Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Brown, 26 November 1802

From John Brown

Frankfort 26th. Novr. 1802

Dear Sir

The inclosed Letter reached my Hand this Morning. I hasten to forward it to you by this Days Mail, that you may have the earliest possible information of the Measure to which it relates. There is probably very little produce of the Western Country now at New Orleans, or on its way to that Market, but very large quantities are in readiness for exportation at the first rise of our Rivers, & great loss, & inconvenience may be experienced should the extraordinary Decree said to have been issued by the Intendant be continued in force. A Gentleman lately from that Country informs, that Colo. Fulton in French Uniform, & some other French Officers had arrived at New Orleans, & were engaged in making arrangements for a Body of French Troops daily expected to occupy that important Post.

I had the honor to receive your favor covering a Letter of thanks from the Philosophical Society. Presuming the Letter was intended for a Gentn. of my name who took charge of the Bones referred to, I forwarded it to him by a safe Opportunity, & doubt not but he has reced. it.

The indisposition of Mrs. Brown, & some others of my Family renders it probable that I shall not be able to set out for the Seat of Government before the 5th. Decr. but fully expect to reach it by the 20th. or 25 at farthest.

I have the honor to be with the highest respect & esteem Sir Your most obt. Sert.

J. Brown

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Dec. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Meeker, Williamson & Patton to John Brown, 18 Oct., New Orleans, informing him that the intendant has ended the right of deposit at New Orleans without naming a substitute location; this act, “so Unexpected and so extraordinary,” has caused the “Utmost Confusion” among those involved in the U.S. trade; it was thought at first that the governor would oppose the decree, but it now appears that he will not do so (RC in same).

earliest possible information: news of what had transpired at New Orleans had already reached Washington. On 25 Nov., Madison wrote an official communication asking the Spanish minister, Carlos Martínez de Irujo, for an explanation (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:139–40).

Under Article 22 of the 1795 treaty between Spain and the United States, Americans shipping goods down the Mississippi River were allowed to store items at New Orleans without paying customs duties. After three years, the Spanish could terminate this right of deposit at New Orleans and pick another place on the river to serve the purpose. By a proclamation dated 16 Oct. 1802, Juan Ventura Morales, the acting intendant of Louisiana and West Florida, put an immediate end to the deposit. Morales justified the timing of the decision by explaining that the continuation of the privilege at New Orleans beyond the initial three-year period had been a concession to the United States as a neutral nation while Spain and Britain were at war—a condition that ended with the Amiens peace. According to Article 22, if New Orleans ceased to be the place of deposit, responsibility for designating a new site belonged to the Spanish crown, and Morales, declaring that he had no orders on that matter, did not name a new location. The intendant’s decree took Manuel de Salcedo, the governor of Louisiana, as much by surprise as it did American merchants and shippers. Intendants, however, had jurisdiction over commercial affairs and were not subordinate to governors. Salcedo objected to Morales’s edict, but could not countermand it. Morales did not reveal to the governor that he was following confidential instructions from the royal government (same, xxv-xxvi; broadside, “Port of New-Orleans SHUT” [Natchez, 28 Oct. 1802; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 2914, illustrated in this volume]; Documentos relativos a la independencia de Norteamérica existentes en archivos españoles, 11 vols. [Madrid, 1976–1985], 1:696–7; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931-48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:337; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana [New York, 1976], 119–20; José Montero de Pedro, The Spanish in New Orleans and Louisiana, trans. Richard E. Chandler [Gretna, La., 2000], 113; Duvon Clough Corbitt, “The Administrative System in the Floridas, 1781–1821,” in Gilbert C. Din, ed., The Spanish Presence in Louisiana, 1763–1803, vol. 2 of The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History [Lafayette, La., 1996], 119).

Newspaper reports noted the presence of Samuel fulton, who had served as a commissioned officer in the French army and, in the 1790s, was involved in intrigues to reestablish French control of the Mississippi Valley. Fulton had written to TJ from Paris in the spring of 1801 seeking an appointment (Baltimore Federal Gazette, 10 Dec.; Nancy Son Carstens, “George Rogers Clark and the French Conspiracy, 1793–1801,” in Kenneth C. Carstens and Nancy Son Carstens, eds., The Life of George Rogers Clark, 1752–1818: Triumphs and Tragedies [Westport, Conn., 2004], 239–45; Junius P. Rodriguez, ed., The Louisiana Purchase: A Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia [Santa Barbara, Calif., 2002], 4–5; Vol. 33:653–4).

your favor: TJ to Brown, 14 Aug. Regarding the letter of thanks misdirected to Brown, see Vol. 37:351–2 and John Vaughan to TJ, 21 July.

mrs. brown: Margaretta Mason Brown. She and Brown had married in 1799. At the Conrad and McMunn boardinghouse in Washington in the winter of 1800–1801, Margaretta Brown attempted, without success, to break custom and obtain a better seat at the dining table for TJ (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Margaret Bayard Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society, ed. Gaillard Hunt [New York, 1906], 12).

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