James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 3 November 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

3 November 1804, New Orleans. “I enclose for your perusal several Letters, which I have lately received from Nachitoches,1 together with Copies of several Communications (Nos. 1. 2. 3. & 4.)2 which in consequence thereof, I have addressed to the Marquis of Casa Calvo, Colo: Butler & to Captain Turner the Commandant at Nachitoches. It will certainly require great prudence and caution to preserve Peace on the Frontiers, and to maintain a good Understanding with our Spanish and Indian Neighbours. On my part nothing shall be omitted to insure tranquility; but if the Spanish Authorities are unfriendly disposed, I fear some troubles may ensue. When the Marquis’s answers to my Communications are received, they shall be transmitted to you.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 5); letterbook copy and letterbook copy of four enclosures (LU: Claiborne Letterbook). RC 2 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received 12 Dec. For enclosures, see nn.

1Claiborne enclosed two letters Capt. Edward D. Turner wrote to him. In his letter of 16 Oct. 1804 (3 pp.; printed in Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends , 2:386–88), Turner reported the escape of nine slaves who were headed for Nacogdoches, stated that they had stolen guns, ammunition, and horses and were part of a larger escape plot promoted by a Spaniard who promised them freedom at Nacogdoches, gave details of the supposed plot and actions taken against it, added that three of the escapees were believed to have returned to encourage others to join them, and enclosed a copy of his letter to Capt. Joaquin de Ugarte, commandant at Nacogdoches, 15 Oct. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 2:388), stating that four escaped slaves belonging to Ambrose Lecompte and Alexis Cloutier were believed to have fled to Nacogdoches, requesting their return, and adding in a postscript that five other slaves had also escaped. In his letter of 17 Oct. 1804 (3 pp.; printed ibid., 2:385), Turner reported that two white men and eight black accomplices had been captured, that an informant stated they had said the plot was initiated by a Spaniard, that the party pursuing the escapees had returned after ascertaining that they could not be caught before reaching Nacogdoches, and that the incident had “so enraged the Inhabitants against the Spaniards” he believed they were willing to “go to Nacogdoches and lay it to waste,” fearing that if nothing was done “they will not have a Slave left in three months.” For Turner to Claiborne, 13 Oct. 1804, reporting unrest among the Indians, see ibid., 2:385.

2Enclosure no. 1 is a copy of Claiborne to Casa Calvo, 30 Oct. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 2:382–83), stating that he had received news of the situation of the slaves from Natchitoches (see n. 1, above), about which he had communicated previously with Casa Calvo, and asking Casa Calvo’s interference to prevent Ugarte’s offering refuge to any deserting slaves, since “the consequences which will ensue, may readily be anticipated.” Enclosure no. 2 is a copy of Claiborne to Casa Calvo, 31 Oct. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 2:383–84) stating that he had received notice from “several Commandants on the Frontiers of Louisiana State” that Spanish subjects had attempted to excite various Indian tribes in U.S. territory “to the commission of outrages” and asking Casa Calvo to write the governor of Texas urging him to restrain “the people within his Government, from all acts of aggression or injury towards the citizens of the United States!” Enclosure no. 3 is a copy of Claiborne to Col. Thomas Butler, 1 Nov. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 2:384), reporting the escape plot and the instigation attempts and suggesting that the troops at Natchitoches be reinforced. Enclosure no. 4 is a copy of Claiborne to Turner, 3 Nov. 1804 (3 pp.; printed ibid., 2:389–90), stating that Turner’s letters would be forwarded to Jefferson, urging strict policing of the slaves, reporting Casa Calvo’s disapproval of Ugarte’s actions, asking Turner to report the number, valuation, and owners of the escaped slaves should they not be returned and to enjoin the citizens of the district from undertaking any aggressions against Spanish subjects, urging that Turner “do every thing in [his] power to engage [the Indians’] good will & friendship towards the united States,” authorizing him to furnish rations to visiting Indians and gifts of less than two hundred dollars’ value to the Caddo chief “& his principal men,” and informing Turner that he might be receiving reinforcements from Butler.

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