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.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
January 4, 1807.
There is a vessel fitting out at New York, formerly called the Emperor, now the James, or the Brutus (accounts differ), to carry 22 guns and 150 men, and to be commanded by Blakely, who went out Lieutenant of the Leander. She is confidently believed to be destined for Burr at New Orleans. The collector should be put on his guard; he can get much information from the Mayor of New York on the subject. If Blakely went out really with Miranda as Lieutenant, he should be immediately arrested and put on his trial. Will you be so good as to take the necessary measures on this subject?
TO REV. CHARLES CLAY
Washington Jan. 11, 07.
—Yours of Dec. 10, has been duly received, and I thank you for your friendly attention to the offer of lands adjoining me for sale. It is true that I have always wished to purchase a part of what was Murray’s tract which would straiten the lines of the Poplar Forest, but I really am not able to make a purchase. I had hoped to keep the expences of my office within the limits of its salary so as apply my private income entirely to the improvement & enlargement of my estate: but I have not been able to do it. Our affairs with Spain, after which you enquire, do not promise the result we wish. Not that war will take place immediately; but they may go off without a settlement, and leave us in constant bickering about indemnification for Spoliations, the navigation of the Mobille, and the Limits of Louisiana.
Burr’s enterprise is the most extraordinary since the days of Don Quixot. It is so extravagant that those who know his understanding would not believe it if the proofs admitted doubt. He has meant to place himself on the throne of Montezuma, and extend his empire to the Allegany seizing on N Orleans as the instrument of compulsion for our Western States. I think his undertaking effectually crippled by the activity of Ohio. Whether Kentucky will give him the coup de grâce is doubtful; but if he is able to descend the river with any means we are sufficiently prepared at New Orleans. I hope however Kentucky will do its duty & finish the matter for the honour of popular govmt and the discouragement of all arguments for standing armies. Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of great esteem & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
January 13, 1807.
The appointment of a woman to office is an innovation for which the public is not prepared, nor am I. Shall we appoint Springs, or wait the further recommendations spoken of by Bloodworth? Briggs has resigned, and I wish to consult with you when convenient on his successor, as well as on an Attorney-General. Affectionate salutations.
TO JOHN DICKINSON
Washington Jan. 13, 1807.
My dear and ancient Friend,
—I have duly received your favor of the 1st inst., and am ever thankful for communications which may guide me in the duties which I wish to perform as well as I am able. It is but too true that great discontents exist in the territory of Orleans. Those of the French inhabitants have for their sources, 1, the prohibition of importing slaves. This may be partly removed by Congress permitting them to receive slaves from the other States, which, by dividing that evil, would lessen its danger; 2, the administration of justice in our forms, principles, & language, with all of which they are unacquainted, & are the more abhorrent, because of the enormous expense, greatly exaggerated by the corruption of bankrupt & greedy lawyers, who have gone there from the Ud S. & engrossed the practice; 3, the call on them by the land commissioners to produce the titles of their lands. The object of this is really to record & secure their rights. But as many of them hold on rights so ancient that the title papers are lost, they expect the land is to be taken from them wherever they cannot produce a regular deduction of title in writing. In this they will be undeceived by the final result, which will evince to them a liberal disposition of the government towards them. Among the American inhabitants it is the old division of federalists & republicans. The former are as hostile there as they are everywhere, & are the most numerous & wealthy. They have been long endeavoring to batter down the Governor, who has always been a firm republican. There were characters superior to him whom I wished to appoint, but they refused the office: I know no better man who would accept of it, and it would not be right to turn him out for one not better. But it is the 2d. cause, above mentioned, which is deep-seated & permanent. The French members of the Legislature, being the majority in both Houses, lately passed an act declaring that the civil, or French laws, should be the laws of their land, and enumerated about 50 folio volumes, in Latin, as the depositories of these laws. The Governor negatived the act. One of the houses thereupon passed a vote for self-dissolution of the Legislature as a useless body, which failed in the other House by a single vote only. They separated, however, & have disseminated all the discontent they could. I propose to the members of Congress in conversation, the enlisting 30,000 volunteers, Americans by birth, to be carried at the public expense, & settled immediately on a bounty of 160 acres of land each, on the west side of the Mississippi, on the condition of giving two years of military service, if that country should be attacked within 7 years. The defence of the country would thus be placed on the spot, and the additional number would entitle the territory to become a State, would make the majority American, & make it an American instead of a French State. This would not sweeten the pill to the French; but in making that acquisition we had some view to our own good as well as theirs, and I believe the greatest good of both will be promoted by whatever will amalgamate us together.
I have tired you, my friend, with a long letter. But your tedium will end in a few lines more. Mine has yet two years to endure. I am tired of an office where I can do no more good than many others, who would be glad to be employed in it. To myself, personally, it brings nothing but unceasing drudgery & daily loss of friends. Every office becoming vacant, every appointment made, me donne un ingrat, et cent ennemis. My only consolation is in the belief that my fellow citizens at large give me credit for good intentions. I will certainly endeavor to merit the continuance of that good-will which follows well-intended actions, and their approbation will be the dearest reward I can carry into retirement.
God bless you, my excellent friend, and give you yet many healthy and happy years.
TO WILLIAM WALLER HENING
Washington January 14, 1807.
—Your letter of Dec. 26th, was received in due time. The only object I had in making my collection of the laws of Virginia, was to save all those for the public which were not then already lost, in the hope that at some future day they might be republished. Whether this be by public or private enterprise, my end will be equally answered. The work divides itself into two very distinct parts; to wit, the printed and the unprinted laws. The former begin in 1682, (Purvis’ collection.) My collection of these is in strong volumes, well bound, and therefore may safely be transported anywhere. Any of these volumes which you do not possess, are at your service for the purpose of republication, but the unprinted laws are dispersed through many MS.volumes, several of them so decayed that the leaf can never be opened but once without falling into powder. These can never bear removal further than from their shelf to a table. They are, as well as I recollect, from 1622 downwards. I formerly made such a digest of their order, and the volumes where they are to be found, that, under my own superintendence, they could be copied with once handling. More they would not bear. Hence the impracticability of their being copied but at Monticello. But independent of them, the printed laws, beginning in 1682, with all our former printed collections, will be a most valuable publication, & sufficiently distinct. I shall have no doubt of the exactness of your part of the work, but I hope you will take measures for having the typography & paper worthy of the work. I am lead to this caution by the scandalous volume of our laws printed by Pleasants in 1803, & those by Davis, in 1796 were little better; both unworthy the history of Tom Thumb. You can have them better & cheaper printed anywhere north of Richmond. Accept my salutations & assurances of respect.
TO CÆSAR A. RODNEY
Washington Jan. 17, 1807.
—Keep the contents of this letter, if you please, to yourself. I yesterday nominated you to the Senate as Attorney General of the U. S. Whether it will be confirmed will rest with them, and they often subject nominations to great delay. My only object in mentioning it to you is that you may be making all the provisional arrangements necessary for an immediate visit to this place if you should receive the commission. The Supreme Court meeting on Monday will require necessarily the presence of the Atty. Genl. and we have also an Executive matter calling for his immediate agency. You may come alone, as I presume & stay the session of the court and afterwards return for your family. Accept my friendly salutations and assurances of great esteem and respect.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Washington Jany 20, 07.
—I received two days ago a letter from Genl Wilkinson, dated at N Orleans, Decr 14, in which he enclosed me an affidavit, of which I now transmit you a copy. You will perceive that it authenticates the copy of a letter from Colo Burr to the General, affirming that Mr. Alston, his son-in-law, is engaged in the unlawful enterprises he is carrying on, and is to be an actor in them. I am to add, also, that I have received information from another source, that Mr. Alston, while returning from Kentucky last autumn through the upper part of your State, proposed to a Mr. Butler of that part of the country, to join in Colo Burr’s enterprise, which he represented as of a nature to make his fortune, & is understood to have been explained as against Mexico, as well as for separating the Union of these States. That Butler communicated this to a person, of the same part of the country, called Span, who communicated it to a Mr. Horan, the clerk of a court in that quarter; that Butler & Span agreed to join in the enterprise, but Horan refused.
Nobody is a better judge than yourself whether any & what measures can be taken on this information. As to Genl Wilkinson’s affidavit, it will be laid before the Legislature in a few days, and, of course, will be publick; but as to the other part, if no use can be made of it, your own discretion & candor would lead you to keep it secret. It is further well known here that Mr. Alston is an endorser to a considerable amount, of the bills which have enabled Colo Burr to prepare his treasons. A message which I shall send into the Legislature two days hence, will give a development of them. I avail myself with pleasure of this opportunity of recalling myself to your recollection, & of assuring you of my constant esteem & high consideration.
SPECIAL MESSAGE ON BURR
January 22, 1807.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
Agreeably to the request of the House of Representatives, communicated in their resolution of the sixteenth instant, I proceed to state under the reserve therein expressed, information received touching an illegal combination of private individuals against the peace and safety of the Union, and a military expedition planned by them against the territories of a power in amity with the United States, with the measures I have pursued for suppressing the same.
I had for some time been in constant expectation of receiving such further information as would have enabled me to lay before the legislature the termination as well as the beginning and progress of this scene of depravity, so far it has been acted on the Ohio and its waters. From this the state and safety of the lower country might have been estimated on probable grounds, and the delay was indulged the rather, because no circumstance had yet made it necessary to call in the aid of the legislative functions. Information now recently communicated has brought us nearly to the period contemplated. The mass of what I have received, in the course of these transactions, is voluminous, but little has been given under the sanction of an oath, so as to constitute formal and legal evidence. It is chiefly in the form of letters, often containing such a mixture of rumors, conjectures, and suspicions, as render it difficult to sift out the real facts, and unadvisable to hazard more than general outlines, strengthened by concurrent information, or the particular credibility of the relater. In this state of the evidence, delivered sometimes too under the restriction of private confidence, neither safety nor justice will permit the exposing names, except that of the principal actor, whose guilt is placed beyond question.
Some time in the latter part of September, I received intimations that designs were in agitation in the western country, unlawful and unfriendly to the peace of the Union; and that the prime mover in these was Aaron Burr, heretofore distinguished by the favor of his country. The grounds of these intimations being inconclusive, the objects uncertain, and the fidelity of that country known to be firm, the only measure taken was to urge the informants to use their best endeavors to get further insight into the designs and proceedings of the suspected persons, and to communicate them to me.
It was not until the latter part of October, that the objects of the conspiracy began to be perceived, but still so blended and involved in mystery that nothing distinct could be singled out for pursuit. In this state of uncertainty as to the crime contemplated, the acts done, and the legal course to be pursued, I thought it best to send to the scene where these things were principally in transaction, a person, in whose integrity, understanding, and discretion, entire confidence could be reposed, with instructions to investigate the plots going on, to enter into conference (for which he had sufficient credentials) with the governors and all other officers, civil and military, and with their aid to do on the spot whatever should be necessary to discover the designs of the conspirators, arrest their means, bring their persons to punishment, and to call out the force of the country to suppress any unlawful enterprise in which it should be found they were engaged. By this time it was known that many boats were under preparation, stores of provisions collecting, and an unusual number of suspicious characters in motion on the Ohio and its waters. Besides despatching the confidential agent to that quarter, orders were at the same time sent to the governors of the Orleans and Mississippi territories, and to the commanders of the land and naval forces there, to be on their guard against surprise, and in constant readiness to resist any enterprise which might be attempted on the vessels, posts, or other objects under their care; and on the 8th of November, instructions were forwarded to General Wilkinson to hasten an accommodation with the Spanish commander on the Sabine, and as soon as that was effected, to fall back with his principal force to the hither bank of the Mississippi, for the defence of the intersecting points on that river. By a letter received from that officer on the 25th of November, but dated October 21st, we learn that a confidential agent of Aaron Burr had been deputed to him, with communications partly written in cipher and partly oral, explaining his designs, exaggerating his resources, and making such offers of emolument and command, to engage him and the army in his unlawful enterprise, as he had flattered himself would be successful. The general, with the honor of a soldier and fidelity of a good citizen, immediately despatched a trusty officer to me with information of what had passed, proceeding to establish such an understanding with the Spanish commandant on the Sabine as permitted him to withdraw his force across the Mississippi, and to enter on measures for opposing the projected enterprise.
The general’s letter, which came to hand on the 25th of November, as has been mentioned, and some other information received a few days earlier, when brought together, developed Burr’s general designs, different parts of which only had been revealed to different informants. It appeared that he contemplated two distinct objects, which might be carried on either jointly or separately, and either the one or the other first, as circumstances should direct. One of these was the severance of the Union of these States by the Alleghany mountains; the other, an attack on Mexico. A third object was provided, merely ostensible, to wit: the settlement of a pretended purchase of a tract of country on the Washita, claimed by a Baron Bastrop. This was to serve as the pretext for all his preparations, an allurement for such followers as really wished to acquire settlements in that country, and a cover under which to retreat in the event of final discomfiture of both branches of his real design.
He found at once that the attachment of the western country to the present Union was not to be shaken; that its dissolution could not be effected with the consent of its inhabitants, and that his resources were inadequate, as yet, to effect it by force. He took his course then at once, determined to seize on New Orleans, plunder the bank there, possess himself of the military and naval stores, and proceed on his expedition to Mexico; and to this object all his means and preparations were now directed. He collected from all the quarters where himself or his agents possessed influence, all the ardent, restless, desperate, and disaffected persons who were ready for any enterprise analogous to their characters. He seduced good and well-meaning citizens, some by assurances that he possessed the confidence of the government and was acting under its secret patronage, a pretence which obtained some credit from the state of our differences with Spain; and others by offers of land in Bastrop’s claim on the Washita.
This was the state of my information of his proceedings about the last of November, at which time, therefore, it was first possible to take specific measures to meet them. The proclamation of November 27th, two days after the receipt of General Wilkinson’s information, was now issued. Orders were despatched to every intersecting point on the Ohio and Mississippi, from Pittsburg to New Orleans, for the employment of such force either of the regulars or of the militia, and of such proceedings also of the civil authorities, as might enable them to seize on all the boats and stores provided for the enterprise, to arrest the persons concerned, and to suppress effectually the further progress of the enterprise. A little before the receipt of these orders in the State of Ohio, our confidential agent, who had been diligently employed in investigating the conspiracy, had acquired sufficient information to open himself to the governor of that State, and apply for the immediate exertion of the authority and power of the State to crush the combination. Governor Tiffin and the legislature, with a promptitude, an energy, and patriotic zeal, which entitle them to a distinguished place in the affection of their sister States, effected the seizure of all the boats, provisions, and other preparations within their reach, and thus gave a first blow, materially disabling the enterprise in its outset.
In Kentucky, a premature attempt to bring Burr to justice, without sufficient evidence for his conviction, had produced a popular impression in his favor, and a general disbelief of his guilt. This gave him an unfortunate opportunity of hastening his equipments. The arrival of the proclamation and orders, and the application and information of our confidential agent, at length awakened the authorities of that State to the truth, and then produced the same promptitude and energy of which the neighboring State had set the example. Under an act of their legislature of December 23d, militia was instantly ordered to different important points, and measures taken for doing whatever could yet be done. Some boats (accounts vary from five to double or treble that number) and persons (differently estimated from one to three hundred) had in the meantime passed the falls of the Ohio, to rendezvous at the mouth of the Cumberland, with others expected down that river.
Not apprized, till very late, that any boats were building on cumberland, the effect of the proclamation had been trusted to for some time in the State of Tennessee; but on the 19th of December, similar communications and instructions with those of the neighboring States were despatched by express to the governor, and a general officer of the western division of the State, and on the 23d of December our confidential agent left Frankfort for Nashville, to put into activity the means of that State also. But by information received yesterday I learn that on the 22d of December, Mr. Burr descended the Cumberland with two boats merely of accommodation, carrying with him from that State no quota toward his unlawful enterprise. Whether after the arrival of the proclamation, of the orders, or of our agent, any exertion which could be made by that State, or the orders of the governor of Kentucky for calling out the militia at the mouth of Cumberland, would be in time to arrest these boats, and those from the falls of the Ohio, is still doubtful.
