James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 29 October 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

29 October 1804, New Orleans. “On last Evening Mr. Prevo[s]t (one of the Judges) arrived in this City, and will proceed I believe immediately to organize the Supreme Court.1 … I sincerely wish, that the Judges may find their duties agreeable, and that the happiest result may attend their exertions.… But I fear the trial by Jury, the introduction of oral testimony, the Admission of Attorneys &c. will illy comport with the former habits of the People, and that the Court, (as I have been) will be accused by the designing few, of making injurious innovations on the Spanish Law.

“I do not know that I shall be enabled to form a Council on the 12h. of November. Messrs. Watkins, Morgan and Kenner will serve; Messrs. Jones, Bore and Dow have declined—and I fear the situation of Colo: Belchass’s private affairs, will not permit his acceptance. Of the determination of the other Gentlemen named, I am not yet advised. I hope however, that the President will early forward the Names of such Gentlemen as he would wish to supply the existing vacancies.

“I am very desirous to form a Council; The Good of the Territory requires many Legislative Acts, but I am fearful, that a Party Spirit which seems to have acquired a great ascendency over certain Individuals will occasion me much temporary Embarrassment. It was unfortunate that Messrs. Jones Bore and Clark were appointed Councillors; they are the great Supporters of the Memorial,2 and will not only decline serving in the Council, but will induce others to do so likewise.”

Adds in a postscript: “The Christian name of Mr. Mather whom I recommended in my last Letter3 as worthy the Presidents Confidence, is ‘James’ and not ‘George’ as I formerly stated: I beg leave also to name Mr. John F. Merriult of this City, as a Man of respectability, & one who might be serviceable in the Council.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–9, filed under “Mather”). 3 pp.; docketed by Jefferson. Printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:317–18.

1Jefferson’s interim appointment of John Bartow Prevost, Aaron Burr’s stepson, as a judge of the Orleans Territory Superior Court was submitted to the Senate on 30 Nov. 1804 and approved on 11 Dec. (Jefferson to JM, 3 Aug. 1804, 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 , 7:555 and n. 2; Kline, Papers of Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr (2 vols.; Princeton, N.J., 1983). description ends , 1:lxiv; lxvi; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1828). description ends , 1:476, 477).

2For the memorial protesting the new form of government for Louisiana, see Claiborne to JM, 1 Oct. 1804 (first letter) and n. 1.

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