James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, 5 September 1810

From Albert Gallatin

New York 5th Septer. 1810

Dear Sir

At Mr Astor’s request I enclose a letter1 which he read to me. I gave him no opinion on the contents. But he desired me to request that if it was not thought proper to give to the person he means to send a recommendatory letter for Mr Adams, the enclosed might be considered as private and not be sent to the Department of State.

I have not yet received the papers for Mr Poinsett; but there having been no opportunity for either Brasils or La Plata, the delay has not been injurious. Whenever they come, your observations will be duly attended to.

The sickness and death of Colo. Few’s2 only son have within the last week occupied all my time, and prevented my reading with the attention due to it Mr Jefferson’s memoir on the batture. I suppose that my keeping it a week longer will produce no inconvenience, but beg, if you see him, that you will have the goodness to make this apology for the delay.

I understand that Mr Pinkney has recovered near ten thousand £ St. from Brown, but have not heard from him on the subject.

If we can get over the other difficulties respecting West Florida, the business of the custom house will offer none; the laws having been so worded as to include in the districts of Orleans & Mobile whatever we may claim & possess. This was the ground of offence to Yrujo.3 The law also which authorizes the President to take possession of Louisiana will legally cover any other measures which policy may dictate in relation to that part of West Florida which lies between the Mississipi & the Perdido. But what ground ought generally to be taken consistent with justice, the rights and interests of the U. States, and the preservation of peace, is the difficult question.

Mrs. G. requests to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Madison. With great respect Your obedt. Servt

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Letter not found, but it was probably Astor to JM, 31 Aug. 1810, described as a four-page letter in the lists made by Peter Force (DLC, series 7, container 2). The contents almost certainly concerned the forthcoming visit to Russia of Adrian Benjamin Bentzon, John Jacob Astor’s son-in-law, for business negotiations with the Russian American Company. Bentzon had been in Washington in July 1810 where he had sought and obtained the approval of the Russian diplomats Count Fedor Petrovich Pahlen and Andrei Dashkov for his plans. At that time Pahlen had introduced Bentzon to JM, and as JM’s response suggests, Astor was now very likely seeking the president’s sanction to make John Quincy Adams a party to negotiations in St. Petersburg between the Russian American Company and Astor’s American Fur Company (Porter, John Jacob Astor, 1:192–96, 439–42; JM to Gallatin, 12 Sept. 1810, and n. 2).

2William Few (1748–1828), formerly U.S. senator from Georgia, 1789–93, was married to Hannah Nicholson Gallatin’s sister Catharine Nicholson Few. In 1799 he had moved to New York where he was active in city politics and business (Kline, Papers of Burr, 1:590).

3Gallatin referred to the fourth and eleventh sections of the so-called Mobile Act of 24 Feb. 1804, providing for either the annexation to the Mississippi revenue district of “all the navigable waters … lying within the United States, which empty into the Gulf of Mexico, east of the river Mississippi” or the creation of a separate revenue district for the waters of “the bay and river Mobile … emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, east of the said river Mobile.” The Spanish minister, Carlos Fernando Martínez de Yrujo, had protested strongly to JM in 1804 against this legislation’s embodying American claims that the Louisiana Purchase had also included West Florida (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America ... (17 vols.; Boston, 1848-73). description ends , 2:251–54; Cox, The West Florida Controversy, pp. 97–99).

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