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Mobile, Alabama

Jefferson's active interest in Mobile Alabama[1] began with the Louisiana Purchase. He adopted the claim that the eastern boundary of Louisiana was the Perdido River (between the present states of Alabama and Florida). The "Mobile Act," passed by Congress in February 1804, defined revenue boundaries for the newly acquired territories and established a "Mobile District" with the Perdido as the eastern boundary. However, Spain disavowed the American claims to the area between the Perdido and Mississippi Rivers and continued to hold the port of Mobile. When France gave no support to the American claim, Jefferson did not press the eastern boundary issue at that time. The boundary dispute was to remain in diplomatic channels until General James Wilkinson was ordered to Mobile from New Orleans in 1813. During the interim period, Jefferson's primary concern seemed to be with the uninterrupted American navigation of the Mobile River.[2]

Primary Source References[3]

1804 July 5. (Jefferson to James Madison). "...we shall enter into the exercise of our right of navigating the Mobile and protect it, and increase our force there pari passu with them [Spain]."[4]

1805 March 23. (Jefferson to James Madison). "I wish he [James Monroe] may settle the right of navigating the Mobile, as every thing else may await further peaceable proceedings."[5]

1805 April 1. (Jefferson to James Madison). "Should it end in our getting the navigation of the Mobile only, we must make our protestation to Spain that we reserve our right which neither time nor silence is to lessen and shall assert it when circumstances call for it."[6]

1814 July 14. (Jefferson to Dr. Samuel Brown). "It will give a wrongful hue to a rightful act of taking possession of Mobile, and will be imputed to the national authority as Meranda's enterprise was, because not punished by it.[7]


  1. This article is based on Gaye Wilson, Monticello Research Report, August 1999.
  2. See Malone, Jefferson, 4:342-347.
  3. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  4. James Morton Smith, ed. The Republic of Letters, (New York: Norton, 1995), 2:1328.
  5. Ibid, 3:1367.
  6. Ibid, 3:1370.
  7. L&B, 13:311.


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