James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Marshall, [ca. December 1786]

From James Marshall

[ca. December 1786]


From some late proceedings of the Spaniards in Louisiania, I suspect it cannot be long before serious acts of hostility will commence between them and our western Citizins.

I will state a few facts several of which have been within my own knowledge & if you find leisure will thank you for your advice, how it will be proper for the people of Kentucky to proceed on the occasion.

About eighteen months since a Colo. Pere1 went down to New Orleans with two boats loaded with flower, he did not communicate the manner of his reception. But his proceeds were thought to be considerable, from his anxiety last spring to carry down a much larger cargo of the same article. Encouraged by his success a Mr. Parker2 a Mr. Tardiveau3 & several others purchas’d to the amount of 150000 weight of flower for the same purpose, they went by the way of St. Louis in order to obtain a passport for New Orleans. They were receiv’d by the Governor of St. L.4 in a friendly manner. He however refus’d them passports, but gave as a reason, that he was then oblig’d to give twelve & fourteen Dollars pr. barrell for indian corn meal for the subsistance of the Kings troops, & he should be much blam’d, & perhaps punish’d, if under those circumstances he was to permit flower to be carried from his garrison. A Mr. Cere5 a merchant at St. L. who is suppos’d to be in partnership with the Govr. afterwards purchas’d a part of the flower, & endeavor’d to buy the rest at a low rate, but could not succeed. Since I have left Kentucky6 the Govr. of St. L. has confiscated the property of those among the Americans who had any within the teritory of Louisiana & among the rest a cargo belonging to Genl. Wilkinson which had been receiv’d by Mr. Cere on consignment.

I consider this sir as an unjustifiable act particularly after the encouragement which [was] given to those who carried flower to the different Spanish settlements & who from their reception had a right to expect their property would be secur’d to them. I am pretty well convinc’d retaliation will be made, the Spanish trade up the Missisippa is totally in our power & has produc’d them fur’s to the value of £350,000 pr. anm. These fur’s are caried down the river in open unarm’d boats that are frequently oblig’d by the current to row immediately under our shore. As they do not permit us to set foot within their territory can they complain if we are equally strict? Should one of the persons injur’d sieze on a boat when on our side of the river, do you think he would be consider’d as a criminal? Do you think it would not have a tendancy towards bringing the present tedious negotiation concerning the Missisipa to a close perhaps more favorable than we now have (from our indecision) a right to expect. If you should think the measure politic I can have it put in execution. You will have the goodness to excuse this freedom from a stranger, when you know that upon your opinion depends the attempt I have mention’d.7 I am with the most perfect respect Yours

James Marshall

RC (DLC). Addressed by Marshall to JM at Richmond. Docketed by JM. Dated 1795 in the Index to the James Madison Papers. Conjectural date here assigned on the basis of JM’s presence in Richmond between 28 Oct. 1786 and 11 Jan. 1787 for the Virginia General Assembly session (see n. 7). James Markham Marshall was also in Richmond at this time, and the events he described seem to have occurred sometime after Spain’s decision in 1784 to close the Mississippi River to American navigation but before James Wilkinson’s journey to New Orleans in July 1787 (see nn. 2, 3, and 6).

1Possibly Hardey Perry, a Kentucky trader and merchant, who is known to have visited New Orleans in the late 1780s and early 1790s (see Rosario Parra Cala, ed., Documentos Relativos a la Independencia de Norte América Existentes en Archivos Españoles [10 vols.; Madrid, 1977–84], 1.1:413, 7:14, 15).

2Probably Joseph Parker, who was an associate of Barthélemi Tardiveau’s in Kaskaskia. He seems to have finally traveled to New Orleans in June 1787, shortly before the arrival of James Wilkinson (Alvord, Cahokia Records, 1778–1790, p. cxxx; Arthur P. Whitaker, ed., “James Wilkinson’s First Descent to New Orleans in 1787,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 8 [1928]: 95).

3Barthélemi Tardiveau (1750?–1801) was a trader, born in Nantes, who immigrated to America in 1777, settling first in Kentucky and then in Kaskaskia. He tried to do business in New Orleans from 1782 onward but without success, as Spanish officials had evidently been warned to keep him, and other Americans as well, off the Mississippi. In 1789 he applied to Spanish authorities for trading privileges similar to those granted to James Wilkinson after the latter’s first voyage to New Orleans in 1787. Tardiveau eventually visited New Orleans in 1793 but decided in that year to become a Spanish subject in order to continue his business ventures (Butler, History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, p. 156; James Ripley Jacobs, Tarnished Warrior: Major-General James Wilkinson [New York, 1938], pp. 80–82; Luis Marino Pérez, Guide to the Materials for American History in Cuban Archives [Washington, 1907], p. 94; Rice, Barthélemi Tardiveau, pp. 42–47).

4Don Francisco Cruzat served as lieutenant governor of Upper Louisiana from 1775 to 1778 and again from 1780 to 1787 (Louis Houck, The Spanish Regime in Missouri [2 vols.; Chicago, 1909], 1:xix–xxi, 126, 161, 171, 268).

5Jean Gabriel Cerré (1724–1805) was a French-Canadian trader who settled in St. Louis in 1779 or 1780 (Nasatir, Spanish War Vessels on the Mississippi, p. 155 n.).

6For James Markham Marshall’s return from Kentucky, see John Marshall to William Branch Giles, 22 Sept. 1786 (Johnson et al., Papers of John Marshall, 1:169).

7For JM’s prominent role in affirming American navigation rights on the Mississippi at the end of 1786, see PJM description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (1 vol. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986—). description ends , 9:181–82.

Index Entries