On the whole, the fugitives from Ohio, with their associates from Cumberland, or any other place in that quarter, cannot threaten serious danger to the city of New Orleans.
By the same express of December nineteenth, orders were sent to the governors of New Orleans and Mississippi, supplementary to those which had been given on the twenty-fifth of November, to hold the militia of their territories in readiness to co-operate for their defence, with the regular troops and armed vessels then under command of General Wilkinson. Great alarm, indeed, was excited at New Orleans by the exaggerated accounts of Mr. Burr, disseminated through his emissaries, of the armies, and navies he was to assemble there. General Wilkinson had arrived there himself on the 24th of November and had immediately put into activity the resources of the place for the purpose of its defence; and on the tenth of December he was joined by his troops from the Sabine. Great zeal was shown by the inhabitants generally, the merchants of the place readily agreeing to the most laudable exertions and sacrifices for manning the armed vessels with their seamen, and the other citizens manifesting unequivocal fidelity to the Union, and a spirit of determined resistance to their expected assailants.
Surmises have been hazarded that this enterprise is to receive aid from certain foreign powers. But these surmises are without proof or probability. The wisdom of the measures sanctioned by Congress at its last session had placed us in the paths of peace and justice with the only powers with whom we had any differences, and nothing has happened since which makes it either their interest or ours to pursue another course. No change of measures has taken place on our part; none ought to take place at this time. With the one, friendly arrangement was then proposed, and the law deemed necessary on the failure of that was suspended to give time for a fair trial of the issue. With the same power, negotiation is still preferred and provisional measures only are necessary to meet the event of rupture. While, therefore, we do not deflect in the slightest degree from the course we then assumed, and are still pursuing, with mutual consent, to restore a good understanding, we are not to impute to them practices as irreconcilable to interest as to good faith, and changing necessarily the relations of peace and justice between us to those of war. These surmises are, therefore, to be imputed to the vauntings of the author of this enterprise, to multiply his partisans by magnifying the belief of his prospects and support.
By letters from General Wilkinson, of the 14th and 18th of September, which came to hand two days after date of the resolution of the House of Representatives, that is to say, on the morning of the 18th instant, I received the important affidavit, a copy of which I now communicate, with extracts of so much of the letters as come within the scope of the resolution. By these it will be seen that of three of the principal emissaries of Mr. Burr, whom the general had caused to be apprehended, one had been liberated by habeas corpus, and the two others, being those particularly employed in the endeavor to corrupt the general and army of the United States, have been embarked by him for our ports in the Atlantic States, probably on the consideration that an impartial trial could not be expected during the present agitations of New Orleans, and that that city was not as yet a safe place of confinement. As soon as these persons shall arrive, they will be delivered to the custody of the law, and left to such course of trial, both as to place and process, as its functionaries may direct. The presence of the highest judicial authorities, to be assembled at this place within a few days, the means of pursuing a sounder course of proceedings here than elsewhere, and the aid of the executive means, should the judges have occasion to use them, render it equally desirable for the criminals as for the public, that being already removed from the place where they were first apprehended, the first regular arrest should take place here, and the course of proceedings receive here its proper direction.
SPECIAL MESSAGE ON BURR
January 28, 1807.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:—
By the letters of Captain Bissel, who commands at Fort Massac, and of Mr. Murrell, to General Jackson, of Tennessee, copies of which are now communicated to Congress, it will be seen that Aaron Burr passed Fort Massac on the 31st December, with about ten boats, navigated by about six hands each, without any military appearance, and that three boats with ammunition were said to have been arrested by the militia at Louisville.
As the guards of militia posted on various points on the Ohio will be able to prevent any further aids passing through that channel, should any be attempted, we may now estimate, with tolerable certainty, the means derived from the Ohio and its waters, toward the accomplishment of the purposes of Mr. Burr.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF OHIO
(H. D. TIFFIN.)
Washington February 2d, 1807.
—The pressure of business during a session of the Legislature has rendered me more tardy in addressing you than it was my wish to have been. That our fellow citizens of the West would need only to be informed of criminal machinations against the public safety to crush them at once, I never entertained a doubt. I have seen with the greatest satisfaction that among those who have distinguished themselves by their fidelity to their country, on the occasion of the enterprise of Mr. Burr, yourself & the Legislature of Ohio have been the most eminent. The promptitude & energy displayed by your State has been as honorable to itself as salutary to its sister States; and in declaring that you have deserved well of your country, I do but express the grateful sentiment of every faithful citizen in it. The hand of the people has given the mortal blow to a conspiracy which, in other countries, would have called for an appeal to armies, and has proved that government to be the strongest of which every man feels himself a part. It is a happy illustration, too, of the importance of preserving to the State authorities all that vigor which the Constitution foresaw would be necessary, not only for their own safety, but for that of the whole. In making these acknowledgments of the merit of having set this illustrious example of exertion for the common safety, I pray that they may be considered as addressed to yourself & the Legislature particularly, & generally to every citizen who has availed himself of the opportunity given of proving his devotion to his country. Accept my salutations & assurances of great consideration & esteem.
SPECIAL MESSAGE ON GUNBOATS
February 10, 1807.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:—
In compliance with the request of the House of Representatives, expressed in their resolution of the 5th instant, I proceed to give such information as is possessed, of the effect of gun-boats in the protection and defence of harbors, of the numbers thought necessary, and of the proposed distribution of them among the ports and harbors of the United States.
Under the present circumstances, and governed by the intentions of the legislature, as manifested by their annual appropriations of money for the purposes of defence, it has been concluded to combine—1st, land batteries, furnished with heavy cannon and mortars, and established on all the points around the place favorable for preventing vessels from lying before it; 2d, movable artillery which may be carried, as an occasion may require, to points unprovided with fixed batteries; 3d, floating batteries; and 4th, gun-boats, which may oppose an enemy at its entrance and co-operate with the batteries for his expulsion.
On this subject professional men were consulted as far as we had opportunity. General Wilkinson, and the late General Gates, gave their opinions in writing, in favor of the system, as will be seen by their letters now communicated. The higher officers of the navy gave the same opinions in separate conferences, as their presence at the seat of government offered occasions of consulting them, and no difference of judgment appeared on the subjects. Those of Commodore Barron and Captain Tingey, now here, are recently furnished in writing, and transmitted herewith to the legislature.
The efficacy of gun-boats for the defence of harbors, and of other smooth and enclosed waters, may be estimated in part from that of galleys, formerly much used, but less powerful, more costly in their construction and maintenance, and requiring more men. But the gun-boat itself is believed to be in use with every modern maritime nation for the purpose of defence. In the Mediterranean, on which are several small powers, whose system like ours is peace and defence, few harbors are without this article of protection. Our own experience there of the effect of gun-boats for harbor service, is recent. Algiers is particularly known to have owed to a great provision of these vessels the safety of its city, since the epoch of their construction. Before that it had been repeatedly insulted and injured. The effect of gun-boats at present in the neighborhood of Gibraltar, is well known, and how much they were used both in the attack and defence of that place during a former war. The extensive resort to them by the two greatest naval powers in the world, on an enterprise of invasion not long since in prospect, shows their confidence in their efficacy for the purposes for which they are suited. By the northern powers of Europe, whose seas are particularly adapted to them, they are still more used. The remarkable action between the Russian flotilla of gun-boats and galleys, and a Turkish fleet of ships-of-the-line and frigates, in the Liman sea, 1788, will be readily recollected. The latter, commanded by their most celebrated admiral, were completely defeated, and several of their ships-of-the-line destroyed.
From the opinions given as to the number of gun-boats necessary for some of the principal seaports, and from a view of all the towns and ports from Orleans to Maine inclusive, entitled to protection, in proportion to their situation and circumstances, it is concluded, that to give them a due measure of protection in time of war, about two hundred gun-boats will be requisite. According to first ideas, the following would be their general distribution, liable to be varied on more mature examination, and as circumstances shall vary, that is to say:—
To the Mississippi and its neighboring waters, forty gun-boats.
To Savannah and Charleston, and the harbors on each side, from St. Mary’s to Currituck, twenty-five.
To the Chesapeake and its waters, twenty.
To Delaware bay and river, fifteen.
To New York, the Sound, and waters as far as Cape Cod, fifty.
To Boston and the harbors north of Cape Cod, fifty.
The flotilla assigned to these several stations, might each be under the care of a particular commandant, and the vessels composing them would, in ordinary, be distributed among the harbors within the station in proportion to their importance.
Of these boats a proper proportion would be of the larger size, such as those heretofore built, capable of navigating any seas, and of reinforcing occasionally the strength of even the most distant port when menaced with danger. The residue would be confined to their own or the neighboring harbors, would be smaller, less furnished for accommodation, and consequently less costly. Of the number supposed necessary, seventy-three are built or building, and the hundred and twenty-seven still to be provided, would cost from five to six hundred thousand dollars. Having regard to the convenience of the treasury, as well as to the resources of building, it has been thought that one half of these might be built in the present year, and the other half the next. With the legislature, however, it will rest to stop where we are, or at any further point, when they shall be of opinion that the number provided shall be sufficient for the object.
At times when Europe as well as the United States shall be at peace, it would not be proposed that more than six or eight of these vessels should be kept afloat. When Europe is in war, treble that number might be necessary to be distributed among those particular harbors which foreign vessels of war are in the habit of frequenting, for the purpose of preserving order therein.
But they would be manned, in ordinary, with only their complement for navigation, relying on the seamen and militia of the port if called into action on sudden emergency. It would be only when the United States should themselves be at war, that the whole number would be brought into actual service, and would be ready in the first moments of the war to co-operate with other means for covering at once the line of our seaports. At all times, those unemployed would be withdrawn into places not exposed to sudden enterprise, hauled up under sheds from the sun and weather, and kept in preservation with little expense for repairs or maintenance.
It must be superfluous to observe, that this species of naval armament is proposed merely for defensive operation; that it can have but little effect toward protecting our commerce in the open seas even on our coast; and still less can it become an excitement to engage in offensive maritime war, toward which it would furnish no means.
TO THOMAS SEYMOUR
Washington February 11, 1807.
—The mass of business which occurs during a session of the Legislature, renders me necessarily unpunctual in acknowledging the receipt of letters, and in answering those which will admit of delay. This must be my apology for being so late in noticing the receipt of the letter of December 20th, addressed to me by yourself, and several other republican characters of your State of high respectability. I have seen with deep concern the afflicting oppression under which the republican citizens of Connecticut suffer from an unjust majority. The truths expressed in your letter have been long exposed to the nation through the channel of the public papers, and are the more readily believed because most of the States during the momentary ascendancy of kindred majorities in them, have seen the same spirit of oppression prevail.
With respect to the countervailing prosecutions now instituted in the Court of the U S in Connecticut, I had heard but little, & certainly, I believe, never expressed a sentiment on them. That a spirit of indignation and retaliation should arise when an opportunity should present itself, was too much within the human constitution to excite either surprise or censure, and confined to an appeal to truth only, it cannot lessen the useful freedom of the press.
As to myself, conscious that there was not a truth on earth which I feared should be known, I have lent myself willingly as the subject of a great experiment, which was to prove that an administration, conducting itself with integrity and common understanding, cannot be battered down, even by the falsehoods of a licentious press, and consequently still less by the press, as restrained within the legal & wholesome limits of truth. This experiment was wanting for the world to demonstrate the falsehood of the pretext that freedom of the press is incompatible with orderly government. I have never therefore even contradicted the thousands of calumnies so industriously propagated against myself. But the fact being once established, that the press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood, I leave to others to restore it to it’s strength, by recalling it within the pale of truth. Within that it is a noble institution, equally the friend of science & of civil liberty. If this can once be effected in your State, I trust we shall soon see it’s citizens rally to the republican principles of our Constitution, which unite their sister-States into one family. It would seem impossible that an intelligent people, with the faculty of reading & right of thinking, should continue much longer to slumber under the pupilage of an interested aristocracy of priests & lawyers, persuading them to distrust themselves, & to let them think for them. I sincerely wish that your efforts may awaken them from this voluntary degradation of mind, restore them to a due estimate of themselves & their fellow-citizens, and a just abhorrence of the falsehoods & artifices which have seduced them. Experience of the use made by federalism of whatever comes from me, obliges me to suggest the caution of considering my letter as private. I pray you to present me respectfully to the other gentlemen who joined in the letter to me, & to whom this is equally addressed, and to accept yourself my salutations, & assurances of great esteem & consideration.
TO JOSEPH HOPPER NICHOLSON
Washington February 20, 1807.
—I did not receive your letter of the 18th till this morning. I am as yet in possession of no evidence against Adair, which could convict him. Genl Wilkinson writes me that he would send the evidence against him & Ogden by the officer bringing them, and that officer informed Genl Dearborne (from Baltimore) that he was in possession of a large packet from Genl Wilkinson to me, which he was ordered to deliver into my hands only; and, on that, he was ordered to come on with his prisoners, that they and the evidence against them might be delivered up to the court here. If the evidence, however, be found conclusive, they can be arrested again, if it shall be worth while. Their crimes are defeated, and whether they shall be punished or not belongs to another department, and is not the subject of even a wish on my part. Accept my friendly salutations, & assurances of great respect & esteem.
TO WILSON CARY NICHOLAS
Washington February 28, 1807.
—Your letter of Jan 20 was received in due time. But such has been the constant pressure of business, that it has been out of my power to answer it. Indeed, the subjects of it would be almost beyond the extent of a letter, and as I hope to see you ere long at Monticello, it can then be more effectually done verbally. Let me observe, however, generally, that it is impossible for my friends to render me ever so acceptable a favor, as by communicating to me, without reserve, facts & opinions. I have none of that sort of self-love which winces at it; indeed, both self-love & the desire to do what is best, strongly invite unreserved communication. There is one subject which will not admit a delay till I see you. Mr. T. M. Randolph is, I believe, determined to retire from Congress, and it is strongly his wish, & that of all here, that you should take his place. Never did the calls of patriotism more loudly assail you than at this moment. After excepting the federalists, who will be 27., and the little band of schismatics, who will be 3. or 4. (all tongue), the residue of the H of R is as well disposed a body of men as I ever saw collected. But there is no one whose talents & standing, taken together, have weight enough to give him the lead. The consequence is, that there is no one who will undertake to do the public business, and it remains undone. Were you here, the whole would rally round you in an instant, and willingly co-operate in whatever is for the public good. Nor would it require you to undertake drudgery in the House. There are enough, able & willing to do that. A rallying point is all that is wanting. Let me beseech you then to offer yourself. You never will have it so much in your power again to render such eminent service.
Accept my affectionate salutations and high esteem.
TO ROBERT BRENT
Washington Mar 10, 1807.
—I have received your letter of yesterday, asking the application of a part of a late appropriation of Congress, to certain avenues and roads in this place.
The only appropriation ever before made by Congress to an object of this nature, was “to the public buildings & the highways between them.” This ground was deliberately taken, and I accordingly restrained the application of the money to the avenue between the Capitol & the Executive buildings, and the roads round the two squares.
The last appropriation was in terms much more lax, to wit, “for avenues & roads in the district of Columbia.” This, indeed, would take in a large field, but besides that we cannot suppose Congress intended to tax the people of the U S at large, for all the avenues in Washington & roads in Columbia; we know the fact to have been that the expression was strongly objected to, and was saved merely from a want of time to discuss, (the last day of the session,) and the fear of losing the whole bill. But the sum appropriated (3000 D) shews they did not mean it for so large a field; for by the time the Pennsylva. avenue, between the two houses, is widened, newly gravelled, planted, brick tunnels instead of wood, the roads round the squares put in order, & that in the South front of the war office dug down to it’s proper level, there will be no more of the 3000 D. left than will be wanting for constant repairs. With this view of the just and probable intention of the Legislature, I shall not think myself authorized to take advantage of a lax expression, forced on by circumstances, to carry the execution of the law into a region of expense which would merit great consideration before they should embark in it. Accept my friendly salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.
CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE GOVERNORS OF KENTUCKY, TENNESSEE, OHIO, AND MISSISSIPPI
Washington March 21, 1807.
