James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 1 September 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

1 September 1804, New Orleans. “I have this moment received from Captain Turner, Commandant at Nachitoches, the enclosed letter from a Mr. Davenport to Doctor Sibley, and hasten to transmit it to you.1

“This letter appears in some degree to confirm the information heretofore given by Captain Turner, (already forwarded to the Department of State)2 relative to a decree of the Spanish Government encouraging the escape of Slaves from the service of their masters.”3

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 5); letterbook copy (Ms-Ar: Claiborne Executive Journal, vol. 13). RC 1 p.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Claiborne; docketed by Wagner as received 8 Oct. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1In the enclosed letter from Peter Samuel Davenport to John Sibley, 3 Aug. 1804 (2 pp.), Davenport stated that he had seen a Spanish royal decree offering freedom to runaway slaves of foreign masters. Davenport (ca. 1764–ca. 1824) was a Pennsylvania native who migrated to Louisiana after being orphaned at sixteen. He lived in Nacogdoches and Natchitoches and was a member of the trading company of Barr and Davenport in the latter city. He was originally a Spanish loyalist but joined a filibustering expedition against Texas in 1812. Revolutionary War veteran John Sibley (1757–1837) was born in Massachusetts and lived in North Carolina before moving to Natchitoches in 1802, where he was appointed army surgeon by Jefferson in 1804. From 1805 to 1814 he was Indian agent for Orleans Territory and corresponded with federal officials on suspicious events in the region. After losing his Indian agency he participated in local government (Walter Prescott Webb et al., eds., The Handbook of Texas [3 vols.; Austin, Tex., 1952–76], 1:113, 467, 2:608–9).

2See Claiborne to JM, 30 Aug. 1804 (second letter), PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 7:658 and n. 1.

3On 14 Apr. 1789 Charles IV decreed that fugitive blacks from foreign colonies were not to be returned after having resorted to his protection by passing into his territory, even though their owners might claim them, as they were not governed by international law after their arrival in Spanish territory (Juan Joseph Matraya y Ricci, Catálogo cronológico de las pragmáticas, cedulas, decretos, ordenes y resoluciones reales generales emanados despues de la recopilación de las leyes de Indias [Buenos Aires, 1978], 405).

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