Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

States, nor as the advocates of their rights. They were called there as defendants of their own claim. The court did not undertake to decide on the right of the United States, which was oneither before them, nor within their com- *17 petence; and the injunction they issued could only be addressed to the parties between whom they had adjudged, and not to suspend the rights of others whom they had never heard, much less of the United States who could not be heard before them. See 2 Dallas 408. 3 Dallas 412.414. 415. Presuming, however, that the coast was now Livingston's

clear, and the question finally settled, the ostensi- minum. ble actors withdrew, and their principal comes forward, is put into possession by the Sheriff, and begins his works. The Governor, in his letter of Sept. 3, 1807, says, “a few days since, (Aug. 24.] Mr. Livingston employed a number of negroes to commence digging a canal which he projected to make in a part of the land called the batture. But the citizens assembled in considerable force and drove them off. On the day following he went in person, but was again opposed by the citizens. The minds of the people were much agitated. The opposition is so general that I must resort to measures the most conciliatory, as the only means of avoiding still greater tumult, and perhaps much bloodshed. I have not issued a proclamation because it might make an impression in the United States that the people are disposed for insurrection, which is not true. My opinion is that the title is in the United States. If the batture be reclaimed, it is feared the current of the Missisipi will in some measure change it’s course, which will not only prove injurious to the navigation, but may occasion degradation in the levees of the city, or those in it's vicinity.’ To abridge our narration by giving the substance of the communications. The people assembled the next day about the same hour, and for several days successively, by beat of drum. [Livingston's letter of Sept. 15, '07.] On Monday the 31st of August, Mr. Livingston recommenced his work, after having given notice that he should do so. He began about 10 o’clock, A. M. and about 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon the people assembled again and drove off his labourers. On the 14th of September he again attempted to work, getting two constables to attend his labourers. The people drove them off, and the constables having noted on a list some of those present, they seized them, took the list and tore it to pieces. [Sheriff's letter.] On the next day he writes to the Governor that he shall set his labourers to work again that day at 12 o'clock, and “he shall not be surprised to see the people change the insolence of riot into the crime of murder.” At noon he accordingly placed 10 or 12 white labourers there. In the afternoon the people re-assembled to the number of several hundreds. The Governor repaired there and spoke to *18 them. He was heard with respectful attention:* and one of them, speaking for the whole, expressed the serious uneasiness which the decision of the court had excited, the long and undisturbed possession of the batture by the city, as well under the French as the Spanish government, and the great Appeal to injury which would result to the inhabitants if the $ot land should be built upon and improved. And anoof the United ther declaring that they wished the decision of ConStates. - gress, and in the mean time, no work to be done on the batture, there was a general exclamation from the crowd, “that is the general wish,” followed by a request that they might nominate an agent to bear to the President of the United States, a statement of their grievances, and that the Governor would recommend the agent to the government. He said he would do so, and they nominated Col. Macarty, by general and repeated acclamations. They then withdrew in peace to their respective homes, and on the 16th the Governor expresses his hope that this unpleasant affair is at an end, that everything is then quiet, and the public mind much composed: that some of his hotheaded countrymen censured the mild course which was pursued, and would have been better pleased if the military had been called upon to disperse the assemblage. But I feel, says he, that the policy adopted was wise and humane, and that a contrary conduct would have increased the discontents, and occasioned the effusion of much innocent blood. The Louisianians, he adds, are an amiable virtuous people, but sensibly feel any wrongs which may be offered them. Mr. Livingston is alike feared and hated by most of the antient inhabitants. They dread his talents as a lawyer, and hate his views of speculation, which in the case of the batture are esteemed very generally by the Louisianians no less iniquitous, than ruinous to the welfare

of the city.’ The Governor says in another letter of October

[ocr errors]

*

5, to the Secretary of state, that in a progress he made a few days afterwards through several parishes of the territory, he perceived but one sentiment with respect to the decision of the court. The long and uninterrupted use of the batture by the city, the sanction given by the Spanish authorities to the public claim, and the heavy public expenditures in maintaining the levee which fronts it, seem to have given rise to a very general opinion that the court has been in error in deciding the batture to be private property. On the 13th of November he again writes, “I should be wanting in duty did I not earnestly recommend the subject of the batture to the attention of the government. There is no doubt but the agents of Spain considered it as a public property, and did appropriate the same to the use of the city, as a common. I should presume that, under the treaty, the United States may justly claim the bat

ture, and if any #means can be devised to arrest the *19 judgment of the territorial court, or to carry this case

