Mar. 29. 07.
Th: Jefferson to mr Gallatin
A doubt is entertained whether the act of Congress respecting claims to lands in Orleans & Louisiana, & authorizing the Commrs. ‘to decide according to the laws & established usages & customs of the French & Spanish governments; upon all claims to lands within their respective districts’ Etc. meant to give that power as to all claims, or to restrict it to those claims only which had been previously recognised by Congress? were it necessary for us to decide that question, I should be of opinion it meant all claims, because the words are general, ‘all claims to lands within their respective districts’ and there are no other words restricting them to those claims only, previously recognised by Congress; and because the intention of the act was to quiet & satisfy all the minor claimants, and reserve only the great & fraudulent speculations for rigorous examination.
But the board of Commissioners, being a judiciary tribunal, I should think it proper to leave them to the law itself as their instructions, on the meaning of which they are competent to decide, and, being on the spot, are better informed of the nature of those claims than we are. Affectionate salutations.
DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.