Thomas Jefferson Papers

William C. C. Claiborne to Thomas Jefferson, 25 August 1810

From William C. C. Claiborne

Philadelphia August 25h 1810

Dear Sir,

In a Letter from Mr Mather Mayor of Nw Orleans, under date of the 23rd of July, he speaks of the request I had made of him, to inform me of the Authority under which the Spanish Governors removed the Intruders from the Batture, and he says— “I have taken the advised steps to procure the information desired; but shall not be able to get answers from Mesrs Blanque and Moreau Lislet before next mail. There are in the mean time a few quotations from the Spanish Laws, which have a direct Relation to the case, so far as I can judge.

“1o Recopilacion de Indias, ley 9, titulo 28, partida 3.—“Apartadamente Son del Commun de Cada una Ciúdad o Villa, las fuentes é las plazas ó hacen las ferias, é los mercados, é los lugares ó [se aguntan] á consejo, é los [drenales] que son en las riveras de los Rios é los otros exidos, é los carreras ò corren los caballos, é los montes, é las dehesas é todos los otros lugares semejantes.

“2o ditto, ley 23, tit 32, de la misma partida.”

En las plazas, en los exidos, ni en los caminos que son communales de las Ciudades, de las Villas é de los otros lugares, no debe nungun [. . .] hacer casa, nin otro edificio, nin otra labor. Ca estos lugares [a tales] que fueron dejados [por apostura] ó por provecho communal de [todos] los que y vienen, no los debe ninguno tomar nin labrar para provecho de Si mismo é si alguno contra esto [ficiere], deben [lo] deribar, é destruir aquello que y ficiere, é [. . .] el commun de aquel lugar [. . .] si, que lo non quiera [derribar]; pueden lo hacen, é la renta que [sacaran][. . .]; deben [usar] de ella asi [como] de las otras rentas communales que [hutriece].”

The Mayor further says—“I have strong reasons to believe that when Baron de Carondelet caused certain persons who had intruded on the Batture to be removed, he did so, by virtue of the above cited Laws, and was supported by a Decree of the Cabildo wherein he held the Presidency;—this Decree was published by Beat of Drum, prior to the execution.”—Supposing the Decree to which the Mayor alludes, an important Document, & being uncertain, whether or not a Copy of it was in your possession, I have requested the Mayor to forward one to you without delay.—

I am Dr Sir, With great respect Your faithful friend

William C. C. Claiborne

RC (DLC); some words illegible; addressed: “Mr Thomas Jefferson Monticello Virginia”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Sept. 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

Mather quoted from Las Siete Partidas, begun in 1252 by Alfonso X (“the Learned”) and reedited by Gregorio Lopez in 1555. Louis Moreau Lislet and Henry Carleton later published an English translation, The Laws of Las Siete Partidas which are still in Force in the State of Louisiana, 2 vols. (New Orleans, 1820; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 10 [no. 603]).

recopilacion de indias, ley 9, titulo 28, partida 3: “The things which belong separately to the commons of cities or towns, are the water fountains, the places where fairs and markets are held, or where the city councils meet; the sandy places on the banks of rivers; the thrashing (exidos) and race grounds; the forests and pastures, and all other similar places which have been appropriated and granted for the common use of each city, town, castle, or other place. For every person living there, may use these things, they being common alike to every man, to the poor as well as to the rich. But they who reside in other places, can not use them, against the consent or prohibition of those who live there” (Laws of Las Siete Partidas, 1:338–9).

ley 23, tit 32, de la misma partida: “No one ought to erect a house, or other building or works, in the public places, or threshing grounds, (exidos), or roads which are common to cities, towns, or other places. For as they are left open for the sake of regularity (apostura), and the common good of all who come there, no one ought to take possession of them, or labour there for his own particular benefit. And if any one contravene this law, that which he builds there, ought to be pulled down and destroyed. And if the corporation of the place where the works are constructed, choose to retain them, for their own use, and not to pull them down, they may do so: and they may make use of the revenue they derive therefrom, in the same manner as of any other revenue they possess. And we moreover say, that no man who has erected works in any of the above mentioned places, can, or ought to defend himself, by alleging that he had acquired them by prescription” (Laws of Las Siete Partidas, 1:447–8).

Index Entries

  • Alfonso X, king of Castile and León; Las Siete Partidas search
  • Blanque, Jean Paul search
  • Carleton, Henry; The Laws of Las Siete Partidas search
  • Carondelet, Francisco Luis Hector, baron; and batture search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; consults with TJ on batture case search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; letters from search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; letters from J. Mather to search
  • Las Siete Partidas (Alfonso X) search
  • López, Gregorio; Las siete partidas del sabio rey Don Alonso el Nono search
  • Louisiana (Spanish and French colony); laws governing search
  • Mather, James; letters to W. C. C. Claiborne from search
  • Moreau Lislet, Louis; The Laws of Las Siete Partidas search
  • Spain; laws of search
  • The Laws of Las Siete Partidas (Carleton and Moreau Lislet) search