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This webpage reproduces an item in the
Louisiana Historical Quarterly

published by the
Louisiana Historical Society

The text is in the public domain.

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 p321  Translation of some Documents
Bearing on General Collot's Arrest

Letter from the Governor to General Collot:

New Orleans, October 28, 1796.

General: I deeply regret not having been able to treat you with the sincerity and frankness which my friendship for you suggested; you must have noticed by the questions put yesterday that I did not betray your confidence in me. It was natural to ask you to produce the important despatches you remitted to the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois for me; I could also have shown letters from the envoys of France and Spain which you handed me that the principal one had been sent to me by a vessel which probably threw them into the sea, since they contained no allusion to the real object of your voyage; they did not authorize you to reconnoitre the province, nor entitle you to the condescension which the commanders of different posts showed you in allowing you to go over them. Perhaps you have been mistaken about their contents, and that is why I send you Mr. Adet's letter, and I shall afterwards interpret that of Don Jose Jaudenes which is in the same sense.

I could not allow you to carry out the object of your mission without exposing myself to disagreeable consequences from my Court. I believe you would do well to await at the Balize a vessel leaving in ten days for Philadelphia, under the Spanish flag, with which you will come to terms as to the price of your passage. You will reside in the home of the head pilot, a man in easy circumstances, who will treat you well; according to the orders I have given, you will be perfectly free.

As I am incapable of abusing of your confidence all your papers will be returned to you, even those particularly concerning Louisiana, but for their safety at sea, you will do well to spread the rumor, as I shall on my side, if you judge proper, that I have retained them in my power. Your departure for the Balize will set to rest the minds of the inhabitants whom your arrival had generally alarmed.

If you prefer to go to Havana you will likewise have a boat shortly and from there you could reach your destination. To end it, General, I shall no longer conceal from you that I was warned from Philadelphia that you were intrusted with a secret mission against  p322 which I was told to be on my guard; I was not however informed from whom you held this mission.

I had sent orders higher up the river to observe your movements closely and not to leave you diverge from your route, but they came too late.

Advices from Messrs. Jaudenes and Adet jointly would have spared us many inconveniences and would have given me the opportunity to show you the high consideration with which I have the honor, etc.

Signed: Baron de Carondelet."

General Collot's answer to preceding letter:

New Orleans, October 28, 1796.

"Mr. Governor: I am infinitely thankful for your personal interest in me.

If the advice you received from Philadelphia comes from your minister you are fulfilling a sacred duty towards your Sovereign; in the contrary case, you are compromised and mistaken.

For the dignity of my country I cannot remain any longer in the territory of His Catholic Majesty; I then, sir, accept your proposition. I cannot agree with you on the pretended alarm my presence caused among the inhabitants. The reception tendered to me by them and the different commanders would contradict this assertion. This will be proved by the accompanying letters remitted to me on my route from St. Louis down to New Orleans; you will oblige me by taking cognizance of them.

The word "condescension" in your letter is not admissible, the republic receives it from no one, I exhort you to change it.

As honest as yourself, Mr. Governor, equally anxious for the glory of our Sovereigns, (you of your King, I of the republic), I regret infinitely that too much hastiness, and perhaps a little prejudice on your side, should have deprived us of communicating to each other the ideas which might have been of use to the interest of both nations, threatened on all sides by the common enemy of this part of the globe. I have the honor to remain, etc.

Signed: Victor Collot."

 p323  Governor Carondelet to General Victor Collot:

October 30, 1796.

"Sir: You will have the chair in question tomorrow; it will be made in the morning or at the latest at noon.

You must have heard of the answer Mr. Clark gave when I suggested to put in at the harbor of Charleston, but it does not appear to be an unsurmountable difficulty. If you return my letter I shall make the change you desire; I am now working on my answer to Mr. Adet's letter, handed to me by you.

This morning I received Mr. Gayoso's letter which was delayed eight days between Baton Rouge and New Orleans; it was dated the 15th, eve of your departure.

Be assured of the sincerity of the feelings, General, of your very humble, etc.

Signed: Baron de Carondelet."

Governor Carondelet to General Collot:

"I return, General, the accompanying letter and during the day you will receive the remainder with the exception of the order of arrest which was only verbal; but I will tell it to you officially which will be equivalent. The clause you desire inserted in your passport would expose you to the loss of you of papers in case of an undesirable meeting at sea, since it would reveal their existence, but you could take a supposed name instead of that of General Collot. Receive the assurance of my sincere attachment.

