James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Williams, 9 August 1805 (Abstract)

From Robert Williams, 9 August 1805 (Abstract)

§ From Robert Williams. 9 August 1805, Washington, Mississippi Territory. “The Legislature of this Territory adjourned the 25 ulto after completing the objects for which it was convened.

“I have the honor to inclose you two laws relative to the publick officers of this Territory including that of the Secretary1 the first originated in consequence of Mr Wests the Secretary’s conduct in carrying that office from this place as you have been informed by my communication of the 17th of May2 and also his never coming near the Legislature or Governor during their Session except the day it Met. The second imposing a penalty, was passed in consequence of his attempts to evade the first in a Manner which the inclosed documents marked No 1.2.3 [not found] will shew and in this event the Territory would have been deprived of its Laws passed during the late annual Session of the General Assembly to a period altogether uncertain and depending on the arrival of his successor as the printed copies had been deposited with him for distribution and which had not been done except in a few instances. The law you will observe is so worded as not to infringe any constitutional or Legal right. On a demand being made agreeable to the Documents here with inclosed marked No 43 the Colo delivered the whole of the Records and documents Colo West by his late conduct has lost all his popularity and compelled those who were disposed to adhere to him to relinquish and we are all becoming very quiet.”

Adds in a postscript: “Mr [Thomas H.] Williams has received his commission as Secretary and has been prevailed on to accept conditionally I suppose he will write you on this subject.”

Letterbook copy (Ms-Ar: Executive Journal, 1805–10).

1The enclosures were doubtless copies of the 16 July 1805 act “Establishing the place at which the Officers therein named, shall keep their respective Offices, and for other purposes” which required the treasurer, the auditor of public accounts, and “for the time being,” the territorial secretary, to keep their offices and the public records belonging to the secretary’s office at the place designated by law for holding general assembly sessions and allotted the first two officers fifty dollars a year for office rent; and the 25 July 1805 act “Concerning Public Officers” which stated that because the former act had not been complied with and because it appeared some officers had attempted to evade it, should the territorial secretary or the other two officers refuse or neglect to comply with the earlier act on or before 10 Aug. 1805, they should pay $3,000 to be recovered in court; and that if any person possessing any records or public documents belonging to the territorial government, to which they had no right, refused to deliver them on the governor’s application, that person should pay $3,000 as above, and authorized the territorial attorney general to prosecute and recover the forfeited sums (Acts Passed by the Third General Assembly of the Mississippi Territory during Their Extra Session Began and Held in the Town of Washington, on the First Monday in July … [Natchez, 1805], in Records of the States of the United States of America [DLC microfilm ed.], Miss. B.2, reel 1, pp. 8–9, 31–32).

2Williams’s 17 May 1805 letter to JM presumably contained copies of his 14 May 1805 letter to Cato West asking when it would be convenient for the latter to deliver the public documents to him and regretting that business before the board of commissioners would prevent him from calling on West as they had discussed; Williams’s 16 May 1805 letter to West stating that he had received West’s reply through Parke Walton, that he believed the public documents existed and belonged at the seat of government, asking West to appear at Washington with the seal of office on 17 May, and stating that he would accommodate West as much as was commensurate with the public interest; and Walton’s 16 May 1805 statement that he had delivered Williams’s 14 May letter to West who said he would not write to Williams as that might lead to “serious embarrassments,” that Williams might act as he thought proper and West would do the same. West asked if Walton would take the seal and when Walton refused West said he would send it next day “if he could or some time shortly” (Ms-Ar: Executive Journal, 1805–10).

3Among the documents marked No. 4 Williams presumably enclosed his 30 July 1805 letter to West conveying a copy of the 25 July law and demanding the delivery of the public documents to Williams’s secretary William B. Shields (ibid.).

Index Entries