James Madison Papers

Orramel Johnston to an Unidentified Correspondent, 18 May 1812 (Abstract)

§ Orramel Johnston to
an Unidentified Correspondent

18 May 1812, Natchez. “As a Stranger to you I confer you so far as to forward this letter to Mr. James Madison President of the United states of America with all the haste imaginable it contains something of a very serious Nature the faster it is forwarded the better it is for him.”1

RC (DLC). 1 p. Dated both 17 and 18 May.

1The letter Johnston wished JM to see has not been identified, but its subject matter more than likely related either to the activities of José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara and William Shaler in Natchitoches or to the current state of affairs in Mexico. On 17 May Shaler himself wrote to Monroe to inform him that Gutiérrez de Lara had just been approached by a man purporting to be a French agent who offered the Mexican, in the name of the French minister, a force of four hundred men and the sum of $100,000 for the purchase of arms and military stores. At first Shaler was unsure whether this man was an imposter, a Spanish agent in disguise, or merely a practical joker, but he wrote again five days later, this time convinced that the man really was a French agent named Paillet (Shaler to Monroe, 17 and 22 May 1812 [DNA: RG 59, Communications from Special Agents]).

The background to such reports was the ongoing rebellion against Spanish rule in Mexico, particularly the guerilla warfare waged by troops under the command of Ignacio Rayón. It was also clear that Rayón’s efforts would be assisted by American filibustering forces being organized from the town of Natchitoches itself, many of which were to participate in the Gutiérrez-Magee raid of August 1812. Three weeks after Johnston tried to expedite this message to JM, he wrote to Monroe, addressing the secretary of state not as a stranger but as an “honorable friend” and stating his fear that both Gutiérrez de Lara and Shaler were possibly plotting some activities in conjunction with the filibustering forces that might not comport with administration policy toward Spain and its colonies (Johnston to Monroe, 12 June 1812 [DLC: Monroe Papers]).

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