—Altho the present state of things on the Western side of the Mississippi does not threaten any immediate collision with our neighbors in that quarter, and it is our wish they should remain undisturbed until an amicable adjustment may take place; yet as this does not depend on ourselves alone, it has been thought prudent to be prepared to meet any movements which may occur. The law of a former session of Congress, for keeping a body of 100,000 militia in readiness for service at a moment’s warning, is still in force. But by an act of the last session, a copy of which I now enclose, the Executive is authorized to accept the services of such volunteers as shall offer themselves on the conditions of the act, which may render a resort to the former act unnecessary. It is for the execution of this act that I am now to solicit your zealous endeavors. The persons who shall engage will not be called from their homes until some aggression, committed or intended, shall render it necessary. When called into action, it will not be for a lounging, but for an active, & perhaps distant, service. I know the effect of this consideration in kindling that ardour which prevails for this service, & I count on it for filling up the numbers requisite without delay. To yourself, I am sure, it must be as desirable as it is to me, to transfer this service from the great mass of our militia to that portion of them, to whose habits and enterprise active & distant service is most congenial. In using, therefore, your best exertions towards accomplishing the object of this act, you will render to your constituents, as well as to the nation, a most acceptable service.
With respect to the organizing and officering those who shall be engaged within your State, the act itself will be your guide; and as it is desirable that we should be kept informed of the progress in this business, I must pray you to report the same from time to time to the Secretary at War, who will correspond with you on all the details arising out of it.
I salute you with great consideration and respect.
TO THE UNITED STATES MINISTER TO GREAT BRITAIN
Washington March 21, 1807.
—A copy of the treaty with Gr. Britain came to Mr. Erskine’s hands on the last day of the session of Congress, which he immediately communicated to us; and since that Mr. Purviance has arrived with an original. On the subject of it you will receive a letter from the Secretary of State, of about this date, and one more in detail hereafter. I should not have written, but that I perceive uncommon efforts, and with uncommon wickedness, are making by the federal papers to produce mischief between myself, personally, & our negociators; and also to irritate the British government, by putting a thousand speeches into my mouth, not one word of which I ever uttered. I have, therefore, thought it safe to guard you, by stating the view which we have given out on the subject of the treaty, in conversation & otherwise; for ours, as you know, is a government which will not tolerate the being kept entirely in the dark, and especially on a subject so interesting as this treaty. We immediately stated in conversation, to the members of the Legislature & others, that having, by a letter received in January, perceived that our ministers might sign a treaty not providing satisfactorily against the impressment of our seamen, we had, on the 3d of Feb., informed you, that should such an one have been forwarded, it could not be ratified, & recommending, therefore, that you should resume negociations for inserting an article to that effect; that we should hold the treaty in suspense until we could learn from you the result of our instructions, which probably would not be till summer, & then decide on the question of calling the Senate. We observed, too, that a written declaration of the British commissioners, given in at the time of signature, would of itself, unless withdrawn, prevent the acceptance of any treaty, because it’s effect was to leave us bound by the treaty, and themselves totally unbound. This is the statement we have given out, and nothing more of the contents of the treaty has ever been made known. But depend on it, my dear Sir, that it will be considered as a hard treaty when it is known. The British commisrs appear to have screwed every article as far as it would bear, to have taken everything, & yielded nothing. Take out the 11th. article, and the evil of all the others so much overweighs the good, that we should be glad to expunge the whole. And even the 11th. article admits only that we may enjoy our right to the indirect colonial trade, during the present hostilities. If peace is made this year, and war resumed the next, the benefit of this stipulation is gone, and yet we are bound for 10. years, to pass no non-importation or non-intercourse laws, nor take any other measures to restrain the unjust pretensions & practices of the British. But on this you will hear from the Secretary of State. If the treaty cannot be put into acceptable form, then the next best thing is to back out of the negotiation as well as we can, letting that die away insensibly; but, in the meantime, agreeing informally, that both parties shall act on the principles of the treaty, so as to preserve that friendly understanding which we sincerely desire, until the one or the other may be deposed to yield the points which divide us. This will leave you to follow your desire of coming home, as soon as you see the amendment of the treaty is desperate. The power of continuing the negociations will pass over to Mr. Pinckney, who, by procrastinations, can let it die away and give us time, the most precious of all things to us. The government of New Orleans is still without such a head as I wish. The salary of 5000 D. is too small; but I am assured the Orleans legislature would make it adequate, would you accept it. It is the 2d. office in the U S in importance, and I am still in hopes you will accept it. It is impossible to let you stay at home while the public has so much need of talents. I am writing under a severe indisposition of periodical headache, with scarcely command enough of my mind to know what I write. As a part of this letter concerns Mr. Pinckney as well as yourself, be so good as to communicate so much of it to him; and with my best respects to him, to Mrs. Monroe and your daughter, be assured yourself, in all cases, of my constant & affectionate friendship & attachment.
TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR
March 29, 1807.
Many officers of the army being involved in the offence of intending a military enterprise against a nation at peace with the United States, to remove the whole without trial, by the paramount authority of the executive, would be a proceeding of unusual severity. Some line must therefore be drawn to separate the more from the less guilty. The only sound one which occurs to me is between those who believe the enterprise was with the approbation of the government, open or secret, & those who meant to proceed in defiance of the government. Concealment would be no line at all, because all concealed it. Applying the line of defiance to the case of L Mead, it does not appear by any testimony I have seen, that he meant to proceed in defiance of the government, but, on the contrary, that he was made to believe the government approved of the expedition. If it be objected that he concealed a part of what had taken place in his communications to the Secretary at War, yet if a concealment of the whole would not furnish a proper line of distinction, still less would the concealment of a part. This too would be a removal for prevarication not for unauthorized enterprise, & could not be a proper ground for exercising the extraordinary power of removal by the President. On the whole, I think Lieutn Meade’s is not a case for its exercise. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE U. S. MINISTER TO SPAIN
Washington Apr. 2. 07.
—I wrote you on the 10th of July last, but neither your letter of Oct. 20, nor that of Nov. 15 mentioning the receipt of it, I fear it has miscarried. I therefore now enclose a duplicate, as that was to go under cover of the Secretary of State’s dispatches by any vessel going from our distant ports. I retained the Polygraph therein mentioned for a safer conveyance. None such has occurred till now that the U. S. armed brig the Wasp, on her way to the Mediterranean is to touch at Falmouth with dispatches for our ministers at London, & at Brest with others for yourself & Genl. Armstrong. I shall deliver the Polygraph to the commander of the brig to be forwarded to you with this letter. You will find it a most invaluable Secretary, doing it’s work with correctness, facility & secrecy. I repeat my request of your acceptance of it as a mark of my esteem & respect.
You heard in due time from London of the signature of a treaty there between Gr. Br. & the U. S. by a letter we received in January from our Minister at London. We found they were making up their minds to sign a treaty in which no provision was made against the impressment of our seamen, contenting themselves with a note received in the course of their correspondence from the British negociators, assuring them of the discretion with which impressments should be conducted, which could be construed into a covenant only by inferences, against which it’s omission in the treaty was a strong inference, and it’s terms totally unsatisfactory. By a letter of Feb. 3. they were immediately informed that no treaty not containing a satisfactory article on that head, would be ratified and desiring them to resume the negociations on that point. The treaty having come to us actually in the inadmissible shape apprehended, we of course hold it up until we know the result of the instructions of Feb. 3. I have but little expectation that the British government will retire from their habitual wrongs in the impressment of our seamen, and a certainty that without that we will never tie up our hands by treaty from the right of passing a non-importation or non-intercourse act to make it her interest to become just. This may bring on a war of commercial restrictions. To shew however the sincerity or our desire for conciliation I have suspended the importation act. This state of things should be understood at Paris and every effort used on your part to accommodate our differences with Spain, under the auspices of France, with whom it is all important that we should stand in terms of the strictest cordiality. In fact we are to depend on her & Russia for the establishment of Neutral rights by the treaty of peace, among which should be that of taking no person by a belligerent out of a Neutral ship, unless they be the souldiers of an enemy. Never did a nation act towards another with more perfidy and injustice than Spain has constantly practised against us. And if we have kept our hands off her till now, it has been purely out of respect for France, & from the value we set on the friendship of France. We expect therefore from the friendship of the emperor that he will either compel Spain to do us justice, or abandon her to us. We ask but one month to be in possession of the city of Mexico. No better proof of the good faith of the U. S. could have been given, than the vigour with which we have acted, & the expence incurred in suppressing the enterprise meditated lately by Burr against Mexico. Altho at first he proposed a separation of the Western country, & on that ground received encouragement & aid from Yrujo, according to the usual spirit of his government towards us. Yet he very early saw that the fidelity of the Western country was not to be shaken, and turned himself wholly towards Mexico and so popular is an enterprise on that country in this, that we had only to be still, & he could have had followers enough to have been in the city of Mexico in 6. weeks. You have doubtless seen my several messages to Congress, which give a faithful narrative of that conspiracy. Burr himself, after being disarmed by our endeavours of all his followers, escaped from the custody of the court of Missipi, but was taken near fort Stoddert, making his way to Mobile, by some country people, who brought him on as a prisoner to Richmond, where he is now under a course for trial. Hitherto we have believed our law to be that suspicion on probable grounds was sufficient cause to commit a person for trial, allowing time to collect witnesses till the trial, but the judges here have decided that conclusive evidence of guilt must be ready in the moment of arrest, or they will discharge the malefactor. If this is still insisted on, Burr will be discharged, because his crimes having been sown from Maine thro’ the whole line of the Western waters to N. Orleans, we cannot bring the witnesses here under 4. months. The fact is that the Federalists make Burr’s cause their own, and exert their whole influence to shield him from punishment, as they did the adherents of Miranda. And it is unfortunate that federalism is still predominant in our judiciary department, which is consequently in opposition to the legislative & Executive branches, & is able to baffle their measures often. Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of great esteem & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello Apr. 14, 07.
—Mr. Rodney not being at Washington I send you the inclosed because it requires to be acted on immediately. I remember it was concluded that witnesses who should be brought from great distances, and carried from one scene of trial to another must have a reasonable allowance made for their expences & the money advanced. I expect it will be thought proper that the witnesses proving White’s enlistment of men for Burr should be at his trial in Richmond. Be so good as to take the necessary measures to enable these men to come on.
TO WILLIAM BRANCH GILES
Monticello April 20, .07.
—Your favor of the 6th, on the subject of Burr’s offences, was received only 4 days ago. That there should be anxiety & doubt in the public mind, in the present defective state of the proof, is not wonderful; and this has been sedulously encouraged by the tricks of the judges to force trials before it is possible to collect the evidence, dispersed through a line of 2000 miles from Maine to Orleans. The federalists, too, give all their aid, making Burr’s cause their own, mortified only that he did not separate the Union or overturn the government, & proving, that had he had a little dawn of success, they would have joined him to introduce his object, their favorite monarchy, as they would any other enemy, foreign or domestic, who could rid them of this hateful republic for any other government in exchange.
The first ground of complaint was the supine inattention of the administration to a treason stalking through the land in open day. The present one, that they have crushed it before it was ripe for execution, so that no overt acts can be produced. This last may be true; tho’ I believe it is not. Our information having been chiefly by way of letter, we do not know of a certainty yet what will be proved. We have set on foot an inquiry through the whole of the country which has been the scene of these transactions, to be able to prove to the courts, if they will give time, or to the public by way of communication to Congress, what the real facts have been. For obtaining this, we are obliged to appeal to the patriotism of particular persons in different places, of whom we have requested to make the inquiry in their neighborhood, and on such information as shall be voluntarily offered. Aided by no process or facilities from the federal courts, but frowned on by their new born zeal for the liberty of those whom we would not permit to overthrow the liberties of their country, we can expect no revealments from the accomplices of the chief offender. Of treasonable intentions, the judges have been obliged to confess there is probable appearance. What loophole they will find in it, when it comes to trial, we cannot foresee. Eaton, Stoddart, Wilkinson, and two others whom I must not name, will satisfy the world, if not the judges, on that head. And I do suppose the following overt acts will be proved. 1. The enlistment of men in a regular way. 2. The regular mounting of guard round Blennerhasset’s island when they expected Governor Tiffin’s men to be on them, modo guerrino arraiali. 3. The rendezvous of Burr with his men at the mouth of the Cumberland. 4. His letter to the acting Governor of Mississippi, holding up the prospect of civil war. 5. His capitulation regularly signed with the aids of the Governor, as between two independent & hostile commanders.
But a moment’s calculation will shew that this evidence cannot be collected under 4 months, probably 5, from the moment of deciding when & where the trial shall be. I desired Mr. Rodney expressly to inform the Chief Justice of this, inofficially. But Mr. Marshall says, “more than 5 weeks have elapsed since the opinion of the Supreme court has declared the necessity of proving the overt acts, if they exist. Why are they not proved?” In what terms of decency can we speak of this? As if an express could go to Natchez, or the mouth of Cumberland, & return in 5 weeks, to do which has never taken less than twelve. Again, “If, in Nov. or Dec. last, a body of troops had been assembled on the Ohio, it is impossible to suppose the affidavits establishing the fact could not have been obtained by the last of March.” But I ask the judge where they should have been lodged? At Frankfort? at Cincinnati? at Nashville? St. Louis? Natchez? New Orleans? These were the probable places of apprehension & examination. It was not known at Washington till the 26th of March that Burr would escape from the Western tribunals, be retaken & brought to an Eastern one; and in 5 days after, (neither 5. months nor 5. weeks, as the judge calculated,) he says, it is “impossible to suppose the affidavits could not have been obtained.” Where? At Richmond he certainly meant, or meant only to throw dust in the eyes of his audience. But all the principles of law are to be perverted which would bear on the favorite offenders who endeavor to overrun this odious Republic. “I understand,” sais the judge, “probable cause of guilt to be a case made out by proof furnishing good reason to believe,” &c. Speaking as a lawyer, he must mean legal proof, i. e., proof on oath, at least. But this is confounding probability and proof. We had always before understood that where there was reasonable ground to believe guilt, the offender must be put on his trial. That guilty intentions were probable, the judge believed. And as to the overt acts, were not the bundle of letters of information in Mr. Rodney’s hands, the letters and facts published in the local newspapers, Burr’s flight, & the universal belief or rumor of his guilt, probable ground for presuming the facts of enlistment, military guard, rendezvous, threats of civil war, or capitulation, so as to put him on trial? Is there a candid man in the U S who does not believe some one, if not all, of these overt acts to have taken place?
If there ever had been an instance in this or the preceding administrations, of federal judges so applying principles of law as to condemn a federal or acquit a republican offender, I should have judged them in the present case with more charity. All this, however, will work well. The nation will judge both the offender & judges for themselves. If a member of the Executive or Legislature does wrong, the day is never far distant when the people will remove him. They will see then & amend the error in our Constitution, which makes any branch independent of the nation. They will see that one of the great co-ordinate branches of the government, setting itself in opposition to the other two, and to the common sense of the nation, proclaims impunity to that class of offenders which endeavors to overturn the Constitution, and are themselves protected in it by the Constitution itself; for impeachment is a farce which will not be tried again. If their protection of Burr produces this amendment, it will do more good than his condemnation would have done. Against Burr, personally, I never had one hostile sentiment. I never indeed thought him an honest, frank-dealing man, but considered him as a crooked gun, or other perverted machine, whose aim or stroke you could never be sure of. Still, while he possessed the confidence of the nation, I thought it my duty to respect in him their confidence, & to treat him as if he deserved it; and if this punishment can be commuted now for any useful amendment of the Constitution, I shall rejoice in it. My sheet being full, I perceive it is high time to offer you my friendly salutations, and assure you of my constant and affectionate esteem and respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello April 21, 1807.
