James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 18 November 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

18 November 1804, New Orleans. “I have the Honour to enclose you several Documents relative to the Barque Hero,1 from No. 1 to No. 6 inclusive,2 as also a copy of two Letters to Captain Nicolls marked No. 7 & 8.3

“Some of the prisoners who have made their escape from the Hero, and came up to this City, have already proved themselves unworthy Members of Society, and I am therefore the more desirous to prevent the Men now on Board of that Vessel from Landing. I must confess Sir, I did not know what were the most prudent measures to direct in relation to the Hero and her passengers and crew: But, under existing circumstances, I thought it best that the Vessel and those on Board, should depart. I suggested some Port in the United States, as proper for their destination, under an impression that it would serve as an inducement to their departure, and that no where in the United States would the residence of those strangers be as dangerous as in New Orleans.

“The arrest of a Spanish Officer in this City, by a writ issuing from the office of the Superior Court, has occasioned much agitation here, and greatly excited the displeasure of the Marquis of Casa Calvo, and of Governor Folch; I will give you the particulars in my next Letter, and in the mean time I pray you to be assured, that the Conduct of the constituted Authorities has been correct. I have not yet been enabled to form a Council; Only five of the Gentlemen nominated by the President have accepted—To Wit, Messrs. Poidrass, Watkins, Morgan, Wikoff and Kenner. The first four are now in the City, and the fifth is every day expected.

“I hope in God, the next Mail will furnish me with the names of some Gentlemen as Successors to those who may decline. A Council is greatly wanted, and the Interest of the Territory suffers much by the delay of Legislative interference.

“Party Spirit here is certainly subsiding, and I am persuaded that the Inhabitants of the Country are becoming much better disposed to the United States; But in this City there are many disorderly and dangerous Characters. Neither the Secretary (Mr. Brown) or Colo. Kirby, has yet arrived, the latter Gentleman is reported to be dangerously ill at Fort Stoddart.”

Adds in a postscript: “The original Letter (with the Documents) is forwarded by water to Philadelphia.”

RC, two copies, and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 5); letterbook copy and letterbook copy of enclosures nos. 7–8 (LU: Claiborne Letterbook). First RC 3 pp.; marked “(Duplicate)”; in a clerk’s hand, except for Claiborne’s signature and postscript; docketed by Wagner as received 2 Jan. Second RC does not include postscript; docketed by Wagner as received 24 Jan., with his notation: “The Norfolk Hero.” Letterbook copy dated 15 Nov. 1804. For enclosures, see nn. 2–3.

1For the Hero, see Claiborne to JM, 3 Nov. 1804 (first letter), and nn.

2Enclosure no. 1 is a copy of Adm. John Duckworth’s 1 Oct. 1804 proclamation (2 pp.), authorizing Capt. John Calver of the Hero to proceed as a cartel under a flag of truce to Morlaix, France, conveying 170 French prisoners of war for exchange, and asking all other ships to allow him free passage. Enclosure no. 2 is a copy of the 6 Nov. 1804 request of the master’s mate of the Hero to the British consul at New Orleans (1 p.), asking him to accommodate and assist four of the British invalids on board the ship as the surgeon had pronounced them unfit for the trip to Europe. Enclosure no. 3 is a copy of Calver to Harbormaster Samuel B. Davis, 6 Nov. 1804 (3 pp.), requesting provisions, stating that since the French prisoners had taken over the ship, imprisoning him in his cabin, they had “taken & Destroyed what they thought proper,” especially the wine, spirits, and pork, adding that the French prisoners had sold their blankets and utensils, and conveying their request for more wine and spirits. Enclosure no. 4 is a copy of Jean-Baptiste Juge’s 3 Nov. 1804 report (2 pp.; in French) listing the numbers of deserters, deceased, and men still on board the ship. Enclosure no. 5 is a copy of Davis’s report of his inspection of the ship (4 pp.), stating that most of the French prisoners had escaped, that he had retrieved “about fifty four,” that the French claimed to have fled out of fear of being imprisoned in England, that the captain had told them nothing, and that he was terrified of going to sea with them and encouraged their escape, enclosing Duckworth’s orders and a list of needed articles, and noting that over one hundred French prisoners were on their way to town. Enclosure no. 6 is a copy of Abimael Nicoll to Claiborne, 13 Nov. 1804 (1 p.), stating that there were only fifty French prisoners on the ship, enclosing a list of British seamen and invalids supplied by Calver and a report from the garrison surgeon’s mate on the situation of the invalids, and reporting that the prisoners had been peaceful and none had attempted to escape since Davis left.

3Enclosure no. 7 is a copy of Claiborne to Nicoll, 16 Nov. 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 , 3:12–13), acknowledging Nicoll’s 13 Nov. letter, asking that the surgeon’s mate treat the sick, giving them permission to exercise on land if the mate advised it, giving “the person having charge of the vessel” permission to buy provisions if he had the means and ordering Nicoll to do so if he did not, suggesting that as soon as the supplies were provided and the sick and wounded aided, the ship should put to sea bound for either a U.S. Atlantic port or the West Indies, and adding that they should not be pressed to do so. Enclosure no. 8 is a copy of Claiborne to Nicoll, 17 Nov. 1804 (1 p.; printed ibid., 3:13), stating that if the persons on board the Hero proved to be “destitute of the means of procuring fresh Provisions,” Nicoll should provide them not only with rice but also with beef and chicken for the sick.

Index Entries