Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Plea in Livingston v. Jefferson on Ground of Jurisdiction, [ca. 28 February 1811]

Plea in Livingston v. Jefferson on Ground of Jurisdiction

[ca. 28 Feb. 1811]

Jefferson—dft }
ads In trespass.—
Livingston plt.

And the said defendant in his proper person1 comes and defends the force and injury and saith that the2 messuage or dwelling house3 & close or parcel of land being a part of a parcel of land known by the name of the Batture of the Suburb St Mary in the first and fifth4 counts of the plaintiffs declaration mentioned and the several closes in the second third fourth sixth seventh and eighth counts of the plaintiffs declaration mentioned, for the Supposed breaking and entering of which said messuage or dwelling house and Closes the Said action is brought are not situate lying and being within the Virginia district, or within the jurisdiction of this Court, but are situate lying and being in a territory of the United States of America5 called the territory of Orleans:6 in which Said territory there was at the time of the said Supposed trespasses and long before, and at the time of the institution of the plaintiffs said action and yet is a Court of Competent jurisdiction to try and decide upon all pleas of trespass, & all Courses of Action arising within the said territory, wherefore Since the house & land in the declaration mentioned are not within the Virginia district and the jurisdiction of this Court7 but in the Said territory, the defendant prays judgment if the Court here will or ought to have further Conversance of the Plea aforesaid &c

MS (Vi: USCC-LJ); in George Hay’s and William Wirt’s hands; undated; endorsed by Hay: “Jefferson ads Livingston } 3 Plea Jurisdiction” and “Feb: 28th 1811”; notation by clerk: “33 cts.” Enclosed in George Hay to TJ, 25 Jan. 1811, and TJ to Hay, 3 Mar. 1811.

At some point between submission of this and other pleas on 28 Feb. 1811 and the court’s 5 Dec. 1811 decision in TJ’s favor on the jurisdictional grounds argued above, two further motions in connection with this plea were filed. Livingston’s counsel submitted a “Replication” asking the court to ignore TJ’s motion to dismiss because ever since the cause of complaint against TJ he had lived within the jurisdiction of the Virginia district rather than that of Orleans and was thus “not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Courts of the Territory of Orleans aforesaid for the trespasses in the declaration set forth” (MS in Vi: USCC-LJ; in an unidentified hand; undated; at head of text: “No 3”). TJ’s counsel responded with a “demurrer” maintaining that the arguments in the replication were “not sufficient in law for this Court here to have farther cognisance of the said plaintiffs Said action against him, and that he the said defendant is not bound by the law of the land to answer the Same” (MS in Vi: USCC-LJ; in Wirt’s hand; undated; endorsed: “Livingston v. Jefferson } demr to repln to third plea”).

1Preceding four words interlined by Wirt in place of “by George Hay William Wirt and Littleton Waller Tazewell his attornies.”

2Here is canceled “said plaintiff ought not to have or maintain his said action thereof against him because he saith that the.”

3Word interlined.

4Preceding two words interlined.

5Preceding two words interlined.

6Text to this point in Hay’s hand. Remainder of text added by Wirt in place of Hay’s conclusion: “and this he is ready to verify. wherefore he prays judgment whether the said plaintiff ought to have or maintain his said action thereof against him &c.”

7Preceding eight words interlined in place of illegible phrase.

Index Entries

  • Batture Sainte Marie, controversy over; pleadings in search
  • Hay, George; and batture pleadings search
  • United States Circuit Court, Virginia District; and batture controversy search
  • Wirt, William; drafts batture pleadings search