James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Pinckney, 4 May 1803

From Charles Pinckney

May 4: 1803 In Madrid

Dear Sir

Since closing the dispatches I delivered this morning to Mr: Wells1 I have recieved the inclosed letter from Mr Cevallos2 in answer to the different applications made to him on the subject of the purchase of the Floridas & such parts of Louisiana as was convenient to us & indemnification for the Damages sustained by our Citizens in consequence of the irregular conduct of the Intendant at New Orleans. By his answer you will see his Catholic Majesty declines selling the Floridas & has referred us to the French Government for such purchases of Louisiana or a part of it as we wish & has declared that our claims for indemnification which you will find by the papers transmitted I had pushed as far as “amicable decision” would permit, were unsupported by the Treaty of 1795. His manner of expressing himself on the subject of the navigation of the Misissipi—the Favour as he calls it of our being allowed a Deposit at New Orleans & its continuation after 1798 & of the revocation of the Edict of the Intendant, all serve to strengthen the Opinions that the French wished to recieve this country from the Spaniards at a time when doubts existed respecting the power to revoke our right to deposit & when the Spaniards themselves considered that & all our other rights as mere favours springing from the Generosity of the King & that it might possibly hereafter rest with the French Government to determine how far it might be convenient to them to continue these rights. This answer appeared to me to be so important that I sent it off immediately to Mr: Livingston & Mr Monroe at Paris with my opinions tending to shew the absolute necessity there is for their now definitively arranging every Question respecting the Misissipi before the French can take possession. To these gentlemen I have also communicated very fully every thing I have done or attempted here with my Opinions at large. Copies of my letters to them I now inclose you3 & I am waiting to hear from them not having recieved a line from you later than the 18 January nor one Word from Mr Monroe so that at this moment nearly the middle of May I am entirely in the dark & uninformed of What Congress have done since the beginning of January. I have governed myself entirely by your instructions & I trust that if you recieve all the numerous Dispatches & their inclosure[s] I have sent you will see We have not been idle or left a single mode or thing unattempted to obtain what we wish from this Government. I am happy I obtained the restoration of the Deposit & hope the Order is arrived before this time. The Quarantine also is taken off, & on the subject of the indemnification for the Damages occasioned by the conduct of the Intendant at New Orleans, You find the Secretary says our claim is unsupported by the Treaty. Should it be possible for me to persuade them to reconsider this Opinion & agree to make compensation I shall do so but considering the inclosed answer as expressing the Opinion of the Government that they are not bound by treaty to do so I have taken the earliest Opportunity to transmit it to You for your information & remain with my most affectionate respects to the President Dear Sir always Yours Truly

Charles Pinckney

Should it be necessary for me to recieve further instructions on the subject of the indemnifications for the Damages sustained by our Citizens occasioned by the irregular conduct of the Intendant at New Orleans, it will be proper to transmit the best account of what have been the Damages that have been sustained because should the Damages be not very considerable it may have great Weight with this Court in rather promising compensation than risquing the inconveniencies of a rupture.

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