—Yours of the 13th came to hand only yesterday, and I now return you the letters of Turreau, Yrujo, and Woodward, and Mr. Gallatin’s paper on foreign seamen. I retain Monroe & Pinckney’s letters, to give them a more deliberate perusal than I can now before the departure of the post. By the next they shall be returned. I should think it best to answer Turreau at once, as he will ascribe delay to a supposed difficulty, & will be sure to force an answer at last. I take the true principle to be, that “for violations of jurisdiction, with the consent of the sovereign, or his voluntary sufferance, indemnification is due; but that for others he is bound only to use all reasonable means to obtain indemnification from the aggressor, which must be calculated on his circumstances, and these endeavors bonâ fide made; & failing, he is no further responsible.” It would be extraordinary indeed if we were to be answerable for the conduct of belligerents through our whole coasts, whether inhabited or not.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello Apr 25, 07.
—Yours of the 20th came to hand on the 23d, and I now return all the papers it covered, to wit, Harris’s, Maunce’s, and General Smith’s letters, as also some papers respecting Burr’s case, for circulation. Under another cover is a letter from Governor Williams, confidential, & for yourself alone, as yet. I expect we shall have to remove Meade. Under still a different cover you will receive Monroe’s & Pinckney’s letters, detained at the last post. I wrote you then on the subject of the British treaty, which the more it is developed the worse it appears. Mr. Rodney being supposed absent, I enclose you a letter from Mr. Reed, advising the summoning Rufus Easton as a witness; but if he is at St. Louis, he cannot be here by the 22d of May. You will observe that Governor Williams asks immediate instructions what he shall do with Blennerhasset, Tyler, Floyd, & Ralston. I do not know that we can do anything but direct General Wilkinson to receive & send them to any place where the judge shall decide they ought to be tried. I suppose Blennerhasset should come to Richmond. On consulting with the other gentlemen, be so good as to write to Williams immediately, as a letter will barely get there by the 4th Monday of May. I enclose you a warrant for 5000 D. for Mr. Rodney, in the form advised by Mr. Gallatin.
We have had three great rains within the last 13. days. It is just now clearing off after 36. hours of rain, with little intermission. Yet it is thought not too much. I salute you with sincere affection.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello May 1, 07.
—I return you Monroe’s, Armstrong’s, Harris’s, & Anderson’s letters, & add a letter & act from Gov. McKean, to be filed in your office. The proposition for separating the western country, mentioned by Armstrong to have been made at Paris, is important. But what is the declaration he speaks of? for none accompanies his letter, unless he means Harry Grant’s proposition. I wish our Ministers at Paris, London, & Madrid, could find out Burr’s propositions & agents there. I know few of the characters of the new British administration. The few I know are true Pittites, & anti-American. From them we have nothing to hope, but that they will readily let us back out. Whether they can hold their places will depend on the question whether the Irish propositions be popular or unpopular in England. Dr. Sibley, in a letter to Gen. Dearborne, corrects an error of fact in my message to Congress of December. He says the Spaniards never had a single soldier at Bayou Pierre till Apr. 1805. Consequently it was not a keeping, but a taking of a military possession of that post. I think Gen. Dearborne would do well to desire Sibley to send us affidavits of that fact.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello May 5, 07.
I return you the pamphlet of the author of War in Disguise. Of its first half, the topics & the treatment of them are very commonplace; but from page 118 to 130 it is most interesting to all nations, and especially to us. Convinced that a militia of all ages promiscuously are entirely useless for distant service, and that we never shall be safe until we have a selected corps for a year’s distant service at least, the classification of our militia is now the most essential thing the U S have to do. Whether, on Bonaparte’s plan of making a class for every year between certain periods, or that recommended in my message, I do not know, but I rather incline to his. The idea is not new, as you may remember, we adopted it once in Virginia during the revolution, but abandoned it too soon. It is the real secret of Bonaparte’s success. Could S. H. Smith put better matter into his paper than the 12. pages above mentioned, & will you suggest it to him? No effort should be spared to bring the public mind to this great point. I salute you with sincere affection.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
May 19, 1807.
My determination to retire is the result of mature reflections, and on various considerations, not the least weighty of these, is that a consciousness that a decline of physical faculties can not leave those mental entirely unimpaired; and it will be happy for me if I am the first who shall become sensible of it. As to a successor there never will be a time when it will not produce some difficulty, and never less, I believe, than at present. That some of the Federalists should prefer my continuance to the uncertainty of a successor I can readily believe. There are among them men of candor who do not join in the clamor and condemnation of every thing, nor pretend that even chance never throws us on a right measure. There are some who know me personally and who give a credit to my intentions, which they deny my understanding. Some who may fear a successor, preferring a military glory of a nation to the prosperity and happiness of its individuals. But to the mass of that political sect, it is not the less true, the 4th of March, 1809, will be a day of Jubilee, but it will be a day of greater joy to me. I never did them an act of injustice nor failed in any duty to them imposed by my office. Out of about six hundred offices named by the President there were six Republicans only when I came into office, and these were chiefly half-breeds. Out of upwards of three hundred holding during pleasure, I removed about fifteen or those who had signalized themselves by their own intolerance in office, because the public voice called for it imperiously, and it was just that the Republicans should at length have some participation in the government. There never was another removal but for such delinquencies as removed the Republicans equally. In this horrid drudgery I always felt myself as a public executioner, an office which no one who knows me, I hope, supposes very grateful to my feelings. It was considerably alleviated, however, by the industry of their newspapers in endeavoring to excite resentment enough to enable me to meet the operation. However, I hail the day which is to relieve me from being viewed as an official enemy. In private life I never had above one or two; to the friendship of that situation I look with delight.
TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR VIRGINIA
Washington May 20, 07.
—Dr. Bollman, on his arrival here in custody in Jan., voluntarily offered to make communications to me, which he accordingly did, Mr. Madison, also being present. I previously & subsequently assured him, (without, however, his having requested it,) that they should never be used against himself. Mr. Madison on the same evening committed to writing, by memory, what he had said; & I moreover asked of Bollman to do it himself, which he did, & I now enclose it to you. The object is as he is to be a witness, that you may know how to examine him, & draw everything from him. I wish the paper to be seen & known only to yourself and the gentlemen who aid you, & to be returned to me. If he should prevaricate, I should be willing you should go so far as to ask him whether he did not say so & so to Mr. Madison & myself. In order to let him see that his prevarications will be marked, Mr. Madison will forward you a pardon for him, which we mean should be delivered previously. It is suspected by some he does not intend to appear. If he does not, I hope you will take effectual measures to have him immediately taken into custody. Some other blank pardons are sent on to be filled up at your discretion, if you should find a defect of evidence, & believe that this would supply it, by avoiding to give them to the gross offenders, unless it be visible that the principal will otherwise escape. I send you an affidavit of importance received last night. If General Wilkinson gets on in time, I expect he will bring Dunbaugh on with him. At any rate it may be a ground for an arrest & commitment for treason. Accept my friendly salutations, & assurances of great esteem and respect.
TO DE WITT CLINTON
Washington May 24, 1807.
Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to Mr. Clinton, & his thanks for the pamphlet sent him. He recollects the having read it at the time with a due sense of his obligation to the author, whose name was surmised, tho’ not absolutely known, and a conviction that he had made the most of his matter. The ground of defence might have been solidly aided by the assurance (which is the absolute fact) that the whole story fathered on Mazzei, was an unfounded falsehood. Dr. Linn, as aware of that, takes care to quote it from a dead man, who is made to quote from one residing in the remotest part of Europe. Equally false was Dr. Linn’s other story about Bishop Madison’s lawn sleeves, as the Bishop can testify, for certainly Th: J. never saw him in lawn sleeves. Had the Doctor ventured to name time, place, & person, for his third lie (the government without religion), it is probable he might have been convicted on that also. But these are slander & slanderers, whom Th: J. has thought it best to leave to the scourge of public opinion. He salutes Mr. Clinton with esteem & respect.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Washington May 26, 07.
My Dear Friend,
—I am a bad correspondent; but it is not from want of inclination, nor that I do nothing but that having too much to do, I leave undone that which admits delay with least injury. Your letter of Nov. 16 is just now received, and it gives me great pleasure that a person so well acquainted with the localities as M. Pitot has been able to give you so favorable an account of your lands. That his estimates will become just with a little time I believe, but I am also afraid his esteem for you may have misled his judgment into some little anticipation of value. But I speak from ignorance, and he from knolege. I have no doubt Mr. Duplantier will make the best location possible. Indeed his zeal had in one instance led us to fear you would be injured by it. He had comprehended in his location not only the grounds vacant of all title in the vicinity of N. Orleans which had been a principal object in my eye to enable you speedily to raise a sum of money, but also grounds which had been reserved and were necessary for the range of the forts, which had been left open as a common for the citizens. Knowing this would excite reclamations dangerous to your interests, and threatening their popularity both there & here, I wrote immediately to Govr. Claiborne to get him to withdraw to a certain extent (about point blank shot) from the fort, the grounds within that being necessary for the public. But in the meantime an alarm was excited in the town and they instructed their representative in Congress to claim for the use of the town & public the whole of the vacant lands in it’s vicinity. Mr. Gallatin however effected a compromise with him by ceding the grounds next to the fort, so as to leave your claim clear to all the lands we originally contemplated for you, as formerly explained to you. I very much wished your presence there during the late conspiracy of Burr. The native inhabitants were unshaken in their fidelity. But there was a small band of American adventurers who had fled from their debts, and who were longing to dip their hands into the mines of Mexico, enlisted in Burr’s double project of attacking that country & severing our union. Had Burr had a little success in the upper country these parricides would have joined him. However the whole business has shewn that neither he nor they knew anything of the people of this country. A simple proclamation informing the people of these combinations, and calling on them to suppress them produced an instantaneous levee en masse of our citizens wherever there appeared anything to lay hold of, & the whole was crushed in one instant. It is certain that he never had one hundred men engaged in his enterprise, & most of these were made to believe the government patronized it. Which artifice had been practised by Miranda a short time before, and had decoyed about 30. Americans to engage in his unauthorized projects. Burr is now under trial for a misdemeanor, that is for his projected Mexican enterprise, and will be put on his trial for treason as soon as the witnesses can be collected, for his attempt to sever the Union, and unless his federal patrons give him an opportunity of running away, he will unquestionably be convicted on both prosecutions. The enterprise has done good by proving that the attachment of the people in the west is as firm as that in the East to the union of our country, and by establishing a mutual & universal confidence. Your presence at New Orleans would have been of value, as a point of union & confidence for the ancient inhabitants American as well as Creole. New Orleans itself is said to be unhealthy for strangers; but on the western side of the river is as healthy & fine a country as in the universe. Your emperor has done more splendid things, but he [has] never done one which will give happiness to so great a number of human beings as the ceding Louisiana to the U. S.
I wrote to Madame de Tesse on the 21st of Feb and at the same time sent a box of seeds, nuts, acorns &c. to Baltimore, which were forwarded to Bordeaux for her, to the care of Mr. Lee our consul there. I had done the same thing the preceding year. That vessel was taken by the English, detained, but got to France in April. It is so difficult in times of war to get anything carried safely across the Atlantic as to be very discouraging. I shall not fail, however, to repeat my endeavours as to such objects as are in our neighborhood here, until she has a plenty of them. I am panting for retirement, but am as yet nearly two years from that goal. The general solicitations I have received to continue another term give me great consolation, but considerations public as well as personal determine me inflexibly on that measure. Permit me to place here my most friendly respects to M. & Me de Tesse, & Me. de La Fayette, accept for yourself my salutations & assurances of sincere & affectionate esteem.
TO JOHN W. EPPES
Washington May 28, 07.
—Martin arrived here the night before last & delivered safely yours of the 22d. I learn with great pleasure the good health of yourself & the good family of Eppington & particularly of our dear Francis. I have little fear but that he will outgrow those attacks which have given us such frequent uneasiness. I shall hope to see him well here next winter and that our grounds will be in such a state as to admit him to be more in the open air in the neighborhood of the house. Your mare is not as fat as she was, but is in good traveling order. I have advised Martin to go round by the bridge for fear of accident to the foal crossing in the boat. We have nothing new except an uncommonly friendly letter from the Bey of Tunis: and good reason to believe that Melli-Melli carried to his government favorable & friendly impressions. The news is now all with you. We have heard as yet only the proceedings of the 1st day of Burr’s trial, which from the favor of the marshal & judge promises him all which can depend on them. A grand jury of 2 feds, 4 Quids & 10 republicans does not seem to be a fair representation of the state of Virginia. But all this will show the original error of establishing a judiciary independent of the nation, and which, from the citadel of the law can turn it’s guns on those they were meant to defend, & controul & fashion their proceedings to it’s own will. I have always entertained a high opinion of the marshal’s integrity & political correctness. But in a state where there are not more than 8 Quids, how 5 of them should have been summoned on one jury is difficult to explain from accident. Affectionate salutations & constant esteem to you all.
TO THE SECRETARY OF TREASURY
June 1, ’07.
I gave you, some time ago, a project of a more equal tariff on wines than that which now exists. But in that I yielded considerably to the faulty classification of them in our law. I have now formed one with attention, and according to the best information I possess, classing them more rigorously. I am persuaded that were the duty on cheap wines put on the same ratio with the dear, it would wonderfully enlarge the field of those who use wine, to the expulsion of whiskey. The introduction of a very cheap wine (St. George) into my neighborhood, within two years past, has quadrupled in that time the number of those who keep wine, and will ere long increase them tenfold. This would be a great gain to the treasury, & to the sobriety of our country. I will here add my tariff, wherein you will be able to chuse any rate of duty you please, and to decide whether it will not, on a fit occasion, be proper for legislative attention. Affectn salutns.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
June 12, 1807.
The proposition in your letter of May 16th, as adding an umpire to our discordant negotiators at Paris, struck me favorably on reading it, and reflection afterward strengthened my first impressions. I made it, therefore, a subject of consultation with my coadjutors, as is our usage. For our government although in theory subject to be directed by the unadvised will of the President, is, and from its origin has been, a very different thing in practice. The minor business in each department is done by the head of the department on consultation with the President alone; but all matters of importance or difficulty are submitted to all the heads of departments composing the cabinet. Sometimes, by the President’s consulting them separately and successively, as they happen to call on him, but in the gravest cases calling them together, discussing the subject maturely, and finally taking the vote, on which the President counts himself but as one. So that in all important cases the Executive is in fact a directory, which certainly the President might control; but of this there was never an example either in the first or the present administration. I have heard, indeed, that my predecessor sometimes decided things against his counsel by dashing and trampling his wig on the floor. This only proves what you and I know, that he had a better heart than head.
I see with extreme concern that you have received an impression that my attachment to you has become lessened and that you have drawn this inference from circumstances taking place while you were in Washington. What these circumstances could be is to me incomprehensible, but one thing I certainly know, that they have been misconstrued. That this change could not be previous to my retirement from the government in 1794, your appointments to France, to Holland, to Spain are proofs. And if, during my present place in the government, I have not met your desires, the public motives which have been frankly declared have given the real grounds. You think them not founded in fact; but if the testimony we receive is of different complexions, neither should wonder at the difference of conclusion drawn by the other, and I do trust that you will become sensible that there is no necessity, at least, for supposing a change in affections, which are the same now as they have ever been. Certainly I shall not, on my part, permit a difference of view on a single subject to efface the recollections and attachments of a whole life.
TO JOHN NORVELL
Washington June 14, 1807.
—Your letter of May 9 has been duly received. The subject it proposes would require time & space for even moderate development. My occupations limit me to a very short notice of them. I think there does not exist a good elementary work on the organization of society into civil government: I mean a work which presents in one full & comprehensive view the system of principles on which such an organization should be founded, according to the rights of nature. For want of a single work of that character, I should recommend Locke on Government, Sidney, Priestley’s Essay on the first Principles of Government, Chipman’s Principles of Government, & the Federalist. Adding, perhaps, Beccaria on crimes & punishments, because of the demonstrative manner in which he has treated that branch of the subject. If your views of political inquiry go further, to the subjects of money & commerce, Smith’s Wealth of Nations is the best book to be read, unless Say’s Political Economy can be had, which treats the same subject on the same principles, but in a shorter compass & more lucid manner. But I believe this work has not been translated into our language.
