne, 17 April 1801

From William C. C. Claiborne

Nashville April 17th. 1801.

Dear Sir,

By an Act of the late Congress, the District of Palmira, in this State, being discontinued, and all the Waters, Shores and Inlets lying within Tennessee, being annexed (from and after the 30th day of June next) to the District of Massac’ on the Ohio, it has become an Object of much Importance, to the Merchants & Traders of this State, that a deserving and judicious Citizen should be appointed Collector at this latter place—which Office (I learn) is, at this time vacant.—

Several Merchants of Nashville, who are engaged in the Mississippi Commerce, have spoken to me, in very exalted terms, of a Mr. James Irwin of that Town, and requested, that I would name that Gentleman to you, as a Candidate for the Office of Collector & Inspector at Massac’:—To the good opinion, which the Merchants have expressed of Mr. Irwin; permit me to add my own, and to say, that he is a young Man of good moral Character, handsome Talents, and great prudence.

I pray you, to accept of my best Wishes for your private & public happiness.—

I have the honor to be Sir, With sincere Esteem & Respect Yo: Mo: Obt, hbl servt.

William C. C. Claiborne

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 21 May and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “refd. to the Secy of the Treasury Th: J.”

William Charles Coles Claiborne (1775–1817) had recently completed his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before moving to Tennessee as a young man, Claiborne, a native of Virginia, had been an assistant to John Beckley. In Tennessee he began the practice of law and was appointed to a judgeship before succeeding Andrew Jackson as the state’s sole congressman in 1797. TJ named him governor of Mississippi Territory in 1801, a commissioner to bring Louisiana under U.S. control in 1803, and governor of the Territory of Orleans in 1804. In 1812 he was elected governor of the new state of Louisiana (ANB; description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends Biog. Dir. Cong.).

An act of 2 Mch. 1801 modified a statute passed two years earlier “to regulate the collection of duties on imports and tonnage.” Under the new law the district of Massac, which included territory on the north side of the lower Ohio River, would also encompass the state of Tennessee. Petitioners to the House of Representatives from Tennessee in December 1800 had contended that Palmyra was not a convenient port of entry for them (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States… 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:637–8; 2:108; JHR, description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends 3:747).

On 4 June TJ appointed James Irwin collector of the district and inspector of the port of Massac, but Irwin declined the position and TJ named another person to fill the vacancy (Appendix I, Lists 3 and 4; JEP, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends 1:401; Albert Gallatin to TJ, 6 Oct. 1801).

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