Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 5 September 1803

From Albert Gallatin

N. York 5 Sept. 1803

Dear Sir

I receive this moment your favour of 30th ulto.—I am very decidedly of opinion that Abraham Bishop ought to be appointed Collector of New Haven.

I enclose more letters from Simons on the subject of the infractions committed on our neutrality; but am afraid that he took wrong ground in the case of the “Cotton planter,” as it seems she was taken within our own limits, in which case she ought to have been claimed whether British or American property. But I really believe that it will be necessary to frame a new circular to the collectors bringing all former instructions into one point of view, with such alterations as either result from a change in our treaties, or may appear eligible on general grounds. It will, however, be well to consider whether it may not be best to give such circular its effect only after the expiration of those articles of the British treaty which cease within two years after the signature of the preliminaries of the late peace.

I enclose an extract of a letter from Mr Marbois received this day, & in which I do not discover any thing more than the desire of obtaining as early a payment as possible.

Permit me to suggest the propriety of having every thing in readiness to take possession of New Orleans, whether the prefect & Spanish officers shall be willing to give it up or not, the moment we shall have received the order to that effect from Mr Pichon: this is recommended by the possible event of our delivering the stock on receiving only the order to take possession & before actual possession shall have been obtained. The dispensible regular force at Fort Adams, the militia of the Mississipi territory & the crews of the Kentuckey boats and of American vessels from the Atlantic States then in N. Orleans will be sufficient against any force now in that place, provided that we may arm the boatmen & sailors & provided that the French militia of Louisiana be disposed to be at least neutral. Although I do not share in the alarm of our ministers, I think it wise to be as perfectly prepared as if it had a real ground, & that no time should be lost in having a supply of arms at Natchez; instructions given to Govr. Claiborne; and Clarke, if he can be trusted to that extent, informed by a safe communication of our intentions, with instructions to prepare the way with the inhabitants so as to meet no opposition from them. The establishment of expresses both by Hawkins & Nashville if practicable, and, at all events, by the last route seems also desirable. If there is any apprehension that that force may not ultimately be sufficient, such part of the militia of Kentuckey & Tenessee as may be thought necessary might be ordered under the act of last session to be in a state of readiness to float down the river on the arrival of an express from Claiborne applying for such aid.

If it shall be found necessary to take possession of New Orleans against the will of the possessors, there can be no doubt of the propriety of occupying at the same time that part of W. Florida which we claim. But if N. Orleans & West Louisiana shall be yielded without difficulty, the policy of occupying the rest of what we claim against the will of the Spanish officers is a subject which deserves serious consideration.

With respect & attachment Your obt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the U.S.”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 12 Sep. and “Abram Bishop to be Collectr. New haven Ship Cotton planter possn of N. Orleans” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: probably an extract of François Barbé de Marbois to Gallatin, 7 June, in which he encloses a copy of the articles agreed upon and approved by the First Consul outlining the financial arrangements for the purchase of Louisiana, noting that this letter will probably reach the Treasury secretary before Alexander Baring arrives in the U.S.; Barbé de Marbois trusts “that the government of the United States will find it convenient to arrange everything in relation to the execution of the Convention, so that after the arrival of Mr. Baring the matter may be consummated within the briefest delay”; he seeks Gallatin’s cooperation, appreciates his “immediate and direct attention thereto,” and requests a reply (RC in DNA: RG 56, PFLP; J. E. Winston and R. W. Colomb, “How the Louisiana Purchase was Financed,” Louisiana Historical Quarterly, 12 [1929], 220-1). Other enclosures not found.

On 19 Aug., Charleston newspapers reported that the French frigate Perseverance had captured two vessels, one being the American ship cotton planter as it was coming into Charleston for supplies and then bound for Cowes. It was captured “four leagues from the light-house, but within three leagues of the coast.” On 23 Aug., the Charleston Courier reported that Cotton Planter had been “liberated” and was proceeding on its voyage (Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 19 Aug.; Charleston Courier, 19, 23 Aug.).

act of last session: earlier in the year, in response to James Ross’s attempt to win approval for the use of military force against New Orleans, Congress passed “An Act directing a detachment from the Militia of the United States, and for erecting certain Arsenals.” The act, approved on 3 Mch., authorized the president, “whenever he shall judge it expedient, to require of the executives of such of the states as he may deem expedient, and from their local situation shall be most convenient, to take effectual measures to organize, arm and equip, according to law, and hold in readiness to march at a moment’s warning a detachment of militia” of up to 80,000 men and officers. The statute allowed the raising of volunteers to fill out the detachment if necessary and appropriated $1,500,000 for pay, subsistence, and “such other expenses as, during the recess of Congress, the President may deem necessary for the security of the territory of the United States” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855-56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:241; Vol. 39:554n).

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