Thomas Jefferson Papers

François Xavier Martin to Thomas Jefferson, 11 February 1810

From François Xavier Martin

New Orleans, Feby 11. 1810


When my friend Mr W: Blackledge caused my name to be laid before you as that of a person proper to fill the appointment of one of the Judges of the Mississippi Territory, without consulting me, & afterwards proposed to me to Signify my willingness to Serve in that capacity, he informed me you had had the kindness to express Some regret that the vacancy was not in the Orleans Territory, where the compensation was higher & where from the mode of my education I was calculated to be more useful. He added you had mentioned that “if Mr M. was desirous to be removed thither government would Soon have it in their power to gratify that wish & that there was a gentleman of the bench of Orleans anxious of exchanging his Seat for one in the Mississippi, but there were circumstances which presented an obstacle, at the time, to that arrangement.”

I shall not conceal, Sir, that Mr Blackledge & my other friends pressed this circumstance on me, as one that ought to determine me to Say I would accept the proferred Judgeship.

My Situation in the Mississippi is So very uncomfortable & the emoluments of office So Scanty, as to have produced very few days after my arrival the opinion that it was expedient to Seek employment in the City of New Orleans, as an attorney, or return to Carolina. With this View I have come to this city & obtained admission to the bar, & I am about to return to Natchez to attend the Spring Circuit, the absence of Judge Leake one of my Colleagues, & other considerations personal to myself militating against an immediate resignation

It happens, Sir, that the melancholy death of Judge Thomson, who is reported to have put an end to his existence, creates a vacancy on the Seat of Justice in the Orleans territory, & I have imagined that altho’ I have not the honor of a personal acquaintance with you your liberality would induce you to forgive, & the necessity I am of1 obtaining your powerful aid would appear to you a proper apology for, the trespass I am committing on your time.

May I therefore Solicit that (in the event of your still remaining under the favourable impression towards me, which gave rise to the interest you manifested to Mr Blackledge) you would communicate to your worthy Successor the grounds on which I built my hopes in the application which my friends at Washington will make in my behalf

It is very possible, Sir, that this abrupt address from a person in my Situation may not be as correct as I consider it. If it appears improper my consolation is that you will allow me to discern my error from your Silence.

What ever may be the issue of my present Step I shall ever rejoice that it afforded the opportunity of a direct assurance to you of my high consideration & respect

With profound respect I am, Sir, Your obedient, Humble Servant

F. X. Martin

P.S. Since writing the within Letter certain accounts of the Judge’s death reached the City

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); dateline adjacent to signature, with “Thomas Jefferson, Esq.” below it; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Apr. 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to James Madison, 16 Apr. 1810.

François Xavier Martin (1764–1846), a native of Marseille, France, moved to Martinique in 1782 and immigrated two years later to eastern North Carolina, where he taught French, worked as a publisher, and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1789. Starting in 1806 he was elected to two terms in the North Carolina legislature. President James Madison appointed Martin a federal judge for Mississippi Territory in March 1809 and, upon the death of Judge John Thompson, transferred him to Orleans Territory one year later. He became Louisiana’s first attorney general in 1813, and he was named a judge on the state supreme court two years later. From 1836 until just before his death, Martin served as chief judge. Throughout his career he edited collections of laws and court reports (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Henry A. Bullard, A Discourse on the Life, Character, and Writings of the Hon. François Xavier Martin [1850]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:119, 120, 142 [6, 7 Mar. 1809, 19, 21 Mar. 1810]; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 9:810–11, 867, 924).

Martin’s friend William Blackledge represented North Carolina in the United States House of Representatives, 1803–09 and 1811–13 (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, 1989 description ends ). He wrote Madison on Martin’s behalf on 12 Dec. 1808 (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–09).

1Thus in manuscript.

Index Entries

  • Blackledge, William; recommendation of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Leake, Walter search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Martin, François Xavier; identified search
  • Martin, François Xavier; judicial appointment of search
  • Martin, François Xavier; letters from search
  • Mississippi Territory; judgeship in search
  • Natchez, Miss. search
  • New Orleans; immigrants to search
  • Orleans Territory; federal bench in search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Thompson, John (judge in Orleans Territory) search