Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 29 March 1802

From James Madison

Department of State March 29th. 1802.

The Secretary of State, to whom has been referred by the President of the United States a Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 23d Inst., requesting the President to communicate to that House such information as he may have received relative to the Copper mines on the South side of Lake Superior, in pursuance of a Resolution of the 16th. April 1800, authorising the appointment of an Agent for that purpose, begs leave to lay before him the Copy of a letter of the 24th. September 1800, from the late Secretary of State to Richard Cooper Esqr., of Cooper’s Town in the State of New York, appointing him an Agent, in pursuance of the last mentioned Resolution—and the Copy of one from the Attorney General of the United States, of the 30th. March 1801, at that time acting as Secretary of State, to the said Richard Cooper, signifying to him that as the Resolution in question contemplated an execution of the work and a report thereof, in time for the consideration of Congress at its next Session, and this [had] not been done, it was thought necessary to suspend the further prosecution of it, and that he was accordingly to do so. The Secretary also begs leave to lay before the President copies of sundry other letters on this subject, which, together with those mentioned above, serve to give a view—of the whole transaction, so far as this Department has had an agency in it, tho’ they do not afford the particular information required by the Resolution referred to the Secretary of State, by the President.—All which is respectfully submitted.

James Madison

RC (DNA: RG 233, PM, 7th Cong., 1st sess.); torn; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Madison; endorsed by a House clerk. Enclosures: (1) John Marshall to Richard Cooper, 24 Sep. 1800, informing Cooper of his appointment as agent to collect information on the copper mines on Lake Superior and to proceed upon his mission “as expeditiously as possible”; Cooper may draw on the State Department for $1,000 and his drafts “will be honored.” (2) Levi Lincoln to Cooper, 30 Mch. 1801, stating that Cooper’s appointment specified that his mission and report were to be completed “in time for the consideration of Congress in their last Session”; new circumstances have rendered Cooper’s agency “less necessary” and therefore “the President wishes to suspend the further prosecution of the business for the present”; Cooper is to report any arrangements made and expenses incurred, and is accountable to repay money advanced by the government. (3) Cooper to Lincoln, 25 April 1801, explaining that he accepted the appointment with the stipulation that he not commence his voyage until the spring of 1801, and that President John Adams apparently thought the act extended beyond the last session of Congress; Cooper cannot make a final report on his arrangements until he hears from one of his hands; the stores and boat he purchased with his own funds have proceeded as far as Canajoharie, New York, and will be kept in good order until he receives further instructions; Cooper assumes his men will “expect a compensation equivalent to their loss and inconvenience in the derangement of their affairs.” (4) James Madison to Cooper, 13 May 1801, expresses regret over any inconvenience that Cooper’s preparations may have incurred, but reiterates that the resolution of 16 April 1800 clearly stated that the expedition was to have been completed before the end of the last session of Congress; the government may still reimburse Cooper’s expenditures, but Cooper is advised to reduce his claims to “as narrow a compass as possible”; Cooper may sell the boat and stores, then furnish Madison with a statement of account and all unsatisfied claims. (5) Cooper to Madison, 31 May 1801, stating that Madison does not understand his agency “in its true light”; Cooper did not receive word of his appointment until October 1800, which directed him to proceed “as soon as convenient”; the harshness of northern winters made it impracticable to depart until spring; once he received word of his appointment, Cooper “did not loose a day” and proceeded to acquire a mineralogist, tools, Indian presents, a boat, stores, and utensils for the undertaking; he departed “at the first opening of the Spring,” but stopped when ordered to do so and acted at all times “within my orders”; he asks that his men be compensated and that the boat and equipment be sold as the government’s; any money remaining over Cooper’s “just demands” will be returned; Cooper adds that he is reliably informed that the Lake Superior copper mines “are invaluable to the United States.” (6) Madison to Cooper, 6 Nov. 1801, directing Cooper to sell his boat and stores and to prepare a new account, in which any charges “must have relation to the state of the business on the day of your receiving Mr. Lincoln’s letter of the 30th. March last.” (7) Cooper to Madison, 30 Nov. 1801, expressing regret that the boat and stores were not sold when the expedition was stopped, “as it would probably have been a considerable saving, but now must be a considerable loss to Government”; all charges in his account took place within the time allowed, therefore the amount of sale will be credited to the government and leave only the remaining balance due to Cooper. (8) Cooper to Madison, 13 Mch. 1802, informing him that most of the articles have been sold and that he hopes to make a final settlement with the government in a few weeks (all Trs in same). Enclosed in TJ to the House of Representatives, 31 Mch.

The RESOLUTION OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES of 23 Mch. 1802 is printed in JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:155. THE RESOLUTION OF THE 16TH. APRIL 1800 directed the president to appoint an agent to collect information on the copper mines on the south side of Lake Superior and to ascertain whether the Indian title to said lands may be acquired by the United States. The agent was to report his findings to the president, who was to lay the information before Congress “at their next session” (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 , 2:87; Vol. 31:548–9n).

RICHARD COOPER was the eldest son of William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown and a former Federalist congressman. He was appointed by John Adams at his father’s request (Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic [New York, 1995], 18, 279, 282).

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