TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
Washington Dec. 23, 06.
—Yours of yesterday has been duly considered. What I had myself in contemplation was to wait until we got news from Louisville of Dec. 15 (the day of Burr’s proposed general rendez-vous). The post comes from thence in 12 days. The mail next expected will be of that date. If we then find that his force has had no effectual opposition at either Mariette or Cincinnati, & will not be stopped at Louisville, then, without depending on the opposition at Fort Adams, tho’ I have more dependence on that than on any other) I should propose to lay the whole matter before Congress, ask an immediate appropriation for a naval equipment and at the same time order 20,000 militia (or volunteers) from the western states to proceed down the river to retake N. O. presuming our naval equipment would be there before them. In the meantime I would recommend to you to be getting ready & giving orders of preparation to the officers and vessels which we can get speedily ready that is to say, the 3 sloops at Washington, the 2 gunboats and ketch at N. York, the 3 gunboats (not including No. 1) and ketch at Norfolk & the 3 gunboats at Charleston: all this on the supposition that the officers are of opinion that the gunboats can be safely sent at this season. We now see what would be the value of strong vessels of little draught for the shoaly coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. At any rate we should have some as powerful as a 12 feet draught of water could be made to bear. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF NEW ORLEANS
Washington January 3, 1807.
—I had intended yesterday to recommend to General Dearborne the writing to you weekly by post, to convey information of our western affairs, so long as they are interesting, because it is possible, though not probable, you might sometimes get the information quicker this way than down the river, but the General received yesterday information of the death of his son in the East Indies, and of course cannot now attend to business. I therefore write you a hasty line for the present week, and send it in duplicate by the Athens and the Nashville routes.
The information in the enclosed paper, as to proceedings in the State of Ohio, is correct. Blennerhasset’s flotilla of fifteen boats and two hundred barrels of provisions, is seized, and there can be no doubt that Tyler’s flotilla is also taken, because, on the 17th of December, we know there was a sufficient force assembled at Cincinnati to intercept it there, and another party was in pursuit of it on the river above. We are assured that these two flotillas composed the whole of the boats, provided Blennerhasset and Tyler had fled down the river. I do not believe that the number of persons engaged for Burr has ever amounted to five hundred, though some have carried them to one thousand or fifteen hundred. A part of these were engaged as settlers of Bastrop’s land, but the greater part of these were engaged under the express assurance that the projected enterprise was against Mexico, and secretly authorized by this government. Many were expressly enlisted in the name of the United States. The proclamation which reached Pittsburgh, December 2d, and the other parts of the river successively, undeceived both these classes, and of course drew them off, and I have never seen any proof of their having assembled more than forty men in two boats from Beaver, fifty in Tyler’s flotilla, and the boatmen of Blennerhasset’s. I believe therefore that the enterprise may be considered as crushed, but we are not to relax in our attentions until we hear what has passed at Louisville. If everything from that place upwards be successfully arrested, there is nothing from below that is to be feared. Be assured that Tennessee, and particularly General Jackson, are faithful. The orders lodged at Massac and the Chickasaw bluffs, will probably secure the interception of such fugitives from justice as may escape from Louisville, so that I think you will never see one of them. Still I would not wish, till we hear from Louisville, that you should relax your preparations in the least, except so far as to dispense with the militia of Mississippi and Orleans leaving their homes under our order of November 25th. Only let them consider themselves under requisition, and be in a state of readiness should any force, too great for your regulars, escape down the river. You will have been sensible that those orders were given while we supposed you were on the Sabine, and the supposed crisis did not admit the formality of their being passed through you. We had considered Fort Adams as the place to make a stand, because it covered the mouth of the Red river. You have preferred New Orleans on the apprehension of a fleet from the West Indies. Be assured there is not any foundation for such an expectation, but the lying exaggerations of those traitors to impose on others and swell their pretended means. The very man whom they represented to you as gone to Jamaica, and to bring the fleet, has never been from home, and has regularly communicated to me everything which had passed between Burr and him. No such proposition was ever hazarded to him. France or Spain would not send a fleet to take Vera Cruz; and though one of the expeditions now near arriving from England, is probably for Vera Cruz, and perhaps already there, yet the state of things between us renders it impossible they should countenance an enterprise unauthorized by us. Still I repeat that these grounds of security must not stop our proceedings or preparations until they are further confirmed. Go on, therefore, with your works for the defence of New Orleans, because they will always be useful, only looking to what should be permanent rather than means merely temporary. You may expect further information as we receive it, and though I expect it will be such as will place us at our ease, yet we must not place ourselves so until it be certain, but act on the possibility that the resources of our enemy may be greater and deeper than we are yet informed.
Your two confidential messengers delivered their charges safely. One arrived yesterday only with your letter of November 12th. The oral communications he made me are truly important. I beseech you to take the most special care of the two letters which he mentioned to me, the one in cypher, the other from another of the conspirators of high standing, and to send them to me by the first conveyance you can trust. It is necessary that all important testimony should be brought to one centre, in order that the guilty may be convicted, and the innocent left untroubled. Accept my friendly salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.
Having delivered to the Attorney Genl all the papers I possessed, respecting Burr & his accomplices, when he went to Richmond, I could only write to him (without knowing whether he was at Philadelphia, Wilmington, or Delaware) for your letter of Oct 21, desired by the court. If you have a copy of it, and chuse to give it in, it will, I think, have a good effect; for it was my intention, if I should receive it from Mr. Rodney, not to communicate it without your consent, after I learnt your arrival. Mr. Rodney will certainly either bring or send it within the course of a day or two, and it will be instantly forwarded to Mr. Hay. For the same reason, I cannot send the letter of J. P. D., as you propose, to Mr. Hay. I do not recollect what name these initials indicate, but the paper, whatever it is, must be in the hands of Mr. Rodney. Not so as to your letter to Dayton; for as that could be of no use in the prosecution, & was reserved to be forwarded or not, according to circumstances, I retained it in my own hands, & now return it to you. If you think Dayton’s son should be summoned, it can only be done from Richmond. We have no subpœnas here. Within about a month we shall leave this to place ourselves in healthier stations. Before that I trust you will be liberated from your present attendance. It would have been of great importance to have had you here with the Secretary of War, because I am very anxious to begin such works as will render Plaquemine impregnable, and an insuperable barrier to the passage of any force up or down the river. But the Secretary at War sets out on Wednesday, to meet with some other persons at New York, and determine on the works necessary to be undertaken to put that place hors d’insulte, & thence he will have to proceed northwardly, I believe. I must ask you, at your leisure, to state to me in writing what you think will answer our views at Plaquemine, within the limits of expense which we can contemplate, & of which you can form a pretty good idea.
Your enemies have filled the public ear with slanders, & your mind with trouble on that account. The establishment of their guilt will let the world see what they ought to think of their clamors; it will dissipate the doubts of those who doubted for want of knolege, and will place you on higher ground in the public estimate and public confidence. No one is more sensible than myself of the injustice which has been aimed at you. Accept, I pray you, my salutations, & assurances of respect & esteem.