Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Memorandum from John Girault to Andrew Ellicott, [ca. 1799–1800]


Memorandum from John Girault to Andrew Ellicott

[ca. 1799–1800]

A paper communicated to Mr Ellicot by Captain John Girault one of the Captains of the Illinois regiment under General George R clarke. He is now residing in the Mississippi Territory, and Prothonotary1 of a court—

The King and council, (sometime after the peace of 63,) in consequence of a representation from Peter chester Governor of W. Florida, extended the jurisdiction of said province to the Yazoo; and empowered the Governor (chester) to procure from the Indians a purchase of the land, in consequence of which a Congress was held at Pensacola about 1770, by the Governor, Council, and Indian Agent, (John Stewart,) with the Indians, who sold for a certain sum, a tract of land to be divided from their land by a line drawn from some distance above Mobile, and running a given course, I believe near north, until it should intersect the Yazoo: About the year 1776. the line was run according to agreement, but on arriving at the stonyspring about twelve miles east of the grindstone ford on Bayou Pierre2 the Indians discovered the course they were going would take from them their favourite ball ground upon the Yazoo bank; they obliged the commissioners to cease, and after representation having been made to Governor chester he agreed that the Indians should have their way: they took the commissioners to the Yazoo, and made them set their course3 from the spot they marked out (about 6 leagues up the river) to strike the former line where they had left off, at the stoneyspring the goods for the payment of the land arrived and were delivered to the agents, who taking advantage of the war, gave but a small part to the Indians, so that they have ever complained—

In pursuance of this arrangement the Province of W. Florida, was considered to extend to the Yazoo, and back to the line above mentioned, and the jurisdiction given to the Governor: all the British grants of land in this country are given under the title of West Florida, and signed by the said Governor (Chester) and recorded in the land office of West Florida—

During the War West Florida was conquered by the Spanish arms by the Treaty of Peace of 83. with Spain and England, (which I send you a rough copy of) 3rd article, it was confirmed to Spain, and the British Subjects allowed 18. Months for selling their property and retiring: this time being almost expired, application was made to the court of Spain, at the instance of the land-holders for the time to be prolonged, that they might sell their land, in consequence of which the King granted them six months more; those who applied during this time got their grants ratified by the Government of Spain, and others have had land given them in lieu, when theirs had been granted away—

In 1786, the King of Spain published a proclamation directing all those who chose to remain in this Province to become Spanish subjects, and those who had any objection to remove—I send you the proclamation marked No 2—I also send you a proclamation No 3 of Governor Miro’s, by which you will see that W. Florida was given by capitualation—

Had I known of this sooner I could have collected more circumstantial information concerning this business, please to send the papers all back—

Tr (DNA: RG 59, MLR); undated; filed with Christopher Rankin to John Quincy Adams, 8 Apr. 1822. Extracts from a similar version of this memorandum said to have been found among the papers of Anthony Hutchins (d. 1802), of Natchez, Mississippi, are printed in John F. H. Claiborne, Mississippi, as a Province, Territory and State (1880), 1:113–4.

John (Jean) Girault (1755–1813), soldier and public official, was born into a Huguenot family in London, England, and lived in New York City by 1773. He purchased land in 1777 in the Illinois country at Cahokia, and the following year he employed his familiarity with English, French, and Spanish as interpreter for George Rogers Clark during the latter’s Illinois campaign. In 1778 Girault joined the Illinois Regiment as a lieutenant, and he served as the first commonwealth’s attorney of Illinois County, Virginia (later part of the Northwest Territory), 1779–81. He rose to captain in 1781, and Clark made him commissary. After leaving the army in 1783, Girault moved south and settled in Natchez, where he served as a recorder under the Spanish government. In 1799 he was appointed judge of probate, prothonotary, and register for Pickering (later Jefferson) County in the newly formed Mississippi Territory. Girault was elected to the territorial assembly in 1802 and appointed Jefferson County clerk the same year. When he died in Bayou Saint John, Louisiana, Girault was clerk of the county court and register of the orphans’ court in Adams County, Mississippi Territory (Dunbar Rowland, ed., Encyclopedia of Mississippi History [1907], 1:789–90, 967; H. W. Roberts, “A Voice from the Past: Letters of Jean Girault Relating to the Illinois Country,” Illinois State Historical Society, Journal 18 [1925]: 636–57; Collections of the Huguenot Society of America [1886], 1:lxix, 315; Heitman, Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, rev. ed., 1914, repr. 1967 description ends , 245; 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 , 5:14, 254–5, 274; Adams Co. Will Book, 1:101–3; New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, 21 July 1813).

This undated memorandum was presumably composed after Girault became prothonotary of a court in 1799 and before Ellicott concluded his survey of the southern boundary between the United States and West Florida in 1800 (Rowland, ed., Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, 967; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 45 vols. description ends , 31:592–3). The peace of 63 was the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763 and gave Great Britain control of West Florida. Britain then ceded that territory back to Spain in the treaty of peace of 83, which was signed at Versailles on 20 Jan. 1783 (Frances Gardiner Davenport and Charles Oscar Paullin, eds., European Treaties bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies [1917–37], 4:150–1).

The proclamations marked no 2 and no 3 have not been identified. In a letter to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams of 8 Apr. 1822, Christopher Rankin enclosed the above memorandum and wrote that “The proclamations referred to, in the paragraph preceeding the last I would most gladly receive,” adding that “When, by whom, or to whom this was written, I cannot ascertain” (RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR).

1Manuscript: “Pothonotary.”

2Manuscript: “Piesre.”

3Manuscript: “couse.”

Index Entries

  • Charles III, king of Spain; and W. Fla. search
  • Chester, Peter; as British governor of W. Fla. search
  • Ellicott, Andrew (1754–1820); and W. Fla. border search
  • Ellicott, Andrew (1754–1820); as surveyor search
  • Ellicott, Andrew (1754–1820); memorandum to, from J. Girault search
  • French and Indian War search
  • Girault, John; and W. Fla. border search
  • Girault, John; identified search
  • Girault, John; memorandum of, to A. Ellicott search
  • Great Britain; and W. Fla. search
  • Indians, American; land purchased from search
  • Miró, Esteban; as Spanish governor of W. Fla. search
  • Paris; Treaty of (1763) search
  • Paris; Treaty of (1783) search
  • Spain; and Treaty of Paris (1763) search
  • Spain; and Treaty of Paris (1783) search
  • Stuart, John; as Indian agent search
  • West Florida; and Great Britain search
  • West Florida; and Treaty of Paris (1763) search
  • West Florida; and Treaty of Paris (1783) search
  • West Florida; ceded to Spain search