James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the Inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory, [ca. 10 October] 1809

From the Inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory

[ca. 10 October 1809]

The remonstrance of the undersigned inhabitants of the Territory of Louisiana,

Most respectfully sheweth,

That the term of service of John B. C. Lucas,1 judge of the General Court, and Commissioner of Land Titles in this Territory, is by law almost expired, and his re-appointment to the first, and continuance in the last office, is deemed by them as a great public calamity.

The undersigned feel sensibly the precarious tenure of their rights, when passion takes the place of reason on the Bench, when the Judge turns Advocate, when the individual who is not an obsequious flatterer of the Judge is sure to experience the rancorous enmity of a revengeful disposition clothed in the sacred ermine of his office, and when the names of the parties alone determines the measure of justice to be allotted. They cannot, and they will not, under these circumstances respect such a Judge, they must abhor a tribunal where they are insulted in the prosecution of their rights.2

Without these reasons, they conceive that a Commissioner ought not to be a Judge of the General Court, his decisions as Commissioner unfit him to sit on the same cases as Judge. Evils such as these, in their opinion ought to find a remedy in the wisdom and Justice of the President and Senate.

Wherefore they pray for the reasons aforesaid, that the said John B. C. Lucas, may not be re-appointed as Judge, and may be removed as Commissioner of Land Titles as aforesaid.

Bernd Pratte
[and thirteen others]

Printed broadside (DNA: RG 233, Various Select Committee Reports, HR 11A-F10.4). Addressed “To his Excellency The President of the United States, and the Honorable the Senate thereof.” Conjectural date assigned by comparison with another petition prepared at St. Louis on 10 Oct. 1809 and an advertisement of 26 Oct. 1809 concerning this petition (Carter, Territorial Papers, Louisiana-Missouri, 14:323–27, 338).

1John Baptiste Charles Lucas, a native of France, was a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, 1803–5. He served as land commissioner, 1805–12, and judge, 1805–20, for the northern district of Louisiana (later the Missouri Territory) at St. Louis.

2Lucas knew of this petition and suspected that it had been sent to JM. He declared to the secretary of war that it “contains no specifick Charges, it is a mere piece of slanderous declamation” (Lucas to William Eustis, Dec. 1809, Carter, Territorial Papers, Louisiana-Missouri, 14:355; see also Lucas to JM, 22 Mar. 1810, and nn.).

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