James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Linsey, 13 March 1812 (Abstract)

§ From James Linsey

13 March 1812, Washington. Informs JM about his petition before the Committee of Claims relating to land purchased at public sales to discharge the taxes imposed during the Adams administration.1 These lands “Proved to belong to diferent owners from those they ware taxed to,” and he believes the government “has Sold Property that do not belong to them.” Declares that his petition contains “Such Reasonings as would have been Sufisient to have Convinsed the Lowest Capasety” that his claim was just, and he outlines four reasons for his belief. “In the first Place I have Stated the onley Justefiable Cause in goverment for taxation was the Necsety of money to suporte goverment. In the Second Place to give up this Right was to destroy the bases of goverment. In the third Plac[e] that no goverment Culd Rationily believe that they Culd Colect a tax throut Such an Extencive goverment as the United States without Selling at Publick Sails Property taxed. In the fourth Place that no one would Purche⟨s⟩ if Property Sold at Such Sails ware not Securd to the Purchesor by goverment.” Also states “that the time Alowed by Law Having a lapsed the Purcheser has Every Right to the Property that a goverment Can aforde.” Has been offered the purchase money and interest, but he will not accept this. Had supposed that the government was “as bound by Law to Make the damages good” to him as it would have been to protect his title “aganst any indeveduel as if the Property had been the Property of him in whos Name it was Sold.” Civil governments have established “one uniform Law” that has “the Same afect aganst Goverment in faveur of an indevueduel as it Can Have in favour of goverment aganst an indevueduel in cases of Contrects for Property.” As he is five hundred miles from home and without friends or money, he seeks JM’s “friendly assistence and advice.”

RC (DLC). 2 pp. Docketed by JM.

1On 14 Nov. 1811 Uri Tracy of New York presented a petition from Linsey to the effect that in 1802 the marshal of Virginia, Joseph Scott, had sold for the direct tax owed on it a tract of eight thousand acres in Harrison County, Virginia, belonging to Levi Judson. The purchaser was William Scott of New Jersey, who later sold the tract to Linsey. Linsey subsequently discovered that the land had not belonged to Judson and that it had therefore been improperly sold. Linsey sought relief for the damages he had sustained, but the Committee of Claims, to whose members his petition was referred, was discharged from considering the matter on 24 Mar. 1812. Linsey resubmitted his claim in 1814, only to see the Committee of Claims again reject it on the grounds that it had not been legally established that the land in question did not belong to Judson, that if Linsey was entitled to relief from any person it was from William Scott, and that the U.S. under the circumstances was not “the warranter of the property sold” (Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States at the First Session of the Twelfth Congress [Washington, 1811], pp. 51, 532; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Claims, 445).

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