James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 8 November 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

8 November 1804, New Orleans. “I enclose you a Petition from the Inhabitants of Point Coupeé,1 which was this day presented to me by two Gentlemen who mentioned that the News from Nacogdoches, was in circulation among the Negroes in that Settlement, and had produced in their opinion that Spirit of insubordination which existed.

“In consequence of the Petition, I have requested Colo. Butler by Letter (No. 1)2 to detach a Subaltern’s Command to Point Coupeé, and have also made communications to the Marquis of Casa Calvo3 and to the Several District Commandants4 of which Nos. 2. 3 & 4 are copies.

“Our Troops here are too few in number to admit of detachments to the various Posts where they would be Serviceable, and I most earnestly advise that the regular Force in Louisiana be augmented with all possible dispatch.

“A Revenue Cutter and a Gun Boat would also be highly useful in this quarter and tend greatly to the Security of the Revenue.”

Adds in a postscript: “I am well aware that the Marquis has no controul over the officers in the Province of Taxus, but my Letters to him will command answers, and it is probable that in them may be discovered the real views of the Spanish Court.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 5); letterbook copy and letterbook copy of enclosures nos. 1–3 (LU: Claiborne Letterbook). RC 2 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Claiborne; docketed by Wagner as received 12 Dec. For enclosures, see nn.

1Claiborne enclosed a petition dated 9 Nov. 1804 from the residents of Pointe Coupée (5 pp., including 106 signatures; printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:326–27), stating that news of the revolutions at Haiti and elsewhere had spread among the local blacks and “A Sp[i]rit of Revolt and Mutyny has Crept in amongt Them” leading to a recently discovered “Plan for our Destruction.” Because the forces and numbers of the blacks far exceeded their own, they asked Claiborne for “a Detachment of a Company of a Military force and the loan of a hundred Stand of Arms.”

2Enclosure no. 1 is a copy of Claiborne to Col. Thomas Butler, 8 Nov. 1804 (1 p.; 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 , 3:5), ordering him to send “a subaltern and twenty five or thirty men” to Pointe Coupée with “an hundred stand of Public Arms to distribute to the Militia in case the danger on his Arrival should be imminent.”

3Enclosure no. 2 is a copy of Claiborne to Casa Calvo, 8 Nov. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 3:5–6), stating that news of protection being offered to escaped slaves at Nacogdoches “had produced a general Spirit of insubordination” among the blacks at Pointe Coupée and that “nothing but the immediate arrest and return of the Negroes who have escaped to Nacogdoches will prevent much injury to the Territory, and perhaps the destruction of many of her Citizens.” He acknowledged receipt on 7 Nov. of letters from Casa Calvo, which were being translated and which would be answered, should that be necessary, on 9 Nov.

4Enclosure no. 3 is a copy of Claiborne to Edward D. Turner, 8 Nov. 1804 (2 pp.; printed ibid., 3:6–7), stating that Claiborne intended to detach an officer with twenty-five to thirty men and one hundred muskets to Pointe Coupée and that he believed the unrest there was caused by reports from Nacogdoches, ordering Turner to organize the local militia, including “every Male free person between the Ages of Sixteen and fifty,” and appointing “Captain Liblong” captain in the district militia. Claiborne also enclosed a printed circular letter in French and English, dated 8 Nov. 1804 and signed by Claiborne (Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 6965; printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:325–26), at the top of which Claiborne wrote: “The following Letter has been addressed to the Several District Commandants.” The circular advised the commandants that reports had created “a spirit of great insubordination among the negroes” and warned them to maintain greater vigilance and to strengthen their night patrols, adding that these were only measures of caution and therefore it was “not necessary to create any alarm among the citizens.”

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