History, in general, only informs us what bad government is. But as we have employed some of the best materials of the British constitution in the construction of our own government, a knolege of British history becomes useful to the American politician. There is, however, no general history of that country which can be recommended. The elegant one of Hume seems intended to disguise & discredit the good principles of the government, and is so plausible & pleasing in it’s style & manner, as to instil it’s errors & heresies insensibly into the minds of unwary readers. Baxter has performed a good operation on it. He has taken the text of Hume as his ground work, abridging it by the omission of some details of little interest, and wherever he has found him endeavoring to mislead, by either the suppression of a truth or by giving it a false coloring, he has changed the text to what it should be, so that we may properly call it Hume’s history republicanised. He has moreover continued the history (but indifferently) from where Hume left it, to the year 1800. The work is not popular in England, because it is republican; and but a few copies have ever reached America. It is a single 4to. volume. Adding to this Ludlow’s Memoirs, Mrs. M’Cauley’s & Belknap’s histories, a sufficient view will be presented of the free principles of the English constitution.
To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, “by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.” Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it’s benefits, than is done by it’s abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this. Divide his paper into 4 chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2d, Probabilities. 3d, Possibilities. 4th, Lies. The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information from such sources as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The 2d would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The 3d & 4th should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.
Such an editor too, would have to set his face against the demoralising practice of feeding the public mind habitually on slander, & the depravity of taste which this nauseous aliment induces. Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance to their auditors, and instead of the abhorrence & indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, tho they do not themselves. It seems to escape them, that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is it’s real author.
These thoughts on the subjects of your letter are hazarded at your request. Repeated instances of the publication of what has not been intended for the public eye, and the malignity with which political enemies torture every sentence from me into meanings imagined by their own wickedness only, justify my expressing a solicitude, that this hasty communication may in nowise be permitted to find it’s way into the public papers. Not fearing these political bull-dogs, I yet avoid putting myself in the way of being baited by them, and do not wish to volunteer away that portion of tranquillity, which a firm execution of my duties will permit me to enjoy.
I tender you my salutations, and best wishes for your success.
TO JAMES SULLIVAN
(GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS.)
Washington June 19, ’07.
—In acknowleging the receipt of your favor of the 3d instant, I avail myself of the occasion it offers of tendering to yourself, to Mr. Lincoln & to your State, my sincere congratulations on the late happy event of the election of a republican Executive to preside over its councils. The harmony it has introduced between the legislative & executive branches, between the people & both of them, & between all & the General government, are so many steps towards securing that union of action & effort in all it’s parts, without which no nation can be happy or safe. The just respect with which all the States have ever looked to Massachusetts, could leave none of them without anxiety, while she was in a state of alienation from her family and friends. Your opinion of the propriety & advantage of a more intimate correspondence between the executives of the several States, & that of the Union, as a central point, is precisely that which I have ever entertained; and on coming into office I felt the advantages which would result from that harmony. I had it even in contemplation, after the annual recommendation to Congress of those measures called for by the times, which the Constitution had placed under their power to make communications in like manner to the executives of the States, as to any parts of them to which the legislatures might be alone competent. For many are the exercises of power reserved to the States, wherein an uniformity of proceeding would be advantageous to all. Such are quarantines, health laws, regulations of the press, banking institutions, training militia, &c., &c. But you know what was the state of the several governments when I came into office. That a great proportion of them were federal, & would have been delighted with such opportunities of proclaiming their contempt, & of opposing republican men & measures. Opportunities so furnished & used by some of the State Governments, would have produced an ill effect, & would have insured the failure of the object of uniform proceeding. If it could be ventured even now (Connecticut & Delaware being still hostile) it must be on some greater occasion than is likely to arise within my time. I look to it, therefore, as a course which will probably be left to the consideration of my successor.
I consider, with you, the federalists as compleately vanquished, and never more to take the field under their own banners. They will now reserve themselves to profit by the schisms among republicans, and to earn favors from minorities, whom they will enable to triumph over their more numerous antagonists. So long as republican minorities barely accept their votes, no great harm will be done; because it will only place in power one shade of republicanism, instead of another. But when they purchase the votes of the federalists, by giving them a participation of office, trust & power, it is a proof that antimonarchism is not their strongest passion. I do not think that the republican minority in Pennsylvania has fallen into this heresy, nor that there are in your State materials of which a minority can be made who will fall into it.
With respect to the tour my friends to the north have proposed that I should make in that quarter, I have not made up a final opinion. The course of life which Gen. Washington had run, civil & military, the services he had rendered, and the space he therefore occupied in the affections of his fellow citizens, take from his examples the weight of precedents for others, because no others can arrogate to themselves the claims which he had on the public homage. To myself, therefore, it comes as a new question, to be viewed under all the phases it may present. I confess that I am not reconciled to the idea of a chief magistrate parading himself through the several States, as an object of public gaze, & in quest of an applause which, to be valuable, should be purely voluntary. I had rather acquire silent good will by a faithful discharge of my duties, than owe expressions of it to my putting myself in the way of receiving them. Were I to make such a tour to Portsmouth or Portland, I must do it to Savannah, perhaps to Orleans & Frankfort. As I have never yet seen the time when the public business would have permitted me to be so long in a situation in which I could not carry it on, so I have no reason to expect that such a time will come while I remain in office. A journey to Boston or Portsmouth, after I shall be a private citizen, would much better harmonize with my feelings, as well as duties; and, founded in curiosity, would give no claims to an extension of it. I should see my friends too more at our mutual ease, and be left more exclusively to their society. However, I end as I began, by declaring I have made up no opinion on the subject, & that I reserve it as a question for further consideration & advice.
In the meantime, and at all times, I salute you with great respect and esteem.
TO DOCTOR CASPAR WISTAR
Washington June 21, ’07.
—I have a grandson, the son of Mr. Randolph, now about 15 years of age, in whose education I take a lively interest. His time has not hitherto been employed to the greatest advantage, a frequent change of tutors having prevented the steady pursuit of any one plan. Whether he possesses that lively imagination, usually called genius, I have not had opportunities of knowing. But I think he has an observing mind & sound judgment. He is assiduous, orderly, & of the most amiable temper & dispositions. As he will be at ease in point of property, his education is not directed to any particular possession, but will embrace those sciences which give to retired life usefulness, ornament or amusement. I am not a friend to placing growing men in populous cities, because they acquire there habits & partialities which do not contribute to the happiness of their after life. But there are particular branches of science, which are not so advantageously taught anywhere else in the U. S. as in Philadelphia. The garden at the Woodlands for Botany, Mr. Peale’s Museum for Natural History, your Medical school for Anatomy, and the able professors in all of them, give advantages not to be found elsewhere. We propose, therefore, to send him to Philadelphia to attend the schools of Botany, Natural History, Anatomy, & perhaps Surgery; but not of Medicine. And why not of Medicine, you will ask? Being led to the subject, I will avail myself of the occasion to express my opinions on that science, and the extent of my medical creed. But, to finish first with respect to my grandson, I will state the favor I ask of you, which is the object of this letter.
Having been born & brought up in a mountainous & healthy country, we should be unwilling he should go to Philadelphia until the autumnal diseases cease. It is important therefore for us to know, at what period after that, the courses of lectures in Natural history, Botany, Chemistry, Anatomy & Surgery begin and end, and what days or hours they occupy? The object of this is that we may be able so to marshal his pursuits as to bring their accomplishment within the shortest space practicable. I shall write to Doctor Barton for information as to the courses of natural history & botany but not having a sufficient acquaintance with professors of chemistry & surgery, if you can add the information respecting their school to that of your own, I shall be much obliged to you. What too are the usual terms of boarding? What the compensations to professors? And can you give me a conjectural estimate of other necessary expenses? In these we do not propose to indulge him beyond what is necessary, decent, & usual, because all beyond that leads to dissipation & idleness, to which, at present, he has no propensities. I think Mr. Peale has not been in the habit of receiving a boarder. His house & family would, of themselves, be a school of virtue & instruction; & hours of leisure there would be as improving as busy ones elsewhere. But I say this only on the possibility of so desirable a location for him, and not with the wish that the thought should become known to Mr. Peale, unless some former precedent should justify it’s suggestion to him. I am laying a heavy tax on your busy time, but I think your goodness will pardon it in consideration of it’s bearing on my happiness.
This subject dismissed, I may now take up that which it led to, and further tax your patience with unlearned views of medicine; which, as in most cases, are, perhaps, the more confident in proportion as they are less enlightened.
We know, from what we see & feel, that the animal body in it’s organs and functions is subject to derangement, inducing pain, & tending to it’s destruction. In this disordered state, we observe nature providing for the re-establishment of order, by exciting some salutary evacuation of the morbific matter, or by some other operation which escapes our imperfect senses and researches. She brings on a crisis, by stools, vomiting, sweat, urine, expectoration, bleeding, &c., which, for the most part, ends in the restoration of healthy action. Experience has taught us, also, that there are certain substances, by which, applied to the living body, internally or externally, we can at will produce these same evacuations, and thus do, in a short time, what nature would do but slowly, and do effectually, what perhaps she would not have strength to accomplish. Where, then, we have seen a disease, characterized by specific signs or phenomena, and relieved by a certain natural evacuation or process, whenever that disease recurs under the same appearances, we may reasonably count on producing a solution of it, by the use of such substances as we have found produce the same evacuations or movement. Thus, fulness of the stomach we can relieve by emetics; diseases of the bowels, by purgatives; inflammatory cases, by bleeding; intermittents, by the Peruvian bark; syphilis, by mercury; watchfulness, by opium; &c. So far, I bow to the utility of medicine. It goes to the well-defined forms of disease, & happily, to those the most frequent. But the disorders of the animal body, & the symptoms indicating them, are as various as the elements of which the body is composed. The combinations, too, of these symptoms are so infinitely diversified, that many associations of them appear too rarely to establish a definite disease; and to an unknown disease, there cannot be a known remedy. Here then, the judicious, the moral, the humane physician should stop. Having been so often a witness to the salutary efforts which nature makes to re-establish the disordered functions, he should rather trust to their action, than hazard the interruption of that, and a greater derangement of the system, by conjectural experiments on a machine so complicated & so unknown as the human body, & a subject so sacred as human life. Or, if the appearance of doing something be necessary to keep alive the hope & spirits of the patient, it should be of the most innocent character. One of the most successful physicians I have ever known, has assured me, that he used more bread pills, drops of colored water, & powders of hickory ashes, than of all other medicines put together. It was certainly a pious fraud. But the adventurous physician goes on, & substitutes presumption for knolege. From the scanty field of what is known, he launches into the boundless region of what is unknown. He establishes for his guide some fanciful theory of corpuscular attraction, of chemical agency, of mechanical powers, of stimuli, of irritability accumulated or exhausted, of depletion by the lancet & repletion by mercury, or some other ingenious dream, which lets him into all nature’s secrets at short hand. On the principle which he thus assumes, he forms his table of nosology, arrays his diseases into families, and extends his curative treatment, by analogy, to all the cases he has thus arbitrarily marshalled together. I have lived myself to see the disciples of Hoffman, Boerhaave, Stalh, Cullen, Brown, succeed one another like the shifting figures of a magic lantern, & their fancies, like the dresses of the annual doll-babies from Paris, becoming, from their novelty, the vogue of the day, and yielding to the next novelty their ephemeral favor. The patient, treated on the fashionable theory, sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine. The medicine therefore restored him, & the young doctor receives new courage to proceed in his bold experiments on the lives of his fellow creatures. I believe we may safely affirm, that the inexperienced & presumptuous band of medical tyros let loose upon the world, destroys more of human life in one year, than all the Robinhoods, Cartouches, & Macheaths do in a century. It is in this part of medicine that I wish to see a reform, an abandonment of hypothesis for sober facts, the first degree of value set on clinical observation, and the lowest on visionary theories. I would wish the young practitioner, especially, to have deeply impressed on his mind, the real limits of his art, & that when the state of his patient gets beyond these, his office is to be a watchful, but quiet spectator of the operations of nature, giving them fair play by a well-regulated regimen, & by all the aid they can derive from the excitement of good spirits & hope in the patient. I have no doubt, that some diseases not yet understood may in time be transferred to the table of those known. But, were I a physician, I would rather leave the transfer to the slow hand of accident, than hasten it by guilty experiments on those who put their lives into my hands. The only sure foundations of medicine are, an intimate knolege of the human body, and observation on the effects of medicinal substances on that. The anatomical & clinical schools, therefore, are those in which the young physician should be formed. If he enters with innocence that of the theory of medicine, it is scarcely possible he should come out untainted with error. His mind must be strong indeed, if, rising above juvenile credulity, it can maintain a wise infidelity against the authority of his instructors, & the bewitching delusions of their theories. You see that I estimate justly that portion of instruction which our medical students derive from your labors; &, associating with it one of the chairs which my old & able friend, Doctor Rush, so honorably fills, I consider them as the two fundamental pillars of the edifice. Indeed, I have such an opinion of the talents of the professors in the other branches which constitute the school of medicine with you, as to hope & believe, that it is from this side of the Atlantic, that Europe, which has taught us so many other things, will at length be led into sound principles in this branch of science, the most important of all others, being that to which we commit the care of health & life.
I dare say, that by this time, you are sufficiently sensible that old heads as well as young, may sometimes be charged with ignorance and presumption. The natural course of the human mind is certainly from credulity to scepticism; and this is perhaps the most favorable apology I can make for venturing so far out of my depth, & to one too, to whom the strong as well as the weak points of this science are so familiar. But having stumbled on the subject in my way, I wished to give a confession of my faith to a friend; & the rather, as I had perhaps, at times, to him as well as others, expressed my scepticism in medicine, without defining it’s extent or foundation. At any rate, it has permitted me, for a moment, to abstract myself from the dry & dreary waste of politics, into which I have been impressed by the times on which I happened, and to indulge in the rich fields of nature, where alone I should have served as a volunteer, if left to my natural inclinations & partialities.
I salute you at all times with affection & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR
June 22, 1807.
I suggest to you the following, as some of the ideas which might be expressed by Genl Wilkinson, in answering Govr Saludo’s letter. The introductory and concluding sentiments will best flow from the General’s own feelings of the personal standing between him & Govr Saludo:
On the transfer of Louisiana by France to the U. S. according to it’s boundaries when possessed by France, the government of the U. S. considered itself entitled as far west as the Rio Norte; but understanding soon after that Spain, on the contrary, claimed eastwardly to the river Sabine, it has carefully abstained from doing any act in the intermediate country, which might disturb the existing state of things, until these opposing claims should be explained and accommodated amicably. But that the Red river and all its waters belonged to France, that she made several settlements on that river, and held them as a part of Louisiana until she delivered that country to Spain, & that Spain, on the contrary, had never made a single settlement on the river, are circumstances so well known & so susceptible of proof, that it was not supposed that Spain would seriously contest the facts, or the right established by them. Hence our government took measures for exploring that river, as it did that of the Missouri, by sending Mr. Freeman to proceed from the mouth upwards, and Lieutenant Pike from the source downwards, merely to acquire its geography, and so far enlarge the boundaries of science. For the day must be very distant when it will be either the interest or the wish of the U. S. to extend settlements into the interior of that country. Lt. Pike’s orders were accordingly strictly confined to the waters of the Red river, &, from his known observance of orders, I am persuaded that it must have been, as he himself declares, by missing his way that he got on the waters of the Rio Norte, instead of those of the Red river. That your Excellency should excuse this involuntary error, & indeed misfortune, was expected from the liberality of your character; & the kindnesses you have shewn him are an honorable example of those offices of good neighborhood on your part, which it will be so agreeable to us to cultivate. Accept my thanks for them, & be assured they shall on all occasions meet a like return. To the same liberal sentiment L Pike must appeal for the restoration of his papers. You must have seen in them no trace of unfriendly views towards your nation, no symptoms of any other design than of extending geographical knolege; and it is not in the nineteenth century, nor through the agency of your Excellency, that science expects to encounter obstacles. The field of knolege is the common property of all mankind, and any discoveries we can make in it will be for the benefit of yours and of every other nation, as well as our own.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Washington June 25, 1807. 5.30 P.M.
—I am sorry to be obliged to hasten your return to this place, & pray that it may be without a moment’s avoidable delay. The capture of the Chesapeake by a British ship of war renders it necessary to have all our Council together. The mail is closing. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA
(WILLIAM H. CABELL.)
