James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Mercer, Isaac Cox Barnet, and William Maclure, 5 May 1804 (Abstract)

§ From John Mercer, Isaac Cox Barnet,
and William Maclure

5 May 1804, Paris. “We have the honor of sending to you Copies of other Letters which have passed between the Minister of the United States and this Board,1 since those already communicated.”2

RC and enclosures, two copies (DNA: RG 76, Preliminary Inventory 177, entry 119, France, Convention of 1803 [Spoliation], Correspondence); letterbook copy (ibid.); letterbook copy (Fredericksburg, Va., Courthouse: John Francis Mercer Letterbook). Both RCs in a clerk’s hand, signed by Mercer, Barnet, and Maclure. First RC 1 p.; marked “(Duplicate.)”; docketed by Brent as received 6 Aug. Second RC docketed by Brent as received 10 Aug. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1The enclosures (21 pp.) are copies of the commissioners to Livingston, 18, 25, 27, and 30 Apr. and 2 and 3 May 1804, and copies of Livingston to the commissioners, 25 and 27 Apr. and 1 and 2 May 1804. The commissioners requested Livingston’s aid in obtaining a copy of Joshua Barney’s French naval commission, which Livingston procured from the French Ministry of Marine. Livingston in turn requested the commissioners to inform him “of the principles you have laid for the construction of the Convention,… of the number of the cases you have decided upon and of the principles upon which you have founded your rejection of those you have rejected.” The commissioners replied with nine criteria for accepting or rejecting claims. Livingston’s rejoinder, which took issue with the commissioners’ narrow construction of the Louisiana Purchase Claims Convention of 1803, enclosed an extract of JM’s 31 Jan. 1804 letter, which he insisted should be considered by the commission to include classes of claims they had previously rejected and as a guide to their future decision making. This the commissioners refused to do, insisting that Livingston had misconstrued JM’s instructions and reaffirming that their construction of the convention was “clear and correct.” The commissioners went further still: should Livingston negotiate a more liberal understanding of the convention with the French government, that understanding would have to be ratified by the appropriate government authorities, just as the claims convention of 1803 had been. The commissioners’ letters to Livingston, 30 Apr. and 2 and 3 May 1804, and Livingston’s letters to the commissioners, 1 and 2 May 1804, are printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 6:193–95.

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