Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 3 January 1803

From Albert Gallatin

Jany. 3d 1803

Dear Sir

I enclose the following papers vizt.

a letter from the district attorney of Maryland on the subject of the suit against De Butts whom I think very unworthy, & likely through his council L Martin, to give us some trouble by instituting a suit against the Collector of Nottingham for damages on account of the seizure of the vessel suspected of having been intended for the slave trade.—

a letter from Peter Audrain, a frenchman by birth, but settled these 25 years in the United States & now prothonotary of the County of Wayne. I am apt to think that his information concerning Detroit may be more depended upon than that of our other officers there.

and a letter from Eli Elmer collector of Bridgetown in New Jersey. His confession that he is a defaulter may entitle him to some credit for candor; for the fact had not been discovered at the treasury: the sum being but small (1200 Dollars) had appeared to remain in his hands only from the 30th June last and it was supposed that the reason was the difficulty of making remittances. On the other hand, his cousin Mr Elmer of Congress to whom I applied on receipt of the letter says that he is in debt, addicted to intemperate habits & had been a most violent federal partisan. He did not say that he wished him removed, but that, if he must be removed, he could recommend a very proper successor.

With respect & attachment Your obedt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 4 Jan. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Debutts’ vessel. Eli Elmer defaulter. Audrain on Detroit”; also endorsed by TJ: “Debutts’s vessel. Hollinguer’s lre on it Eli Elmer Collector of Bridgetown N.J. defaulter Peter Audrain’s lre on affairs at Detroit.” Enclosures: (1) probably Peter Audrain to John Cleves Symmes, Detroit, December 1802, recalling that he lives in a county where news comes almost entirely from Federalist sources; Audrain and a few others recently defended TJ against charges in the newspaper that he had “displaced all the officers appointed by Mr. Adams”; Audrain argued that the continuation of Matthew Ernest as collector at Detroit, the most lucrative federal office “in this Country,” refutes the charge and gives “unquestionable proof of the liberality of the President”; he also describes the collector at Michilimackinac, a TJ appointee, as “perhaps one of the warmest advocates for Adams’s administration”; Audrain applauds the appointment of Charles Jouett, agent for Indian Affairs, as a man of knowledge and information, “attentive to public duty, and generally beloved & respected,” with political principles in agreement with his own; as far as statehood is concerned, Audrain declares “there is not one man in this County capable of understanding the duties of a member of the legislature”; he continues, “it is to be wished, for the good of these people, that they may remain a Colony for ten years to come; untill their children may get instructed and become fit for public business”; Audrain urges Symmes to support the petition for land grants for schools in the files of the House of Representatives and to engage the support of others, especially Madison and Gallatin; he has already written Gallatin on the subject; “I rely upon your benevolence,” Audrain concludes, “and your Zeal in promoting public learning, and upon your local Knowledge of our people & Country” (RC in NHi: Gallatin Papers, postmarked Detroit, 15 Dec.; for the petition from Detroit, Wayne County, dated 2 Sep. 1800, relating to the establishment of a seminary of learning, see 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 , 3:103–8). (2) Eli Elmer to Gallatin, collector’s office, Bridgeton, New Jersey, 15 Dec. 1802, noting that it is apparent from the current accounts that he might “with propriety” be dismissed at any time; if he is allowed to remain in office, he writes, “with Six or Nine month from 1st January next I will positively discharge all the Monies that may be due at the Close this year, with Interest” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Elmer Eli to mr Gallatin”). Other enclosure not found.

district attorney of maryland: Zebulon Hollingsworth. William Coombs, an owner of the Sally, may have brought suit against Elias de butts, who commanded the schooner at the time it was seized on suspicion of being outfitted for the slave trade. Coombs noted that the intended voyage to Africa had commenced without his knowledge and contrary to his wishes. He failed to gain possession of the schooner after it was released by the court. De Butts took the vessel to Baltimore, where it was libelled and sold. On 26 Jan. 1802, Coombs signed a statement exonerating the Nottingham customs house officers from any damages that might arise in consequence of the seizure (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47-51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 15:805; 16:223–5). For Nottingham collector George Briscoe and the case against the Sally, see Vol. 35:711, 738–40, 741–3.

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