Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Louis Landais, with Jefferson’s Note, 21 June 1803

From Louis Landais, with Jefferson’s Note

Charleston June 21st 1803

Altho’ I have been advised to publish every transactions, I was by some advised to inclose your Excellency the whole, as it was known well enough that I had been very ill treated, and that Justice & Satisfaction having been refused me, I resigned on account of it; and that My Parents calling me near to them in the W. indies, for business of importance I was very Justifiable in every thing.

As I am not at all averse to the Citizens of America, I would beg your Excellency to direct the Secretary of War to give me a Certificate that I had a Commissn., in the Service of the U.S. which I bore with dignity; and that Should I come back, as it is very probable in a short time, I might reclaim my title of Citizen of America. This Certificate, I beg your Excellency to direct to be inclosed to the Care of Guilliam Aertsen, State bank, Charleston, who shall forward it to me by the 1st. opportunity.

Your most obedt. Servt.

Louis Landais

[Note by TJ:]

refd to the Secy. at War.

Th: Jefferson

July 2. 03.

RC (PHi); TJ’s note written below endorsement; endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL as received 1 July. Enclosure: Landais to TJ, undated, “publickly stating” his reasons for resigning his army commission; these revolved around his ongoing dispute with Captain Jonathan Robeson, which began shortly after Landais’s transfer to Georgia in May 1801 and continued after both officers were ordered to South Carolina; Landais blames the origins of his “misunderstandings” on Robeson’s wife, a “base, Malicious, designing Woman,” and accuses both husband and wife of spreading false information about him and attacking his character behind his back; the quarrel escalated in March 1803, after Robeson denied Landais the use of the police to bring wood to his quarters and a sergeant overheard Landais exclaim to himself, “dam me what is the police for?”; the sergeant reported that Landais had damned Captain Robeson; confronted by Robeson, Landais denied the epithet was intended for him but added that “since you persist in it you may take it as you choose”; Robeson subsequently told Landais to “take your sword & follow me immediately”; Landais sent for “Captain Pain of the revenue cutter,” who stood with him and convinced him not to participate in the duel, not out of cowardice, but because of his responsibility to his wife and infant child; Landais then wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Constant Freeman, acquainting him with the evening’s transactions, lodging six charges against Robeson, and requesting that a regimental court martial be convened; Landais’s charges against Robeson include abuse of authority, abusive language, disobedience of orders, embezzlement of public property, ungentlemanly conduct, and “Behaving in a manner unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman”; after some delay, Freeman ordered the arrest of Robeson in April 1803, but released him the following month and permitted him to resume command of Fort Moultrie; Freeman further informed Landais that “there will not be any further bickerings” and that duty at the fort “will be done in harmony”; upon receiving Freeman’s letter and learning that no court-martial would take place, Landais resigned his commission; for further details, Landais refers the president to the secretary of war, “to whom I have transmitted every transaction more detailed and sent vouchers to prove several of the charges” (same, at foot of text: “To the President of the United States”; Heitman, Dictionary description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:836).

A native of France, Louis Landais was an artillery lieutenant stationed at Fort Moultrie near Charleston, South Carolina. A letter from him to TJ dated 8 Nov. 1802, recorded in SJL as received from Fort Moultrie on 20 Nov. with notation “W,” has not been found. On 23 Nov., Henry Dearborn wrote Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Cushing, the adjutant and inspector of the army, enclosing Landais’s letter to the president “in relation to the date of his commission, and the command of Fort Johnston in North Carolina.” Dearborn declined to interfere in the matter and added that it would be “very desirable to put a stop to the frequent applications which are made to the President on subjects often in their nature frivolous, and many times such as do not properly appertain to his Executive functions” (FC in Lb in DNA: RG 107, LSMA; Heitman, Dictionary description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:613; Vol. 38:689).

Index Entries