James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 31 December 1804 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

31 December 1804, New Orleans. “I inclose for your perusal three Letters which I have lately received from the Officer Commanding at Natchitoches1 together with Copies of my answers, thereto, Marked No. 1 & 2.2

“You discover by these Letters that the late alarm at Natchitoches relative to the Negroes3 has wholly sub⟨side⟩d⟨,⟩ and also that the Neighbouring Tribes of Indians, manifest the best dispositions towards the United States.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 5); letterbook copy and letterbook copy of one enclosure (LU: Claiborne Letterbook). RC 1 p.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Claiborne; docketed by Wagner as received 21 Feb., with his notation: “Mem. two of the letters from Capt. Turner are missing.” For enclosures, see nn.

1The three letters from Capt. Edward D. Turner are (1) Turner to Claiborne, 21 Nov. 1804 (2 pp.; marked “(Duplicate)”; docketed by Wagner; printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:335–37), stating that the escaped slaves had been returned to their owners, except for those who had also stolen property, who were being held for the court session; that he had provided some visiting Caddos with small gifts and suggested they be sent the U.S. flag they had requested; that the Pawnees wished to have a trader sent them; that the Spaniards had stationed troops forty miles from Natchitoches to intercept contraband goods; that it was unlikely that larger bodies of troops would be garrisoned in the region as the area was unable to sustain them since local crops were usually poor; and adding in a postscript that four soldiers had deserted; (2) Turner to Claiborne, 28 Nov. 1804 (1 p.; marked “(Duplicate)”; docketed by Wagner), stating that trader Edward Murphy, who had arrived from Nacogdoches on 27 Nov., told Turner that Captain Ugarte had arrested a Spaniard who had “murdered a Mr. Owens, about Six Weeks since, on the road from Apolousas [Opelousas] to Nacogdoches,” adding that he had written to Ugarte to hold the man until appropriate measures could be taken, and requesting instructions; and (3) Turner to Claiborne, 8 Dec. 1804 (3 pp.; docketed by Wagner), stating that Murphy said two regiments of Spanish troops were to be stationed at Matagorda, that his partner Barr had been given a grant of land on the Texas coast, that an informant of Turner’s had confirmed the report of the land grant which also conveyed the privileges of naming a commandant and of a twelve-year monopoly on trade, and transmitting other news of Spanish government activity in the area.

2Claiborne enclosed copies of his 24 Nov. and 28 Dec. 1804 letters to Turner. In the 24 Nov. 1804 letter (1 p.; docketed by Wagner), Claiborne acknowledged receipt of Turner’s 28 Nov. letter and approved Ugarte’s arrest of the accused killer, stating that if the offense took place outside U.S. territory “a surrender of the person accused … would be useless,” but if it occurred inside U.S. limits and the man was surrendered, he should be held for a proper tribunal, adding that Turner was not, however, to make a formal request for him. In the 28 Dec. 1804 letter (3 pp.; docketed by Wagner; 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 , 3:32–33), Claiborne acknowledged receipt of Turner’s letters of 21 Nov. and 8 Dec., approved the liberation of the slaves and the gifts to the Indians, promised to forward several flags, suggested the Indians be told the president would soon make arrangements to provide them with goods “upon Good terms,” recognized the information about Spanish troop movements, and stated that since the boundaries would be “speedily” adjusted they were not a cause for alarm.

3For the problem of escaped slaves at Natchitoches, see Claiborne to JM, 3 (second letter), 8, to, 17, and 24 Nov. 1804.

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