James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Purviance, 12 August 1805

From Robert Purviance

Baltimore 12th Aug 1805


Agreeably to the enclosed Letter from Governor Claiborne,1 I have just received from him by the Ship Comet, one Hogshead, three Boxes & two, cases directed “for the President of the United States”;2 which I have engaged with a Carter to take to Washington for 17 Drs. inclusive of Drayage from the Point.

I am sorry to inform you, that the surv[iv]ing magpie, according to the Captain’s report, eat the other three on the passage. I find that he is remarkably voratious and can eat meat or any thing that is given him.

I suppose it probable that they must have been carried to New Orleans in seperate Cages.

I should have complied with Governor Claiborne’s request, on Saturday last, by sending these things, but I could3 succeed in getting the whole of them landed’till this Afternoon.

I have directed Nath Peck, the Carter, to take with him a sufficient quantity of Corn for food for the Animals and to be careful in supplying them with water, while on his way to Washington. I have the honor to be Sir very respectfully Your ob Serv.

Rt Purviance

RC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). In a clerk’s hand, signed by Purviance; docketed by Jefferson “Purviance to mr Madison.”

1For Claiborne’s 23 July 1805 letter to Purviance, see Jackson, Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1:253.

2On 7 Apr. 1805 Meriwether Lewis wrote Jefferson, enclosing an invoice of the articles he was sending. Among them were the skins of antelope, mule deer, marten, Rocky Mountain squirrels, and coyote, Indian artifacts, a box of various earths and minerals, and “four liveing Magpies … a liveing burrowing squirel of the praries [prairie dog] [and] one liveing hen of the Prarie [sharp-tailed grouse],” ibid., 231, 234–36. The four magpies, the prairie dog, and the grouse were alive when they arrived at St. Louis forty-five days after leaving Fort Mandan in what is now North Dakota. It is unknown when the grouse died, but Claiborne told Purviance only that he was sending four magpies and the prairie dog (Paul Russell Cutright, “The Odyssey of the Magpie and the Prairie Dog,” Missouri Historical Society Bulletin 23 [1967]: 215–23).

3Purviance presumably omitted the word “not” here.

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