Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Gideon Granger, 17 March 1803

From Gideon Granger

Washington, March. 17. 1803.

Dear Sir,

The extraordinary productions in the enclosed paper under the signatures of “A Western American” & “Americus” appear to be calculated to produce so much mischief, that I thought it my duty to transmit it for your perusal.

I am at present confined by an inflamation upon the kidnies; and am Sir most respectfully Your Friend

And Humble Servant—

Gidn Granger

RC (DLC); in an unidentified hand, signed by Granger; at foot of text: “The President of the United States.”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: see below.

extraordinary productions: the 2 Mch. issue of James M. Bradford’s Guardian of Freedom, published at Frankfort, Kentucky, included two letters—one signed “A Western American,” the other “Americus”—both critical of the administration’s handling of the suspension of the right of deposit at New Orleans. The first letter, attributed to Francis Flournoy, was designed “to open the eyes of every Western American, to the unfriendly views and conduct of Eastern America towards us.” The eastern states designed their policies to keep the West in a servile state, but the interests of France and Spain, he contended, would go hand in hand with “Western America.” It was to the advantage of both countries to promote the commercial prosperity of the West. The writer urged that the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee and the territories of Indiana and Mississippi send “spirited remonstrances” to Congress calling for independence. If the “petitions be spurned,” he noted, let us “erect ourselves into an independent distinct republic,” looking to France for aid, if necessary. In the second letter, “Americus,” writing to Kentucky senator John Breckinridge, supported the president’s goal “to effect an arrangement, which shall place our rights of navigation and deposit, beyond the power, or the caprice of any officer.” This could only be done by acquiring territory on the banks of the Mississippi. “If the United States do not hold the country,” he asserted, “we shall remain subject to the power and caprice of those who do hold it.” The land could be acquired through cession or conquest. “Americus” questioned the appointment of Monroe as an envoy to France and Spain while ministers were already in residence there. He did not believe France would sell New Orleans, a location so important to Louisiana. “But if the president verily believes she will, and for a price, which he is prepared to give, then he is consistent, in sending Monroe to make the bargain, if Monroe, is a better broker than Livingston, or Pinkney.” The writer, however, thought “conquest” was the only means by which an “effectual arrangement” would be made. He questioned: “What is there in the tone of the President’s administration calculated to command the respect, or extort the concession of Buonaparte? Has he finished the six seventy-four gun ships? has he a force ready to take possession of Orleans, if it is not ceded to us? No.” (Baltimore Federal Gazette, 28 Mch. 1803; Arthur Preston Whitaker, The Mississippi Question, 1795–1803: A Study in Trade, Politics, and Diplomacy [New York, 1934], 220–1).

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