the Future of the Land
As soon as the Louisiana Purchase had been achieved, President Thomas Jefferson turned once more to its final negotiator, James Monroe. Having sent James Wilkinson to raise the Stars and Stripes over the parade ground of New Orleans at the end of 1803, Jefferson sought a more respectable yet equally manageable agent to conduct the civilian business of his new empire. Though his first choice may have been the Marquis de Lafayette, his more practical preference was for Monroe. It was traditional in colonial management that governors find personal profit in the territories put in their charge. Monroe had earned such a plum, indeed he had ripened it by arranging the acquisition of Louisiana on terms satisfactory to those with slaves to put to work and slaves to sell. Jefferson offered Monroe the opportunity twice.
He was refused twice, for Monroe interpreted the offers as manifesting Jefferson's desire to get him out of Madison's path to the presidency. Jefferson kept his temper and his settled plan, showing his irritation only when Monroe sought too often to secure for Fulwar Skipwith a profitable role in the affairs of Louisiana. On May 18, 1803, Monroe wrote Jefferson requesting that Skipwith be relieved of his guerrilla duties in Europe and granted retirement in a patronage post in the new province. Skipwith had admitted being “desirous of an appointment (Collector of the Port) at New Orleans,” wrote Monroe, and “he has served long and faithfully here [Paris].… Having known the direct and upright line of his conduct, through a period of great political embarrassment, I feel much interest in his future.” 1
Jefferson was unmoved and told Monroe that Skipwith must stay on station. He was, wrote the President, “much fitter for any matter of business (below that of diplomacy) which we may have to do in Europe.” Below the level of diplomacy lay the tier of “scut work,” in the language of intelligence. There would be no coming in from the cold. The Skipwiths at Prestwould were receding into Virginia's past and were of little use to the imperial Virginia of the nineteenth century. 2