Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Winthrop Sargent, [31 May 1801]

From Winthrop Sargent

City of Washington
Sunday morng—[31 May 1801]

Respected Sir

In my short Stay at Orleans fearful of making much Inquiry I acquired but little Information, and only as here subjoined which I take Leave to communicate in the hope that my Intention of rendering public Service may prove acceptable—

The Town and Environs of Orleans supposed to contain upwards of 1000 houses and from Eight to nine thousand Souls exclusive of the military—by the last known Census of Louisiana the population was 50000 including the missisippi Territory upon the River since lopped off, which Deficit is probably supplied by Emigrants—

The military Force from the Illinois to the Sea is the Regt. of Louisiana comprised of three Battns. of Eight Companies each, Infantry, and one of Grenadiers—a Battn. of the Regt. of mexico—half a Company of Dragoons and one or two Companies of Artillery—one constantly on Duty at Pensacola, the Forts of mobille and Apalache—Corps all incomplete; recruited by Deserters from other spanish regts. and the veriest Vagabonds of mexico sent to Louisiana for punishment

Exports, including Cotton of the Missisippi Territory and other articles of the upper Country Flour and Tobacco excepted are

Cotton at 23 cents 1000000 dollars
Sugar 300000
Peltry 200000
Lumber 100000
Indigo 100000
Sundries 100000
Cash 300000

almost all of which Lumber excepted is sent to the United States—Sugar and Cotton will probably increase as numbers of the Planters heretofore making only their Provisions are now turning their attention to those articles—Indigo will not be planted after the present Season, nor will Lumber be more exported until peace, from the great risk attending it—

The Cash exported is brought into the Governt from the royal Treasury to defray the necessary Expences amounting nearly to the Sum specified—

Three fourths of the Imports are from the U. States made in Vessels from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston but principally from the two former places—

There is no Tax in the Province save a Duty of Six per Cent upon Im: and Exports and which is very much evaded—the whole Import does not exceed 111,000 Dollars—No Trade is allowed unless in very extraordinary Cases with any of the Spanish Colonies except the Havana and that is limited to the produce of Louisiana—

Sugar failed last year very much but in the coming Season ‘tis supposed the Crop will be worth 500000—The number of Sugar plantations at present Eighty Seven—

with the most respectful Consideration and continued Devotion—I have the honour to be Your obedient humble Servt

Winthrop Sargent

RC (DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Orleans); partially dated; addressed: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 31 May 1801 received 1 June and so recorded in SJL; endorsed in another hand with Sargent’s name and “Louisiana.”

Short Stay at Orleans: on his appointment as governor of the Mississippi Territory in 1798, Sargent had gone directly to Natchez from Cincinnati, where he had been secretary of the Northwest Territory. Not long after his arrival in Mississippi he received permission from John Adams to travel to the eastern states on personal business whenever circumstances might allow. Sargent did not commence that journey until April 1801, when he left Natchez hoping to make a case in Washington for his reappointment as governor of the territory. He traveled through New Orleans on his way to the Atlantic coast by sea (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 , 3:507–8; 5:55, 121; Dunbar Rowland, ed., The Mississippi Territorial Archives, 1798–1803, Vol. 1, Executive Journals of Governor Winthrop Sargent and Governor William Charles Cole Claiborne [Nashville, Tenn., 1905], 21–2, 25, 33; Dunbar Rowland, History of Mississippi: The Heart of the South, 2 vols. [Chicago, 1925], 1:373–4).

TJ may have asked Sargent about Louisiana on Saturday, 30 May. On that day Sargent arrived in Washington and called on the president, apparently handing him Henry Knox’s letter of 11 May and Andrew Ellicott’s of the 26th. Sargent saw TJ again on 1 June, the day on which TJ received the letter printed above. Sargent later contended that in those meetings TJ told him that the question of replacing or retaining him as governor had not yet been decided (Political Intolerance, or The Violence of Party Spirit [Boston, 1801], 28–36; Federal Gazette & Baltimore Daily Advertiser, 2 Oct. 1801; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:360–1).

Probably while he was in New Orleans, Sargent received a letter addressed to him on 18 Apr. by Evan Jones, the U.S. consul in the city. Sargent gave the communication to TJ, who referred it to James Madison. In the letter, Jones discussed “inconveniencies, and even oppressions,” suffered by American citizens who shipped goods down the Mississippi through New Orleans. Jones, who had previously lived in West Florida and been a militia officer there, was limited in what he could do to protect American interests. Spanish authorities resisted the posting of other nations’ consuls in their colonial ports and considered Jones to be a subject of Spain, ineligible to hold a commission from another country. Jones, although appointed by John Adams in 1799 and approved by the Senate, was never recognized as consul by the Spanish government (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD, at foot of text: “His Excelly, Governor Sargent,” endorsed by TJ as a letter from Jones to Sargent “referred to the Secretary of state for consideration. Th: Jefferson June 1. 1801”; “Despatches from the United States Consulate in New Orleans, 1801–1803,” American Historical Review, 32 [1927], 801–7; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:178–86).

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