James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne (Abstract), 18 March 1805

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

18 March 1805, New Orleans. “We have not received a Northern Mail for five Weeks; of course I am without any late Letters from the Department of State; or recent information from the seat of Government.

“Much anxiety exists here to learn the issue of the Memorial to Congress.1 We have seen the Report of the Committee of the House of Representatives, and as you may have conjectured, the Plan of Government proposed by the Committee is a Subject of private discussion, and one on which the Society is divided.2 The Legislative Council are yet in Session, and have passed many Laws, of which Copies shall soon be forwarded to you. It is probable that the Council will adjourn in about two weeks. Letters of late date, from our Frontiers represent every thing as tranquil, and the disposition of the Indian Tribes as very friendly to the United States.

“The Marquis of Casa Calvo still remains in this City, and expects shortly to be employed in extending the Line of Limits between the united States and the Mexican possessions. A dispute has arisen among the Members of the Catholic Church in this City. Mr. Walch who claims to be the Vicar general of Louisiana took upon himself to dismiss a Priest who had the care of this Parish.3 The Priest appealed to his Parishoners, who have disavowed the Authority of Mr. Walch, and Elected (amidst many Huzzas) the dismissed Priest their Pastor. The Subject excites much Interest among the Catholic’s; but it is probable the affair will not eventuate in any unpleasant consequences!”

RC (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 6); letterbook copy (ibid.); letterbook copy (LU: LOUISiana Digital Library, Official Letter Book W. C. C. Claiborne). RC 3 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Claiborne; docketed by Wagner. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1For the memorial, see Claiborne to JM, 1 Oct. 1804 (first letter), PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 8:105 and n. 1.

2On 25 Jan. 1805 the House committee to which the memorial had been referred returned its report and introduced a resolution that “provision ought to be made by law for extending to the inhabitants of Louisiana the right of self-government.” “An Act further providing for the government of the Territory of Orleans” was approved on 2 Mar. 1805 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1834–56). description ends , 8th Cong., 2d sess., 1010, 1014, 1017, 1674–76).

3When Patrick Walsh, who had been appointed vicar-general for New Orleans by former bishop Luis Peñalver de Cárdenas, attempted to dismiss Antonio de Sedella as pastor of St. Louis cathedral, both Sedella and the parishioners objected. Sedella, who was also supported by the marqués de Casa Calvo in the latter’s role as representative of Charles IV, refused to leave, thus causing “the schism of 1805.” For detailed discussions of this conflict and of the confusion in Catholic church administration in Louisiana caused by the transfer of the territory from Spain to France to the United States and the different relationships between church and state in the three countries, see Annabelle M. Melville, “John Carroll and Louisiana, 1803–1815,” Catholic Historical Review 64 [1978]: 398–440; Charles Edwards O’Neill, SJ, “ ‘A Quarter Marked by Sundry Peculiarities’: New Orleans, Lay Trustees, and Père Antoine,” ibid., 76 [1990]: 235–77; Stanley Faye, ed., “The Schism of 1805 in New Orleans,” La. Historical Quarterly 22 [1939]: 98–141; and Baudier, The Catholic Church in Louisiana, 255–59.

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