Washington June 29, 1807.
—Your favor by express was safely received on Saturday night, and I am thankful to you for the attention of which it is a proof. Considering the General and State governments as co-operators in the same holy concerns, the interest and happiness of our country, the interchange of mutual aid is among the most pleasing of the exercises of our duty. Captn. Gordon 2d in command of the Chesapeake, has arrived here with the details of that affair. Yet as the precaution you took of securing us against the accident of wanting information, was entirely proper, & the expense of the express justly a national one, I have directed him to be paid here, so that he is enabled to refund any money you may have advanced him. Mr. Gallatin & Genl. Dearborne happening to be absent, I have asked their immediate attendance here, and I expect them this day. We shall then determine on the course which the exigency and our constitutional powers call for. Whether the outrage is a proper cause of war, belonging exclusively to Congress, it is our duty not to commit them by doing anything which would have to be retracted. We may, however, exercise the powers entrusted to us for preventing future insults within our harbors, & claim firmly satisfaction for the past. This will leave Congress free to decide whether war is the most efficacious mode of redress in our case, or whether, having taught so many other useful lessons to Europe, we may not add that of showing them that there are peaceable means of repressing injustice, by making it the interest of the aggressor to do what is just, and abstain from future wrong. It is probable you will hear from us in the course of the week. I salute you with great esteem and respect.
[July 2, 1807.]
During the wars which for some time have unhappily prevailed among the powers of Europe, the US. of America, firm in their principles of peace, have endeavored by justice, by a regular discharge of all their national & social duties, and by every friendly office their situation admitted, to maintain, with all the belligerents, their accustomed relations of friendship, hospitality & commercial intercourse. Taking no part in the questions which animate these powers against each other, nor permitting themselves to entertain a wish, but for the restoration of general peace, they have observed with good faith the neutrality they assumed, & they believe that no instance of departure from it’s duties can be justly imputed to them by any nation. A free use of their harbours and waters, the means of refitting & of refreshment, of succour to their sick & suffering, have, at all times, and on equal principles been extended to all: and this too while the officers of one of the belligerents received among us have been in a continued course of insubordination to the laws, of violence to the persons, & of trespasses on the property of our citizens. These abuses of the laws of hospitality have become habitual to the Commanders of the British armed vessels hovering on our coasts & frequenting our harbours; they have been the subject of repeated representations to their government; assurances have been given that proper orders should restrain them within the limit of the rights, & of the respect belonging to a friendly nation: but those orders & assurances have been without effect; nor has a single instance of punishment for past wrongs taken place. Even the murder of a citizen, peaceably pursuing his occupations, within the limits of our jurisdiction. And at length a deed, transcending all we have suffered, brings the public sensibility to a serious crisis, and forbearance to a necessary pause. A frigate of the US. trusting to a state of peace and leaving her harbor on a distant service, has been surprised and attacked by a British vessel of superior force, one of a squadron then lying in our waters to cover the transaction, & has been disabled from service with the loss of a number of men killed & wounded. This enormity was not only without provocation or justifiable cause; but was committed with the avowed purpose of taking by force from a ship of war of the US. a part of her crew: and that no circumstance might be wanting to make its character, the commander was apprised that the seamen thus forcibly were native citizens of the US. His purpose effected he returned to anchor with his squadron within our jurisdiction. Hospitality under such circumstances ceases to be a duty: and a continuance of it with such uncontroulled abuses would tend only, by multiplying injuries, & irritations, to bring on a rupture equally opposed to the interests of both nations, as to assurances of the most friendly dispositions on the part of the British government in the midst of which this outrage has been committed. The subject cannot but present itself to that government, & strengthen the motives to an honorable reparation of the wrong which has been done, and that effectual controul of its naval commanders which alone can justify the government of the US. in the exercise of those hospitalities it is now constrained to discontinue.
In consideration of these circumstances, and of the right of every nation to regulate it’s own police, to provide for it’s peace & for the safety of it’s citizens, & consequently to refuse the admission of armed vessels into it’s harbors or waters, either in such numbers, or of such descriptions, as are inconsistent with these, or with the maintenance of the authority of the laws, I have thought proper in pursuance of the authority specially given by law to issue this my Proclamation, hereby requiring all armed vessels bearing commissions under the government of Great Britain now within the harbors or waters of the US. immediately & without any delay to depart from the same: and interdicting the entrance of all the said harbors & waters to the said armed vessels, & to all others bearing commissions under the authority of the British government.
And if the sd vessels or any of them, shall fail to depart as aforesaid, or if they or any others, so interdicted, shall hereafter enter the harbors or waters aforesaid, I do in that case forbid all intercourse with either or any of them, their officers or crews, & do prohibit all supplies & aid from being furnished to them or any of them.
And I do declare & make known that if any person from, or within, the jurisdictional limits of the US. shall afford any aid to any such vessel contrary to the prohibition contained in this proclamation, either in repairing any such vessel, or in furnishing her, her officers or crew, with supplies of any kind, or in any manner whatever, or if any pilot shall assist in navigating any of the said armed vessels, unless it be for the purpose of carrying them in the first instance, beyond the limits & jurisdiction of the US. or unless it be in the case of a vessel forced by distress, or charged with public dispatches as hereinafter provided for, such person or persons shall, on conviction, suffer all the pains and penalties by the laws provided for such offences.
And I do hereby enjoin & require all persons bearing office civil or military within or under the authority of the US., and all others, citizens or inhabitants thereof, or being within the same, with vigilance & promptitude to exert their respective authorities & to be aiding & assisting to the carrying this Proclamation & every part thereof into full effect.
Provided nevertheless that if any such vessel shall be forced into the harbors or waters of the US. by distress, by the dangers of the sea, or by the pursuit of an enemy, or shall enter them charged with dispatches or business from their government, or shall be a public packet for the conveyance of letters and dispatches, the commanding officer, immediately reporting his vessel to the collector of the district, stating the object or causes of entering the sd harbors or waters, & conforming himself to the regulations in that case prescribed under the authority of the laws, shall be allowed the benefit of such regulations respecting repairs, supplies, stay, intercourse, & departure as shall be permitted under the same authority.
In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the US. to be affixed to these presents & sign the same.
Given at the city of Washington the 2d day of July in the year of our lord 1807 and of the sovereignty & independence of the US. the 31st.
TO THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Washington July 6, ’07.
—I congratulate you on your safe arrival with Miss Clinton at New York, & especially on your escape from British violence. This aggression is a of character so distinct from that on the Chesapeake, and of so aggravated a nature, that I consider it as a very material one to be presented with that to the British Government. I pray you, therefore, to write me a letter, stating the transaction, & in such a form as that it may go to that Government. At the same time, I must request you to instruct Mr. Gelston, from me, to take the affidavits of the Captain of the revenue cutter, & of such other persons as you shall direct stating the same affair, & to be forwarded, in like manner, to our Minister in London.
You will have seen by the proclamation, the measures adopted. We act on these principles, 1. That the usage of nations requires that we shall give the offender an opportunity of making reparation & avoiding war. 2. That we should give time to our merchants to get in their property & vessels & our seamen now afloat. And 3. That the power of declaring war being with the Legislature, the executive should do nothing, necessarily committing them to decide for war in preference of non-intercourse, which will be preferred by a great many. They will be called in time to receive the answer from Great Britain, unless new occurrences should render it necessary to call them sooner.
I salute you with friendship & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY AT WAR
Washington July 7, 1807.
—I enclose you copies of 2 letters sent by express from Capt. Decatur. By these you will perceive that the British commanders have their foot on the threshold of war. They have begun the blockade of Norfolk; have sounded the passage to the town, which appears practicable for three of their vessels, & menace an attack on the Chesapeake and Cybele. These, with 4. gun-boats, form the present defence, & there are 4. more gun-boats in Norfolk nearly ready. The 4. gun-boats at Hampton are hauled up, & in danger, 4. in Mopjack bay are on the stocks. Blows may be hourly possible. In this state of things I am sure your own feelings will anticipate the public judgment, that your presence here cannot be dispensed with. There is nobody here who can supply your knowledge of the resources for land co-operation, & the means for bringing them into activity. Still, I would wish you would stay long enough at N York to settle with the V. P. & Colo. Williams, the plan of defence for that place; & I am in hopes you will also see Fulton’s experiments tried, & see how far his means may enter into your plan. But as soon as that is done, should matters remain in their present critical state, I think the public interest and safety would suffer by your absence from us. Indeed, if the present state of things continues, I begin to fear we shall not be justifiable in separating this autumn, & that even an earlier meeting of Congress than we had contemplated, may be requisite. I salute you affectionately.
TO THOMAS COOPER
Washington July 9, ’07.
—Your favor of June 23 is received. I had not before learned that a life of Dr. Priestley had been published, or I should certainly have procured it; for no man living had a more affectionate respect for him. In religion, in politics, in physics, no man has rendered more service.
I had always expected that when the republicans should have put down all things under their feet, they would schismatize among themselves. I always expected, too, that whatever names the parties might bear, the real division would be into moderate & ardent republicanism. In this division there is no great evil,—not even if the minority obtain the ascendency by the accession of federal votes to their candidate; because this gives us one shade only, instead of another, of republicanism. It is to be considered as apostasy only when they purchase the votes of federalists, with a participation in honor & power. The gross insult lately received from the English has forced the latter into a momentary coalition with the mass of republicans; but the moment we begin to act in the very line they have joined in approving, all will be wrong, and every act the reverse of what it should have been. Still, it is better to admit their coalescence, & leave to themselves their short-lived existence. Both reason & the usage of nations required we should give Gr. Britain an opportunity of disavowing & repairing the insult of their officers. It gives us at the same time an opportunity of getting home our vessels, our property, & our seamen,—the only means of carrying on the kind of war we should attempt. The only difference, I believe, between your opinion & mine, as to the protection of commerce, is the forcing the nation to take the best road, & the letting them take the worse, if such is their will. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
July 10, 1807.
Something now occurs almost every day on which it is desirable to have the opinions of the heads of departments, yet to have a formal meeting every day would consume so much of their time as to seriously obstruct their regular business. I have proposed to them, as most convenient for them, & wasting less of their time, to call on me at any moment of the day which suits their separate convenience, when, besides any other business they may have to do, I can learn their opinions separately on any matter which has occurred, & also communicate the information received daily. Perhaps you could find it more convenient, sometimes, to make your call at the hour of dinner, instead of going so much further to dine alone. You will always find a plate & a sincere welcome. In this way, that is, successively, I have to-day consulted the other gentlemen on the question whether letters of marque were to be considered as within our interdict. We are unanimously of opinion they are not. We consider them as essentially merchant vessels; that commerce is their main object, and arms merely incidental & defensive. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE U. S. MINISTER TO SPAIN
Washington July 10, ’07.
—I wrote you on the 10th of July, 06, but supposing, from your not acknoleging the receipt of the letter, that it had miscarried, I sent a duplicate with my subsequent one of Apr. 2. These having gone by the Wasp, you will doubtless have received them. Since that, yours of May 1 has come to hand. You will see by the despatches from the department of State, carried by the armed vessel the Revenge, into what a critical state our peace with Gr. Britain is suddenly brought, by their armed vessels in our waters. Four vessels of war (3. of them two deckers) closely blockade Norfolk at this instant. Of the authority under which this aggression is committed, their minister here is unapprised. You will see by the proclamation of July 2, that (while we are not omitting such measures of force as are immediately necessary) we propose to give Gr. Br. an opportunity of disavowal & reparation, and to leave the question of war, non-intercourse, or other measures, uncommitted, to the Legislature. This country has never been in such a state of excitement since the battle of Lexington. In this state of things, cordial friendship with France, & peace at least with Spain, become more interesting. You know the circumstances respecting this last power, which have rendered it ineligible that you should have proceeded heretofore to your destination. But this obstacle is now removed by their recall of Yrujo, & appointment of another minister, & in the meantime, of a chargé des affaires, who has been received. The way being now open for taking your station at Madrid, it is certainly our wish you should do so, and that this may be more agreeable to you than your return home, as is solicited in yours of May 1. It is with real unwillingness we should relinquish the benefit of your services. Nevertheless, if your mind is decidedly bent on that, we shall regret, but not oppose your return. The choice, therefore, remains with yourself. In the meantime, your place in the joint commission being vacated by either event, we shall take the measures rendered necessary by that. We have seen, with real grief, the misunderstanding which has taken place between yourself & Gen. Armstrong. We are neither qualified nor disposed to form an opinion between you. We regret the pain which must have been felt by persons, both of whom hold so high a place in our esteem, and we have not been without fear that the public interest might suffer by it. It has seemed, however, that the state of Europe has been such as to admit little to be done, in matters so distant from them.
The present alarm has had the effect of suspending our foreign commerce. No merchant ventures to send out a single vessel; and I think it probable this will continue very much the case till we get an answer from England. Our crops are uncommonly plentiful. That of small grain is now secured south of this, and the harvest is advancing here.
Accept my salutations, & assurances of affectionate esteem & respect.
TO BARNABAS BIDWELL
Washington July 11, ’07.
—Yours of June 27 has been duly received, and altho’ wishing your happiness always, I cannot be altogether unpleased with a transfer of your services to a department more pleasing to yourself, yet I cannot but lament your loss in Congress. You know that talents cannot be more useful anywhere than there; and the times seem to portend that we may have occasion there for all we possess. You have long ago learnt the atrocious acts committed by the British armed vessels in the Chesapeake & it’s neighborhood. They cannot be easily accommodated, altho it is believed that they cannot be justified by orders from their government. We have acted on these principles; 1. to give that government an opportunity to disavow & make reparation; 2, to give ourselves time to get in the vessels, property & seamen, now spread over the ocean; 3, to do no act which might compromit Congress in their choice between war, non-intercourse, or any other measure. We shall probably call them some time in October, having regard to the return of the healthy season, and to the receipt of an answer from Great Britain, before which they could only act in the dark. In the meantime we shall make all the preparations which time will permit, so as to be ready for any alternative.
The officers of the British ships, in a conference with a gentleman sent to them by the Mayor of Norfolk, have solemnly protested they mean no further proceeding without further orders. But the question is whether they will obey the proclamation? If they do not, acts of force will probably ensue; still these may lead to nothing further, if their government is just. I salute you with great affection.
TO JOHN W. EPPES
Washington July 12, ’07.
—Yours of the 3d is received. At that time I presume you have [had] not got mine of June 19 asking the favor of you to procure me a horse. I have lost three since you left this place. However I can get along with the three I have remaining so as to give time for looking for a fourth suitable in as many points as can be obtained. My happiness at Monticello (if I am able to go there) will be lessened by not having yourself & Francis there. But the circumstance which prevents it is among the most painful that have happened to me in life. Thus comfort after comfort drops off from us, till nothing is left but what is proper food for the grave. I trust however we shall have yourself & Francis the ensuing winter & the one following that, and we must let the aftertime provide for itself. He will ever be to me one of the dearest objects in life.
The affair of the Chesapeake seems to have come in as an interlude during the suspension of Burr’s trial. I suspect it will turn out that the order Barclay received from his government was in equivocal terms, implying force or not, as should suit them to say, and & the construction would be governed by Bonaparte’s successes or misfortunes. I know that Barclay’s order to the ships under him was of that character. However their orders are to be nothing in our eye. The fact is what they have to settle with us. Reason & the usage of civilized nations require that we should give them an opportunity of disavowal & reparation. Our own interest too, the very means of making war, requires that we should give time to our merchants to gather in their vessels & property & our seamen now afloat. And our duty requires that we do no act which shall commit Congress in their choice between war, non-intercourse & other measures. You will be called as early as the circumstances of health, & of an answer from England will recommend. Probably some time in October. Should that country have the good sense to do us ample justice, it will be a war saved. But I do not expect it, and every preparation therefore is going on & will continue, which is within our power. A war need cost us very little; and we can take from them what would be an indemnification for a great deal. For this everything shall be in readiness at the moment it is declared. I have not yet heard how Commodore Douglass has taken the proclamation. That he will obey it I doubt. Should he not, the moment our 16 gunboats in that quarter are ready, they will be able to take off all his small vessels, & to oblige his large ones to keep together. I count on their being all ready before the end of this month; & by that time we shall have 32 in New York, and a good provision of batteries along the shores of the city; for to waste labor in defending the approaches to it would be idle. The only practicable object is to prevent ships coming to before it. We have nothing interesting to us from either London, Paris or Madrid, except that Yrujo leaves us, and a successor is to come. In the mean time we have received Foronda as charge des affaires, a most able and amiable man. In consequence of this Bowdoin will probably go on to Madrid. We shall thus avoid the mischief which the dissensions between him & Armstrong were likely to produce. Present my warm affections to Mr. & Mrs. Eppes & to the family, & accept the same for yourself.
