James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Harry Toulmin, 6 February 1811 (Abstract)

§ From Harry Toulmin

6 February 1811, Fort Stoddert. Writes that “nothing material has occurred” since his last letter other than the failure of the judge sent by Claiborne to establish civil government in the settlement on the Pascagoula River. Quotes from a 27 Jan. letter written to him by Judge Cumming1 describing “‘the state of anarchy and confusion’” on the Pascagoula and the refusal of Dupree to permit the rule of law. Cumming “seems fearful that a number of slaves taken by Dupree, might be carried off, and wishes me to have any answering to the description he gives, stopped in this country, if carried this way.” The individual who owns the slaves has reportedly “been plundered to the amount of 30,000 dollars,” and Dupree has harassed smaller property owners as well, alleging that he has been directed by Col. James Caller “to maintain his authority.” Chief Justice John Caller of Washington County “has gone, I am told to pay him a visit,” which Toulmin trusts will produce “submission to the laws.”

“As to the Spaniards, it is said that a talk has lately been given to the Indians at Pensacola, creating an expectation of a war with the U. States. I cannot satisfy myself of the truth of the report.” Nor does he give much credit to rumors that a British force is expected at Pensacola. Declares that the U.S. has lost standing with Spanish officials, who believe that the U.S. “countenanced and abetted” the revolt of their subjects. “Hence it is probable that difficulties may arise in the arrangements with the Governor of Florida, which there was not the smallest reason to apprehend when Col. M’Kee left this place.” Gives credit, however, to JM’s proclamation for effecting some “releasement from revolutionary dangers.” Adds in a postscript that a letter just received from Cushing states that Hampton has ordered the troops to be removed from Mobile and sent to Fort Stoddert.2 “I regret this step, as I fear that many of the citizens at Mobile have so far committed themselves with the Spanish officers, that they may now feel their displeasure.”

RC (DLC). 4 pp. Docketed by JM. Printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, Mississippi, 6:175–77.

1Fortescue Coming (Cumming) (1762–1828) was a justice of the peace and sheriff in the St. Helena Parish of Orleans Territory. He was also the author of Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country, through the States of Ohio and Kentucky … and a Trip through the Mississippi Territory, and Part of West Florida (Pittsburgh, 1810; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols. to date; New York, 1958—). description ends 19902). In January 1811 Claiborne commissioned him as a justice of the peace for the Pascagoula region of West Florida (Carter, Territorial Papers, Orleans, 9:985, 986; Claiborne to William Flood, 5 Jan. 1811, Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends , 5:82).

2On 24 Dec. 1810 Lt. Col. Richard Sparks had ordered a force of territorial militia and regulars under Capt. Edmund P. Gaines to take possession of Mobile in pursuance of JM’s 27 Oct. 1810 proclamation annexing West Florida. Col. Thomas Cushing countermanded Sparks’s order to seize Mobile on 4 Jan. 1811, but the troops under Gaines’s command remained in the vicinity of Mobile awaiting further developments. On 19 Jan. Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton directed Cushing to withdraw the force to Fort Stoddert, an order that Cushing, for reasons similar to those indicated by Toulmin to JM, obeyed with some reluctance (see Cushing to William Eustis, 15 Jan. 1811, and enclosures [DNA: RG 107, LRRS, C-335:5], and 27 Feb. 1811, and enclosures [ibid., C-362:5]).

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