before another tribunal, the earlier they are resorted to, the bet. ter; for Mr. Edward Livingston is now in possession of the property, and making improvements thereon.’ And the next day, Nov. 14, a grand jury of the most respectable characters of the place gave in a presentment to the court in which they say, “We present as a subject of the most serious complaint the present operations on the batture by Edward Livingston and others connected with him: that this is from 4 to 6 months of every year a part of the bed of the river, and an important part of the port of New-Orleans: that these operations of Edward Livingston are calculated to obstruct the free navigation of the river, to change the course of it’s waters, to deprive our western brethren, whose only market for the produce of their extensive territory, is to be found in this city, of the deposit which has hitherto remained free to them, and not only of incalculable importance, but of absolute necessity. Whether it be private or public property, is immaterial, so long as the laws do not permit such use of it as to injure and obstruct the navigation: and we present it as our opinion that all such measures should be taken as are consistent with law to arrest these operations which are injurious for the present, and, in changing the course of the river, are hazardous in the extreme.” We find Mr. Livingston then, instead of await

TNo. XVII. C

Livingston's works.

ing the decision of Congress, the only constitutional tribunal, resuming his works boldly, and the people, whom he represented as like ‘to change the insolence of riot into the crime of murder,’ appealing peaceably, by presentment, to the laws of their territory until the National government should decide. In the latter end of the same year, [Surveyor's rep. to Mayor, Dec. 28, '08.]he opens a canal from the bank directly through the beach into the river 276 feet long, 64 feet wide, and 4 feet 2 inches deep at low water, and with the earth excavated, he forms a bank or quai, on each side, 19 feet 6 inches wide, from 4 to 6 feet high above the level of the batture, and faeed with palissades. Within one year after this, what had been anticipated by the Governor, the grand jury and others, had already manifested itself. In Dec. of the ensuing year, 1808, [See Surveyor's rep. Dec. 28, '08.] a bar had already formed across the mouth of the canal, which was dry at low water, the course of the waters had been changed during the intervening flood, and the places where dry ground first showed itself, on the decrease

of the river, were such as had, the year before, been na*20 vigable at low water. [Mayor’s “answer to Governor,

Nov. 18, '08.] The port in front of the town had been impaired by a new batture begun to be formed opposite the Custom house, which could not fail to increase by the change of the current. The beach or batture of St. Mary had, in that single tide extended from 75 to 80 feet further into the river, and risen from 2 to 5 feet 10 inches generally, and more in places, as a saw scaffold which, at the preceding low tide, was 7 feet high, was now buried to it's top; and Tanesse, the Surveyor, [See his affidavit, MS.] in his affidavit says he does not doubt that these works have produced the last year's augmentation of the batture, at the expense of the bed of the river, have occasioned the carrying away a great part of the platin or batture of the lower suburbs, and breaking the levee of M. Blanque next below, and that the main port of the city being a cove, immediately below Livingston's works, would, if they were continued, be filled up in time; and it is the opinion of Piedesclaux also, [See his 3d affidavit, MS.] that they would produce changes in the banks of the river, on both sides, preju

* These are French measures; add a fifteenth to make them ours.

dicial to the city, and riparian proprietors, by directing th; efforts of the river against parts not heretofore exposed to it, And Mr. Poydras tells us, sp. 20 of one of his speeches,) that when the river is at it's height, the boats which drift down it can only land in the eddies below the points, as they would be dashed to pieces in attempting to land in the strong current. That, at the town, they cannot land for want of room, there being always there two or three tier of vessels in close contact; nor at the lower suburbs of Marigny, which being at the lower part of the cove, are too much exposed both to winds and current. Indeed no evidence is necessary to prove that in a river of only 1200 yards wide, having an annual tide of 12 to 14 feet rise, which brings the water generally to within 8 or 10 inches, and sometimes 2 or 3 inches, of the top of the levee, insomuch that it splashes over with the wind, [See Peltier's, and Tanesse's affidavits, MS. and also the maps, were the channel narrowed 250 yards, as Mr. Livingston intends, that is to say, a fourth or fifth of its whole breadth, the waters must rise higher in nearly the same proportion, that is to say, 3 feet at least, and would sweep away the whole levee, the city it now protects, and inundate all the lower country. Thus urged by the continued calls of the Governor, who declared he could not be responsible for the peace or preservation of the place, by the tumult and confusion in which the city was held by the bold aggressions of the intruders on the public rights, by the daily progress of works which were to interrupt the commerce of the whole western country, threatened to sweep away a *great city and it's inhabitants, and lay the ad- *21 jacent country under water, I listened to the calls of duty, imperious calls, which had I shrunk from, I should have been justly responsible for the calamities which would have followed. On the 24th of October, '07, the Attorney General had given his opinion, and on the 27th of November, '07, I asked the attendance of the heads of departments, to whom the papers received had been previously communicated for their consideration. We had the benefit of the presence of the Attorney General, and of the lights which it was his office to throw on the subject. We took of the whole case such views as the state of our information at that time presented. I shall now develope them in all the ful

Cabinet deliberation.

« AnteriorContinuar »