Friday, August 7, 2015

Patterson and Ross Awarded Laffite-owned Property They Seized

This week on Historia Obscura there is a very significant article by Pam Keyes.

The article gives the background for a letter written by John Dick, the US District Attorney for Louisiana,  to James Monroe, the Secretary of State, on behalf of the Baratarian privateers. President James Madison had just signed a blanket pardon to the Baratarians for their evasion of the Customs Taxes of the day prior to the Battle of New Orleans. Dick was glad he did not have to prosecute any of the Baratarians, because of their indispensable service to the United States that helped defeat the British.

But despite the presidential pardon, Pam Keyes notes in her article that property belonging to the Baratarians, and the Laffites in particular, which had been seized in the Patterson-Ross raid prior to the Battle of New Orleans, was awarded by Congress to the raiders, Patterson and Ross,  to have and to hold and to spend as they pleased.

A couple of weeks before Dick wrote his letter, and after the Baratarian indictments were dropped, Ross left New Orleans in March 1815 for Washington, D.C. to petition Congress with the help of a Congressional friend for the monies from the Barataria raid. The bill for the relief of Ross and Patterson was read for the first time in Congress on April 1816, a month before the sickly Ross died at a relative’s home in Pennsylvania. Jean Laffite went to Washington, too, but not until December 1815, when he wrote a letter to President Madison on Dec. 27 seeking recovery of the raid monies. Madison’s response is unknown, but at that time, he was not in Washington. On Feb. 22, 1817, President Madison signed into law an amended bill supported by Congress that directed the secretary of the treasury to pay Ross and Patterson $50,000 from the proceeds of the Barataria raid.
 We have to ask ourselves who were the pirates in this transaction, and who was the aggrieved property holder.


  1. It is interesting to learn more about the history behind Laffite.

    1. Thanks, Julia. I do think Pam Keyes' article sheds a lot of light on the issue of how enforcement of the tax laws led to the lining of the pockets of public servants.