TO THE SECRETARY AT WAR
Washington July 13, 07.
—I wrote you on the 7th; since that we learn that the Bellona & Leopard remaining in Hampton Road, the other two vessels have returned to the Capes of Chesapeake, where they have been reinforced by another frigate and a sloop of war, we know not from whence. This induces us to suppose they do not mean an immediate attack on Norfolk, but to retain their present position till further orders from their Admiral. I am inclined to think that the body of militia now in the field in Virginia would need to be regulated according to these views. They are in great want of artillery, the State possessing none. Their subsistence also, & other necessary expenses, require immediate attention from us, the finances of the State not being at all in a condition to meet these calls. We have some applications for the loan of field-pieces. The transportation of heavy cannon to Norfolk & Hampton, is rendered difficult by the blockade of those ports. These things are of necessity reserved for your direction on your return, as nobody here is qualified to act in them. It gives me sincere concern that events should thus have thwarted your wishes. Should the Bellona and Leopard retire, & a disposition be shown by the British commanders to restore things to a state of peace until they hear from their government, we may go into summer quarters without injury to the public safety, having previously made all necessary arrangements. But if the present hostile conduct is pursued, I fear we shall be obliged to keep together, or at least within consulting distance. I salute you with sincere affection & respect.
TO DUPONT DE NEMOURS
Washington July 14, 1807.
My Dear Sir,
—I received last night your letter of May 6, and a vessel being just now sailing from Baltimore, affords me an opportunity of hastily acknoleging it. Your exhortation to make a provision of arms is undoubtedly wise, and we have not been inattentive to it. Our internal resources for cannon are great, and those for small arms considerable, & in full emploiment. We shall not suffer from that want should we have war; and of the possibility of that you will judge by the enclosed proclamation, & by what you know of the character of the English government. Never since the battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity. The federalists themselves coalesce with us as to the object, tho’ they will return to their trade of censuring every measure taken to obtain it. “Reparation for the past, and security for the future,” is our motto; but whether they will yield it freely, or will require resort to non-intercourse, or to war, is yet to be seen. We prepare for the last. We have actually 2,000 men in the field, employed chiefly in covering the exposed coast, & cutting off all supply to the British vessels. We think our gun-boats at New York, (32,) with heavy batteries along shore, & bombs, will put that city hors d’ insulte. If you could procure & send me a good description & drawing of one of your Prames, you would do me a most acceptable service. I suppose them to be in fact a floating battery, rendered very manageable by oars.
Burr’s conspiracy has been one of the most flagitious of which history will ever furnish an example. He had combined the objects of separating the western States from us, of adding Mexico to them, and of placing himself at their head. But he who could expect to effect such objects by the aid of American citizens, must be perfectly ripe for Bedlam. Yet altho’ there is not a man in the U. S. who is not satisfied of the depth of his guilt, such are the jealous provisions of our laws in favor of the accused, & against the accuser, that I question if he can be convicted. Out of 48 jurors who are to be summoned, he has a right to choose the 12 who are to try him, and if any one of the 12 refuses to concur in finding him guilty, he escapes. This affair has been a great confirmation in my mind of the innate strength of the form of our government. He had probably induced near a thousand men to engage with him, by making them believe the government connived at it. A proclamation alone, by undeceiving them, so compleatly disarmed him, that he had not above 30 men left, ready to go all lengths with him. The first enterprise was to have been the seizure of N. Orleans, which he supposed would powerfully bridle the country above, & place him at the door of Mexico. It has given me infinite satisfaction that not a single native Creole of Louisiana, and but one American, settled there before the delivery of the country to us, were in his interest. His partisans there were made up of fugitives from justice, or from their debts, who had flocked there from other parts of the U. S., after the delivery of the country, and of adventurers & speculators of all descriptions. I thank you for the volume of Memoirs you have sent me, & will immediately deliver that for the Phil. Society. I feel a great interest in the publication of Turgot’s works, but quite as much in your return here. Your Eleutherian son is very valuable to us, & will daily become more so. I hope there will be a reaction of good offices on him. We have heard of a great improvement in France of the furnace for heating cannon-balls, but we can get no description of it.
I salute you with sincere affection, & add assurances of the highest respect.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Washington July 14, 07.
My Dear Friend,
—I received last night your letters of Feb. 20 & Apr. 29, and a vessel just sailing from Baltimore enables me hastily to acknolege them; to assure you of the welcome with which I receive whatever comes from you, & the continuance of my affectionate esteem for yourself & family. I learn with much concern, indeed, the state of Mde. de La Fayette’s health. I hope I have the pleasure yet to come of learning it’s entire re-establishment. She is too young not to give great confidence to that hope.
Measuring happiness by the American scale, & sincerely wishing that of yourself & family, we had been anxious to see them established on this side of the great water. But I am not certain that any equivalent can be found for the loss of that species of society, to which our habits have been formed from infancy. Certainly, had you been, as I wished, at the head of the government of Orleans, Burr would never have given me one moment’s uneasiness. His conspiracy has been one of the most flagitious of which history will ever furnish an example. He meant to separate the western States from us, to add Mexico to them, place himself at their head, establish what he would deem an energetic government, & thus provide an example & an instrument for the subversion of our freedom. The man who could expect to effect this, with American materials, must be a fit subject for Bedlam. The seriousness of the crime, however, demands more serious punishment. Yet, altho’ there is not a man in the U. S. who doubts his guilt, such are the jealous provisions of our laws in favor of the accused against the accuser, that I question if he is convicted. Out of 48 jurors to be summoned, he is to select the 12 who are to try him, and if there be any who will not concur in finding him guilty, he is discharged of course. I am sorry to tell you that Bollman was Burr’s right hand man in all his guilty schemes. On being brought to prison here, he communicated to Mr. Madison & myself the whole of the plans, always, however, apologetically for Burr, as far as they would bear. But his subsequent tergiversations have proved him conspicuously base. I gave him a pardon, however, which covers him from everything but infamy. I was the more astonished at his engaging in this business, from the peculiar motives he should have felt for fidelity. When I came into the government, I sought him out on account of the services he had rendered you, cherished him, offered him two different appointments of value, which, after keeping them long under consideration, he declined for commercial views, and would have given him anything for which he was fit. Be assured he is unworthy of ever occupying again the care of any honest man. Nothing has ever so strongly proved the innate force of our form of government, as this conspiracy. Burr had probably engaged 1000 men to follow his fortunes, without letting them know his projects, otherwise than by assuring them the government approved of them. The moment a proclamation was issued, undeceiving them, he found himself left with about 30 desperadoes only. The people rose in mass wherever he was, or was suspected to be, and by their own energy the thing was crushed in one instant, without it’s having been necessary to employ a man of the military but to take care of their respective stations. His first enterprise was to have been to seize N. Orleans, which he supposed would powerfully bridle the upper country, & place him at the door of Mexico. It is with pleasure I inform you that not a single native Creole, and but one American of those settled there before we received the place, took any part with him. His partisans were the new emigrants from the U. S. and elsewhere, fugitives from justice or debt, and adventurers and speculators of all descriptions.
I enclose you a proclamation, which will show you the critical footing on which we stand at present with England. Never, since the battle of Lexington, have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present. And even that did not produce such unanimity. The federalists themselves coalesce with us as to the object, altho’ they will return to their old trade of condemning every step we take towards obtaining it. “Reparation for the past, and security for the future,” is our motto. Whether these will be yielded freely, or will require resort to non-intercourse, or to war, is yet to be seen. We have actually near 2000 men in the field, covering the exposed parts of the coast, and cutting off supplies from the British vessels.
I am afraid I have been very unsuccessful in my endeavors to serve Mde. de Tessé in her taste for planting. A box of seeds, &c., which I sent her in the close of 1805, was carried with the vessel into England, and discharged so late that I fear she lost their benefit for that season. Another box, which I prepared in the autumn of 1806, has, I fear, been equally delayed from other accidents. However, I will persevere in my endeavors.
Present me respectfully to her, M. de Tessé, Mde. de La Fayette & your family, and accept my affectionate salutations, & assurances of constant esteem & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
July 16, 1807.
If Mr. Gallatin will be so good as to call on Th. J. on his arrival at the office, the other gentlemen will then attend on being notified, and consider the subject of Mr. Gallatin’s letter received yesterday. It is the more necessary, as everything else is ready for the departure of the vessel. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE U. S. MINISTER TO FRANCE
Washington July 17, 07.
—I take the liberty of enclosing to your care some letters to friends who, whether they are in Paris or not I do not know. If they are not, I will pray you to procure them a safe delivery.
You will receive, through the department of State, information of the critical situation in which we are with England. An outrage not to be borne has obliged us to fly to arms, and has produced such a state of exasperation, & that so unanimous, as never has been seen in this country since the battle of Lexington. We have between 2 & 3000 men on the shores of the Chesapeake, patrolling them for the protection of the country, & for preventing supplies of any kind being furnished to the British; and the moment our gun-boats are ready we shall endeavor by force to expel them from our waters. We now send a vessel to call upon the British government for reparation for the past outrage, & security for the future, nor will anything be deemed security but a renunciation of the practice of taking persons out of our vessels, under the pretence of their being English. Congress will be called some time in October, by which time we may have an answer from England. In the meantime we are preparing for a state of things which will take that course, which either the pride or the justice of England shall give it. This will occasion a modification of your instructions, as you will learn from the Sec. of state. England will immediately seize on the Floridas as a point d’ appui to annoy us. What are we to do in that case? I think she will find that there is no nation on the globe which can gall her so much as we can. I salute you with great affection & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY AT WAR
Washington July, 07.
My Dear Sir,
—I have this moment received certain information that the British vessels have retired from Hampton Road. Whether they will only join their companions in the bay, & remain there or go off, is yet to be seen. It gives me real pain to believe that circumstances still require your presence here. I have had a consultation this day with our colleagues on that subject, and we have all but one opinion on that point. Indeed, if I regarded yourself alone, I should deem it necessary to satisfy public opinion, that you should not be out of place at such a moment. The arrangements for the militia, now much called for, can be properly made only by yourself. Several other details are also at a stand. I shall therefore hope to see you in a very few days. An important question will be to be decided on the arrival of Decatur here, about this day se’night, whether, as the retirement of the British ships from Hampton Road enables us to get our 16 gun-boats together, we shall authorize them to use actual force against the British vessels. Present to Mrs. Dearborne, & accept yourself, my affectionate & respectful salutations.
TO JOHN PAGE
Washington July, 17, 07.
My Dear Friend,
—Yours of the 11th is received. In appointments to public offices of mere profit, I have ever considered faithful service in either our first or second revolution as giving preference of claim, and that appointments on that principle would gratify the public, and strengthen that confidence so necessary to enable the executive to direct the whole public force to the best advantage of the nation. Of Mr. Bolling Robenson’s talents & integrity I have long been apprized, and would gladly use them where talents & integrity are wanting. I had thought of him for the vacant place of secretary of the Orleans territory, but supposing the salary of 2000 D not more than he makes by his profession, & while remaining with his friends, I have, in despair, not proposed it to him. If he would accept it, I should name him instantly with the greatest satisfaction. Perhaps you could inform me on this point.
With respect to Majr Gibbons, I do indeed recollect, that in some casual conversation, it was said, that the most conspicuous accomplices of Burr were at home at his house; but it made so little impression on me, that neither the occasion nor the person is now recollected. On this subject, I have often expressed the principles on which I act, with a wish they might be understood by the federalists in office. I have never removed a man merely because he was a federalist: I have never wished them to give a vote at an election, but according to their own wishes. But as no government could discharge it’s duties to the best advantage of it’s citizens, if it’s agents were in a regular course of thwarting instead of executing all it’s measures, and were employing the patronage & influence of their offices against the government & it’s measures, I have only requested they would be quiet, & they should be safe; that if their conscience urges them to take an active & zealous part in opposition, it ought also to urge them to retire from a post which they could not conscientiously conduct with fidelity to the trust reposed in them; & on failure to retire, I have removed them; that is to say, those who maintained an active & zealous opposition to the government. Nothing which I have yet heard of Major Gibbons places him in danger from these principles.
I am much pleased with the ardor displayed by our countrymen on the late British outrage. It gives us the more confidence of support in the demand of reparation for the past, & security for the future, that is to say, an end of impressments. If motives of either justice or interest should produce this from Great Britain, it will save a war; but if they are refused, we shall have gained time for getting in our ships & property, & at least 20,000 seamen now afloat on the ocean, and who may man 250 privateers. The loss of these to us would be worth to Great Britain many victories of the Nile & Trafalgar. The meantime may also be importantly employed in preparations to enable us to give quick and deep blows.
Present to Mrs. Page, & receive yourself my affectionate & respectful salutations.
TO WILLIAM DUANE
Washington July 20, ’07.
—Altho’ I cannot always acknolege the receipt of communications, yet I merit their continuance by making all the use of them of which they are susceptible. Some of your suggestions had occurred, and others will be considered. The time is coming when our friends must enable us to hear everything, & expect us to say nothing; when we shall need all their confidence that everything is doing which can be done, and when our greatest praise shall be, that we appear to be doing nothing. The law for detaching 100,000 militia, & the appropriation for it, & that for fortifications, enable us to do everything for land service, as well as if Congress were here; & as to naval matters, their opinion is known. The course we have pursued, has gained for our merchants a precious interval to call in their property & our seamen, & the postponing the summons of Congress will aid in avoiding to give too quick an alarm to the adversary. They will be called, however, in good time. Altho’ we demand of England what is merely of right, reparation for the past, security for the future, yet as their pride will possibly, nay probably, prevent their yielding them to the extent we shall require, my opinion is, that the public mind, which I believe is made up for war, should maintain itself at that point. They have often enough, God knows, given us cause of war before; but it has been on points which would not have united the nation. But now they have touched a chord which vibrates in every heart. Now then is the time to settle the old and the new.
I have often wished for an occasion of saying a word to you on the subject of the Emperor of Russia, of whose character & value to us, I suspect you are not apprized correctly. A more virtuous man, I believe, does not exist, nor one who is more enthusiastically devoted to better the condition of mankind. He will probably, one day, fall a victim to it, as a monarch of that principle does not suit a Russian noblesse. He is not of the very first order of understanding, but he is of a high one. He has taken a peculiar affection to this country & it’s government, of which he has given me public as well as personal proofs. Our nation being, like his, habitually neutral, our interests as to neutral rights, and our sentiments agree. And whenever conferences for peace shall take place, we are assured of a friend in him. In fact, altho’ in questions of restitution he will be with England, in those of neutral rights he will be with Bonaparte & with every other power in the world, except England; & I do presume that England will never have peace until she subscribes to a just code of marine law. I have gone into this subject, because I am confident that Russia (while her present monarch lives) is the most cordially friendly to us of any power on earth, will go furthest to serve us, & is most worthy of conciliation. And altho’ the source of this information must be a matter of confidence with you, yet it is desirable that the sentiments should become those of the nation. I salute you with esteem & respect.
TO MR. EDMUND PENDLETON GAINES
Washington July 23, 1807.
Thomas Jefferson has re-examined the complaints in the memorial from Tombigbee, and Mr. Gaines’ explanation. The complaints are:
1. That Mr. Gaines stopped a vessel having a legal permit.
1. On the subject of the 1st complaint, Mr. Gaines was giving a verbal explanation, which Tho: Jefferson asks the favor of him now to repeat.