Signed: Baron de Carondelet."

General Collot to the Governor of Louisiana:

October 31, 1796.

Mr. Governor: My mission is too honorable to be denatured by a supposed name. An officer of the French republic prefers at any time to expose himself to suffering and even to loss of life, rather than save his life by an action unworthy of a great nation.

Therefore, Mr. Governor, I insist on the passport being under my own name and I shall accept no other.

Signed: Victor Collot."

 p324  Governor Carondelet to General Victor Collot:

New Orleans, La.,º October 31st, 1796.

General: I have only a moment to say that after having weighed the reasons for and against concerning your baggage, I am of opinion that you go by sea as more certain and speedier; I shall give you a passport as you desire it. The chair will be brought to you tonight and all your papers will be remitted to you tomorrow, so that you may leave early day after tomorrow, if nothing prevents, but we will speak tonight on this subject. In the meanwhile I am entirely at your service.

Signed: Baron de Carondelet."

General Collot to Governor Carondelet at the moment of his departure:

The Balize, December 4, 1796.

Mr. Governor: I received your letter and the different papers sent with it. It pained me to see that after my confidence in you and the verbal promise you made that all would be returned, you however, thought fit to retain some of them, principally the plan of St. Louis, the map of all the American portion of Illinois, the memorial of the Grand Osage and Arkansas rivers.

That you should have kept the plan of St. Louis is plain since it was intended for you, as also the correspondence of General Gayoso; that of Mr. Zenon would have proven it; and thereby you deprived me of the pleasure of remitting them to you in person. But Mr. Governor, the map of the American portion of Illinois, containing 60 miles of country was not subject to confiscation; it is property belonging to the French Republic, and which, allow me to say, you can have no excuse for retaining. The pretext which you allege that the Spanish is on it is not admissible, for you well know that there is but the line showing the width of the river and the points of St. Genevieve and St. Louis, simply to indicate their latitude, and in this case the accessories would be more weighty than the principal.

At most you would have had the right to detach the part adjoining Spanish territory, supposing that a line drawn from Hutchin's map may be of consequence in the hands of the Republic. This map is too essential a part of the collection of which I am but the depositary for me to forego it lightly.

I shall then await your answer by the first boats bound for Philadelphia or New York before laying this affair before our respective  p325 ministers, confident that it will be treated reasonably and with the respect due to an allied power.

I have the honor to remain, etc.

Signed: Victor Collot."

"I, the undersigned, Jean Cortes, inhabitant of New Orleans, declare that having left the said port the eighth day of last May, in the American schooner named Betsy, under orders of Captain Peter Davis, bound for Baltimore, a package addressed to General Collot, residing in Philadelphia, was intrusted to me by the Baron de Carondelet, Governor General of the Province, with instruction to guard it carefully, to remit it to him personally, and authorizing me to throw it into the sea if there survened any risk of its falling into the enemy's hands. That the 20th day of the same month, we were accosted by an English schooner, named the "Ranger," Captain Schearman, who after having examined our papers declared us a prize and ordered us to follow the route to New Providence, in virtue of which I profited of a favorable moment to tie a piece of lead to the said package and threw it into the sea, without the English perceiving it; all of which I declared on my arrival in this country before Don Thomas Stoughton, Consul of His Catholic Majesty, actually ratifying and signing the present declaration in New York, October 5th, 1797.

Signed: Jean Cortes."

Don Thomas Stoughton, Consul of His Catholic Majesty for the State of New York.

"Certify that appeared in this consulate Mr. Jean Cortes, and that the preceding declaration was signed in my presence, that the said declaration may serve if need be, I granted the present certificate, signed by my hand, with seal of the consulate in New York, this 5th day of October, 1797.

Signed: Thomas Stoughton."

"I declare that what precedes is a translation of the sub-joined declaration in Spanish. Philadelphia, October 7th, 1797.


"I certify that the signature of Thomas Stoughton which appears in the sub-joined document is that of His Catholic Majesty's Consul  p326 of the State of New York, and that the seal is that of the said consulate in which faith must be put.

Signed: Carlos Martinez de Yrujo."

Don Carlos Martinez de Yrujo was minister plenipotentiary and extraordinary from Spain to the United States of America.

These translations taken from "Voyage dans L'Amérique Septentrionale," from Mr. Gaspar Cusachs' library.

Page updated: 1 Mar 06