James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John B. C. Lucas, 22 March 1810

From John B. C. Lucas

St. Louis March 22d. 1810.


It has been my Misfortune from the commencement of the Sitting of the Board of Commissioners, for ascertaining Titles and adjusting Claims to Land in the Territory of Louisiana until this present time to be one of those who entertained and entertains opinions the least favorable to land Claimants, this is a fact that I should undertake to prove by transcripts of various parts of the proceedings of the Board, was Not Mr gallatin allready possessed of full information on that head; this, Sir, is more than Sufficient to account for the Libellous petition that has been Signed in this territory against me, and which I suppose has been presented to you by Col. John Smith T.1 The Bounds of a Letter do Not permit me to enter into the details Necessary to prove the correctness of the opinions I have given as Land commissioner, suffice it to say that it cannot be suspected that I have been biassed by partiality for french Men or by bribery, had these things taken place you probably would Not have heard of any complaints against me either as Judge or commissioner. Lest however these should be considered as mere surmises I wish that an inquiry into my official conduct may take place.2 I have the honor to be, Sir, Most respectfully your very humble svt.

John B. C. Lucas


1John Smith, who placed a T. after his name to identify himself as a Tennessean, was an early settler in the Ste. Genevieve district of the Louisiana Territory where he became heavily involved in both lead mining and speculation in old Spanish land claims. In territorial politics Smith T. supported James Wilkinson during his governorship, but he was dismissed in 1807 from his local judicial and militia offices by acting governor Frederick Bates who suspected him of involvement with Aaron Burr. As one of the three commissioners appointed to settle disputed land claims, Lucas earned the hostility of Smith T. and other land claimants because of his opposition to the wholesale confirmation of Spanish land titles. In August 1809 Smith T. and others organized a convention at Ste. Genevieve to petition Congress to establish a more generous land policy and to remove Lucas from office as well. In St. Louis two months later, Smith T. was appointed to go to Washington to lobby on behalf of the claimants (William E. Foley, A History of Missouri, 1673 to 1820, vol. 1 of A History of Missouri, ed. William Parrish [Columbia, Mo., 1971], pp. 101–2, 103, 121, 123, 124, 142–43; Lucas to Gallatin, 19 Oct. 1809, Carter, Territorial Papers, Louisiana-Missouri, 14:335; see also Inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory to JM, ca. 10 Oct. 1809).

2JM ignored or was unaware of the criticism, for he had already nominated Lucas for a second term on 19 Mar. The Senate confirmed the appointment two days later (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:142).

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