Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 14 September 1803

To James Madison

Monticello Sep. 14. 03.

Dear Sir

I now return you the several papers recieved by the last post, except those solliciting office, which as usual, are put into my bundle of like papers. I think it possible that Spain, recollecting our former eagerness for the island of N. Orleans, may imagine she can, by a free delivery of that, redeem the residue of Louisiana: and that she may withold the peaceable cession of it. in that case no doubt force must be used. however the importance of this measure, the time & the means, will be for discussion at our meeting on the 25th. in the mean time I think Clarke might be trusted with a general hint of the possibility of opposition from Spain, & an instruction to sound in every direction, but with so much caution as to avoid suspicion, & to inform us whether he discovers any symptoms of doubt as to the delivery, to let us know the force Spain has there, where posted, how the inhabitants are likely to act, if we march a force there, and what numbers of them could be armed & brought to act in opposition to us. we have time to recieve this information before the day of ratification, and it would guide us in our provision of force for the object. Accept my affectionate salutations & respects.

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “The Secy. of State.” PrC (DLC). Recorded in SJL with notation “Spanish protest.”

general hint: in a letter of 16 Sep., Madison informed Daniel Clark that “the President wishes you to watch every symtom which may shew itself, and to sound in every direction where discoveries may be most practicable.” Clark must, however, proceed “with all the caution necessary to avoid suspicion.” Madison closely followed TJ’s instructions, asking Clark to get information about the military force of Spain, where the military was posted and “what are its dispositions,” how inhabitants might respond to the arrival of troops from the United States, and the numbers of inhabitants the Spanish might be able to use against an incursion by the U.S. “You will be sensible that the value of information on those points may depend much on the dispatch with which it is forwarded,” Madison advised Clark. The letter did not reach Clark until 20 Oct., although by that time he had already sent some of the requested information in his responses to TJ’s queries on Louisiana (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., 5:429, 551-6; 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 , 9:32-3, 35).

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