Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to DeWitt Clinton, 22 April 1803

To DeWitt Clinton

Washington Apr. 22. 1803.

Dear Sir

Your’s of the 12th. was recieved in due time, and I had immediately a consultation with mr G. on the subject. he explained to me the circumstances, with which I had only been partially acquainted before, and as he shewed every disposition for indulgence which his position would admit, I engaged him to write to you, as he could better explain his views of the case than I could. to that then I must refer you for answer in this particular, with an assurance as to myself that so far as my agency may be proper, a desire not to injure any one, but especially an innocent security, will be limited only by the imperious dictates of duty.

I have not before acknoleged your’s of Mar. 3. the first case therein mentioned involved the transfer of which you will recollect I spoke to you the session before. you know this has awaited the winding up a former business. mr G. seems to think it may now take place without delay; but promises to examine more particularly & to inform me. with respect to the1 second case, mr S. appointed by my predecessor, I will observe that there are facts, and points in character, which being known before appointment would be good cause for refusing it, but which happening or becoming known afterwards, would not be deemed sufficient to remove from office one who is in possession. undoubtedly there are crimes of such a hue as to be a cause of immediate removal, even before a conviction by jury, & tho not relating to office. yet in cases below this it would not be expedient for us to undertake the office of Censor morum over the public agents. it is best to leave them to the law in other things2 while their official acts are regular. in the case alluded to, the connection with my predecessor would give room for imputations which would be seized with avidity.—to the letter of the Marquis d’Yrujo, already published, I am happy to add official assurance that in the instrument of cession of Louisiana to France was this clause ‘Saving the rights acquired by other powers in virtue of treaties made with them by Spain.’ that government shews itself very sensible of our pacific & friendly dispositions manifested by our late forbearance on the irregular conduct of her officer.   Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNC); addressed: “The honble Dewitt Clinton New York”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by Clinton. PrC (DLC).

mr g.: Albert Gallatin.

your’s of mar. 3: Clinton’s letter of 3 Mch., recorded in SJL as received the same day with notation “removal Ludlow. Rogers. Smith,” has not been found. The Navy Department accepted Daniel Ludlow’s resignation as Navy agent at New York in November 1803. The transfer of Samuel Osgood from Supervisor of the Internal Revenue for the District of New York to naval officer at the port in place of Richard Rogers took place on 10 May (NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 3:241; Vol. 34:126–7; Vol. 37:148–9; TJ to Madison, 10 May). inform me: see Memorandum from Albert Gallatin, printed at 9 May.

mr s.: William Stephens Smith, who was nominated as surveyor and inspector of the district of New York by his father-in-law John Adams in 1800. censor morum: that is, moral censor. The case alluded to was probably that covered in the New York City newspapers, in which Smith was accused of extorting money from Robert Troup to delay a legal action against Troup’s business associate Ephraim Hart, owner of the ship Huron, which was seized by port authorities. Smith had not repaid the money as promised. James Cheetham led the attack against Smith in the American Citizen, calling for his removal from office, as one who “tarnishes the lustre of the government.” Cheetham charged: “We put it to the country, we ask the Executive whether such a man ought to be continued in office!” (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 2:761–3; New York American Citizen, 14 Jan. 1803).

letter of the marquis d’yrujo: a Spanish naval brig had arrived at Baltimore with express dispatches for Carlos Martínez de Irujo, who wrote to Madison on 19 Apr. to report that his government was restoring the right of deposit at New Orleans. Irujo asked Madison to inform the president and to forward an order to Juan Ventura Morales for the reopening of New Orleans until the Spanish and United States governments could agree on another location for the place of deposit. The National Intelligencer published a translation of Irujo’s letter in a special issue on the 19th and again in the regular issue of the following day. Other newspapers reprinted the item (Baltimore Federal Gazette, 19 Apr.; National Intelligencer, 20 Apr.; Albany Gazette, 28 Apr.; Burlington Vermont Centinel, 5 May; 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- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:535, 545).

Irujo wrote to Madison again on 20 Apr. to give official assurance that the terms of the retrocession of Louisiana to France affirmed treaties made during Spain’s possession of the colony. Pedro Cevallos had given Charles Pinckney a similar declaration on 31 Mch. The clause appeared in Article 3 of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso of October 1800. Irujo assured Madison that the clause would protect the rights of the United States to a place of deposit on the lower Mississippi and to navigation on the river as specified in the 1795 treaty between Spain and the United States (same, 471–2n, 542; Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81, 231 vols. description ends , 55:375–8).

1TJ here canceled “other case.”

2Preceding three words interlined.

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