Will C. Carr to Moses Austin, 08-12-1806

Summary: Opinion of Austin's procedure with John Smith T. Rufus Easton's attack on Donaldson, one of the Land Commissioners.

St Louis 12th. August 1806


Your several favors have been duly received: in answer to the first I have to inform you that the reports of the indians, being embodied to do any damage either at this place or any where else within the territory is the mere idle suggestion of timid minds or designing knaves. It is the shallow pretext of those who wish, the residence of the military amongst us. and as in the reality there is not the existance of even the semblance of danger to warrant the report so I trust, the wish of those who wish the encampment of a great many troops in our agitated territory may be entirely blasted—

Your conduct towards Smith so far as I have any knowledge of it, meets my entire approbation. But You certainly are disposed to compliment me, by the submission of your conduct to my judgment— Your age as well as your talents and experience doubtless warrant me in saying the reverse of this would certainly be the most proper— But if the suggestion of my ideas in any case or in any situation can be of any service to you, they shall always flow free as air, and warm from the dictates of friendship—

I approbate your answer to Smith and hope you will continue to pursue towards him a line of conduct, firm yet moderate— If I may once be permitted to mention to you one trait in your character that may be amended; it is your temper, I do not mention this as being a prominent feature in any part of your late conduct either towards Smith or others—far from it— Your conduct has been cool, dispassionate and Prudent. But I only mention it to you as your weak side and on which it is so necessary to arm yourself in your treatment to John Smith. Beware of that man! He is the spirit of faction and exists only in the element of discord! Give such men tether enough and they will hang themselves. Endeavour to act only on the defensive, and suffer the Law to deal with him— For with this you will find men of this discription often enough coming into contact.— At the same time it will not be necessary for me to mention to you, those lengths to which a man of character ought to proceed, (overleaping the line of defensive conduct) to maintain unsullied his reputation. On this subject you need no prompter, and I shall not presume even to hazzard the suggestion of a single idea.

In regard to your having commenced actions against S[mith] and M[adden?] you have probably done well: and I can only observe further, that the report by M. was certainly very improper and doubtless actionable—

I cannot see as far as the probable consequences of your notification to Mr. Oliver, concerning your removal from office: and more especially of an attempt, should you make one, to resume your seat on the bench. This is certainly an affair pregnant with important consequences both of a public and private nature—and deserves well to be weighed, before you proceed to carry it into execution. Will it not produce a riot? Can Smith yield to it peaceably? I fear not? I fear he would proceed to some outrage ? If so it might tend to very pernicious effects. Besides I should not desire to see you for a moment subject to the mortification of disappointment. I should not wish you to make an attempt without being certain of success— Under these circumstances would it not be best, to have the question decided in the general Court? This might be very easily effected by pleading in abatement, to some one writ that John Smith T. is not first justice of the court I am aware that This method is subject to several inconveniences, such as delay etc. But the question is, is it not the best method that can be adopted at this moment ?— If you and S. were friends so that you could assume the seat again without breeding any disturbance, it would then rest, for the governors friends to prove you were legally dismissed— But I suppose the terms between you will not warrant you in writing to him to know what would be his conduct if you were to do so— But I do not see, wherein, this measure would be dishonorable on your part. For you might inform him of the letter received from governor Harrison and your intention to resume your seat if he were not determined to oppose it with force: and that as you abhored every thing that had a tendency to irritate the public mind and disturb the administration of justice— You wished that the law might decide the question. However in this I submit entirely to yourself act as you may deem most prudent for yourself and beneficial to the public interest-

As the Western World says—Look here! read this! To day— whilst the board was sitting Easton marched into the room and gave Donaldson the cane whilst sitting on the bench. This was the first time (I believe) that E had seen D after his return— The room was very full of people and we were just commencing the ex- animation of old Mattes case— E gave him four or five [a]ssaults with the cudgel and then stepped back a few paces. D. then jumped off the bench and seized a sword cane which he always carries with him and which was standing at the end of the bench— But did not attempt to do any thing with it— However I forgot to tell you— Whilst E. was plying him with his cudgel he commanded him all the time to march you damned little rogue March you damned rascal— and when retired at the distance of a few paces as above, he abused D. very much all in the room and in presence of a full board D. not saying a single word, and Doubtless seized with a double portion of that suspense which held every body for some time in utter astonishment— At last Judge Lucas (as of course he was obliged to do) ordered E. out of the house, and, cleared the room to deliberate on what should be done to revenge the insult offered to the board. The result was; they issued some kind of process against him but of what nature I am not able to tell you. The effect of it is not yet known and how they will punish him otherwise than for assault and battery—I cannot tell— Surely there never was a more ridiculous act committed by any man-— For in the first place the time was beyond all calculation improper—and insulting every member of the board— in the second place after he began it, he did not half finish it— He gave him only a few strokes with the cane and they not put on hard enough to hurt him— I am very sorry it was done: be- cause it will not only operate against him but all the party— On the contrary— if he had given it to him in the streets— or on some fit occasion he would have been supported, by every body and ultimately sustained no damage— But now even the passions of the government abroad must be enlisted on their side; for the sake of protecting their officers from similar outrages— It was done without the knowledge or approbation of any of his friends— However much I deprecate the circumstance at present: yet I believe it is better done any way than no way at all— I do not wish any thing I have said to operate against Easton but candour has obliged me to give you this full statement— Therefore do not let the world know we censure him—

One word more and I have done— Do you not owe Perigrine Falconer something— If so let me advise you even at the expence of a sacrifice, be punctual to a day to pay him at Orleans— Trust me in this, it will be for your benefit—- More I cannot say— But be certain to pay him to the hour there, if within the compass of possibility— More I will probably tell you of this hereafter.

Will C Carr

[Addressed:] Moses Austin esq Mr. E. Bates. Mine a Breton