2. That he arrested Colo. Burr militarily.
2. That the arrest of Colo. B. was military has been disproved; but had it been so, every honest man & good citizen is bound, by any means in his power, to arrest the author of projects so daring & dangerous.
3. That Mr. Small gave evidence against Colo. Burr.
3. This complaint, as well as the preceding one, would imply a partiality for Colo. Burr, of which he hopes the petitioners were not guilty.
4. That he, Mr. Small, refused a passport to a Mr. Few.
4. On this subject, also, he asks any information Mr. Gaines can give; for tho it is a matter of discretion, it should be exercised without partiality or passion. He salutes Mr. Gaines with esteem & respect.
5. That he levies duties on Indian goods.
5. The levy of duty on Indian goods is required by the law of Congress.
6. That the people of that settlement have not the free use of the Mobille.
6. There has been a constant hope of reobtaining the navigation by negociation, & no endeavors have been spared. Congress has not thought it expedient as yet to plunge the nation into a war against Spain & France, or to obtain an exemption from the duty levied on the use of that river.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello Aug. 9, 07.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello August 16, 07.
—If anything Thrasonic & foolish from Spain could add to my contempt of that government, it would be the demand of satisfaction now made by Foronda. However, respect to ourselves requires that the answer should be decent, and I think it fortunate that this opportunity is given to make a strong declaration of facts, to wit, how far our knolege of Miranda’s objects went, what measures we took to prevent anything further, the negligence of the Spanish agents to give us earlier notice, the measures we took for punishing those guilty, & our quiet abandonment of those taken by the Spaniards. But I would not say a word in recrimination as to the western intrigues of Spain. I think that is the snare intended by this protest, to make it a set-off for the other. As soon as we have all the proofs of the western intrigues, let us make a remonstrance & demand of satisfaction, and, if Congress approves, we may in the same instant make reprisals on the Floridas, until satisfaction for that & for spoliations, and until a settlemt of boundary. I had rather have war against Spain than not, if we go to war against England. Our southern defensive force can take the Floridas, volunteers for a Mexican army will flock to our standard, and rich pabulum will be offered to our privateers in the plunder of their commerce & coasts. Probably Cuba would add itself to our confederation. The paper in answer to Foronda should, I think, be drawn with a view to its being laid before Congress, & published to the world as our justification against the imputation of participation in Miranda’s projects.
TO ROBERT FULTON
Monticello August 16, 1807.
—Your letter of July 28, came to hand just as I was about leaving Washington, & it has not been sooner in my power to acknolege it. I consider your torpedoes as very valuable means of defence of harbors, & have no doubt that we should adopt them to a considerable degree. Not that I go the whole length (as I believe you do) of considering them as solely to be relied on. Neither a nation nor those entrusted with it’s affairs, could be justifiable, however sanguine their expectations, in trusting solely to an engine not yet sufficiently tried, under all the circumstances which may occur, & against which we know not as yet what means of parrying may be devised. If, indeed, the mode of attaching them to the cable of a ship be the only one proposed, modes of prevention cannot be difficult. But I have ever looked to the submarine boat as most to be depended on for attaching them, & tho’ I see no mention of it in your letter, or your publications, I am in hopes it is not abandoned as impracticable. I should wish to see a corps of young men trained to this service. It would belong to the engineers if at land, but being nautical, I suppose we must have a corps of naval engineers, to practise & use them. I do not know whether we have authority to put any part of our existing naval establishment in a course of training, but it shall be the subject of a consultation with the Secretary of the Navy. Genl Dearborne has informed you of the urgency of our want of you at N Orleans for the locks there.
I salute you with great respect & esteem.
TO JONATHAN DAYTON
Monticello Aug. 17, 07.
—I received your letter of the 6th inst requesting my interference to have you admitted to bail, and I have considered it with a sincere disposition to administer every relief from unnecessary suffering, which lies within the limits of my regular authority. But when a person charged with an offence is placed in the possession of the judiciary authority, the laws commit to that solely the whole direction of the case; and any interference with it on the part of the Executive would be an encroachment on their independence, and open to just censure. And still more censurable would this be in a case originating, as yours does, not with the Executive, but an independent authority. I am persuaded therefore, that on reconsideration, you will be sensible that, in declining to interpose in the present case, I do but obey the vigorous prescriptions of duty. [I do it however with the less regret as I presume that the same provisions of the law which have given to the principal defendant the accommodation of common apartments, give the same right to yourself and every other defendant, in a country where the application of equal law to every condition of man is a fundamental principle.]
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello August 18, 1807.
—I return you the papers received yesterday. Mr. Erskine complains of a want of communication between the British armed vessels in the Chesapeake, or off the coast. If, by off the coast, he means those which, being generally in our waters, go occasionally out of them to cruize or to acquire a title to communicate with their consul, it is too poor an evasion for him to expect us to be the dupes of. If vessels off the coast, & having never violated the proclamation, wish to communicate with their consul, they may send in by any vessel, without a flag. He gives a proof of their readiness to restore deserters, from an instance of the Chichester lying along-side a wharf at Norfolk. It would have been as applicable if Capt Stopfield and his men had been in a tavern at Norfolk. All this, too, a British sergeant is ready to swear to; & further, that he saw British deserters enlisted in their British uniform by our officer. As this fact is probably false, & can easily be inquired into, names being given, and as the story of the Chichester can be ascertained by Capt Saunders, suppose you send a copy of the paper to the Secy of the Navy, and recommend to him having an inquiry made. We ought gladly to procure evidence to hang the pirates, if no objection or difficulty occur from the place of trial. If the Driver is the scene of trial, where is she? if in our waters, we can have no communication with her, if out of them, it may be inconvenient to send the witnesses. Altho’ there is neither candor nor dignity in soliciting the victualling the Columbine for 4 months for a voyage of 10 days, yet I think you had better give the permission. It is not by these huckstering manœuvres that the great national question is to be settled. I salute you affectionately.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello Aug. 20, ’07.
Your letter to Dayton I think perfectly right, unless, perhaps, the expression of personal sympathy in the 1st. page might be misconstrued, & coupled with the circumstance that we had not yet instituted a prosecution against him, altho’ possessed of evidence. Poor Yznardi seems to have been worked up into distraction by the persecutions of Meade. I enclose you a letter I have received from him. Also one from Warden, attested by Armstrong, by which you will see that the feuds there are not subsiding.
By yesterday’s, or this day’s mails, you will have received the information that Bonaparte has annihilated the allied armies. The result will doubtless be peace on the continent, an army despatched through Persia to India, & the main army brought back to their former position on the channel. This will oblige England to withdraw everything home, & leave us an open field. An account, apparently worthy of credit, in the Albany paper, is, that the British authorities are withdrawing all their cannon & magazines from Upper Canada to Quebec, considering the former not tenable, & the latter their only fast-hold.
TO THOMAS LEIPER
Monticello Aug. 21, 07.
—I pray you to consider this letter so confidential as not to be hinted even to your most intimate friends. You propose General Steele as the successor to the present collector. The following circumstances are to be considered. It is indispensable that the head of the Indian department reside at the seat of government. General Shee was apprised of this at the time of his appointment. It was soon perceived that this was so ineligible to him as to countervail the benefits of the appointment & place him in doubt whether he would not rather relinquish it. We gave him time for his removal accommodated to his own views; and this has gone over without being noticed, because I had reason to expect a vacancy in the collectorship and had made up my mind to give him that, & the Indian agency to a person residing in Washington. As I suppose Genl. Shee the person whom it is most material to take care of, I wish your candid opinion whether the arrangement I propose is not more desirable than that which would oblige Shee to remove or resign.
I never expected to be under the necessity of wishing success to Buonaparte. But the English being equally tyrannical at sea as he is on land, & that tyranny bearing on us in every point of either honor or interest, I say, “down with England” and as for what Buonaparte is then to do to us, let us trust to the chapter of accidents, I cannot, with the Anglomen, prefer a certain present evil to a future hypothetical one. I salute with friendship & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello Aug. 25, 1807.
—Colo. Newton’s inquiries are easily solved, I think, by application of the principles we have assumed. 1. The interdicted ships are enemies. Should they be forced, by stress of weather, to run up into safer harbors, we are to act towards them as we would towards enemies in regular war, in a like case. Permit no intercourse, no supplies; & if they land, kill or capture them as enemies. If they lie still, Decatur has orders not to attack them without stating the case to me, & awaiting instructions. But if they attempt to enter Elizabeth river, he is to attack them without waiting for instructions. 2. Other armed vessels, putting in from sea in distress, are friends. They must report themselves to the collector, he assigns them their station, & regulates their repairs, supplies, intercourse & stay. Not needing flags, they are under the direction of the collector alone, who should be reasonably liberal as to their repairs & supplies, furnishing them for a voyage to any of their American ports; but I think with him their crews should be kept on board, & that they should not enter Elizabeth river.
I remember Mr. Gallatin expressed an opinion that our negociations with England should not be laid before Congress at their meeting, but reserved to be communicated all together with the answer they should send us, whenever received. I am not of this opinion. I think, on the meeting of Congress, we should lay before them everything that has passed to that day, & place them on the same ground of information we are on ourselves. They will then have time to bring their minds to the same state of things with ours, & when the answer arrives, we shall all view it from the same position. I think, therefore, you should order the whole of the negociation to be prepared in two copies. I salute you affectionately.
TO THE SECRETARY AT WAR
Monticello August 28, 07.
—I had had the letter of Mr. Jouett of July 6th from Chicago, & that from Governor Hull, of July 14, from Detroit, under consideration some days, when the day before yesterday I received that of the Governor of July 25.
While it appeared that the workings among the Indians of that neighborhood proceeded from their prophet chiefly, & that his endeavors were directed to the restoring them to their antient mode of life, to the feeding & clothing themselves with the produce of the chace, & refusing all those articles of meat, drink, & clothing, which they can only obtain from the whites, and are now rendered necessary by habit, I thought it a transient enthusiasm, which, if let alone, would evaporate innocently of itself; altho’ visibly tinctured with a partiality against the U. S. But the letters & documents now enclosed give to the state of things there a more serious aspect; and the visit of the Governor of Upper Canada, & assembling of the Indians by him, indicate the object to which these movements are to point. I think, therefore, we can no longer leave them to their own course, but that we should immediately prepare for war in that quarter, & at the same time redouble our efforts for peace.
I propose, therefore, that the Governors of Michigan, Ohio, & Indiana, be instructed immediately to have designated, according to law, such proportions of their militia as you shall think advisable, to be ready for service at a moment’s warning, recommending to them to prefer volunteers as far as they can be obtained, & of that description fitted for Indian service.
That sufficient stores of arms, ammunition & provision, be deposited in convenient places for any expedition which it may be necessary to undertake in that quarter, and for the defence of the posts & settlements there; & that the object of these preparations be openly declared, as well to let the Indians understand the danger they are bringing on themselves, as to lull the suspicion of any other object.
That at the same time, and while these preparations for war are openly going on, Governors Hull & Harrison be instructed to have interviews by themselves or well-chosen agents, with the chiefs of the several tribes in that quarter, to recall to their minds the paternal policy pursued towards them by the U. S., and still meant to be pursued. That we never wished to do them an injury, but on the contrary, to give them all the assistance in our power towards improving their condition, & enabling them to support themselves & their families; that a misunderstanding having arisen between the U. S. and the English, war may possibly ensue. That in this war it is our wish the Indians should be quiet spectators, not wasting their blood in quarrels which do not concern them; that we are strong enough to fight our own battles, & therefore ask no help; and if the English should ask theirs, it should convince them that it proceeds from a sense of their own weakness which would not augur success in the end; that at the same time, as we have learnt that some tribes are already expressing intentions hostile to the U. S., we think it proper to apprize them of the ground on which they now stand & that on which they will stand; for which purpose we make to them this solemn declaration of our unalterable determination, that we wish them to live in peace with all nations as well as with us, and we have no intention ever to strike them or to do them an injury of any sort, unless first attacked or threatened; but that learning that some of them meditate war on us, we too are preparing for war against those, & those only who shall seek it; and that if ever we are constrained to life the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi. Adjuring them, therefore, if they wish to remain on the land which covers the bones of their fathers, to keep the peace with a people who ask their friendship without needing it, who wish to avoid war without fearing it. In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them. Let them then continue quiet at home, take care of their women & children, & remove from among them the agents of any nation persuading them to war, and let them declare to us explicitly & categorically that they will do this: in which case, they will have nothing to fear from the preparations we are now unwillingly making to secure our own safety.
These ideas may form the substance of speeches to be made to them, only varying therein according to the particular circumstances and dispositions of particular tribes; softening them to some, and strengthening them as to others. I presume, too, that such presents as would show a friendly liberality should at the same time be made to those who unequivocally manifest intentions to remain friends; and as to those who indicate contrary intentions, the preparations made should immediately look towards them; and it will be a subject for consideration whether, on satisfactory evidence that any tribe means to strike us, we shall not anticipate by giving them the first blow, before matters between us & England are so far advanced as that their troops or subjects should dare to join the Indians against us. It will make a powerful impression on the Indians, if those who spur them on to war, see them destroyed without yielding them any aid. To decide on this, the Governors of Michigan & Indiana should give us weekly information, & the Postmaster General should immediately put the line of posts to Detroit into the most rapid motion. Attention, too, is requisite to the safety of the post at Michillimacinac.
I send this letter open to the Secretary of State, with a desire that, with the documents, it may be forwarded to the Secretary of the Navy, at Baltimore, the Attorney General, at Wilmington, the Secretary of the Treasury, at N York, & finally to yourself; that it may be considered only as the origination of a proposition to which I wish each of them to propose such amendments as their judgment shall approve, to be addressed to yourself; & that from all our opinions you will make up a general one, & act on it without waiting to refer it back to me.
I salute you with great affection & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello September 1, 1807.
—I think with you we had better send to Algiers some of the losing articles in order to secure peace there while it is uncertain elsewhere. While war with England is probable, everything leading to it with other nations should be avoided, except with Spain. As to her, I think it the precise moment when we should declare to the French government that we will instantly seize on the Floridas as reprisal for the spoliations denied us, and, that if by a given day they are paid to us, we will restore all east of the Perdido, & hold the rest subject to amicable decision. Otherwise, we will hold them forever as compensation for the spoliations. This to be a subject of consideration when we assemble.
One reason for suggesting a discontinuance of the daily post was, that it is not kept up by contract, but at the expense of the U. S. But the principal reason was to avoid giving ground for clamor. The general idea is, that those who receive annual compensations should be constantly at their posts. Our constituents might not in the first moment consider 1, that we all have property to take care of, which we cannot abandon for temporary salaries; 2, that we have health to take care of, which at this season cannot be preserved at Washington; 3d, that while at our separate homes our public duties are fully executed, and at much greater personal labor than while we are together when a short conference saves a long letter. I am aware that in the present crisis some incident might turn up where a day’s delay might infinitely overweigh a month’s expense of the daily post. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
Monticello September 3.
—Your letters of Aug. 23, 27, 29, 30, have all been received; the two last came yesterday. I observe that the merchants of New York & Philadelphia think that notice of our present crisis with England should be sent to the Streights of Sunda by a public ship, but that such a vessel going to Calcutta, or into the Bay of Bengal, would give injurious alarm; while those of Baltimore think such a vessel going to the Streights of Sunda would have the same effect. Your proposition, very happily in my opinion, avoids the objections of all parties; will do what some think useful & none think injurious. I therefore approve of it. To wit, that by some of the private vessels now going, instructions from the department of State be sent to our Consul at the Isle of France, to take proper measures to advise all our returning vessels, as far as he can, to be on their guard against the English, and that we now appoint & send a Consul to Batavia, to give the same notice to our vessels returning through the Streights of Sunda. For this purpose I sign a blank sheet of paper, over which signature the Secretary of State will have a consular commission written, leaving a blank for the name to be filled up by yourself with the name of such discreet & proper person as shall be willing to go. If he does not mean to reside there as Consul, we must bear his expenses out & in, & compensate his time. I presume you will receive this commission, & the papers you sent me through the Secretary of State, on the 8th.
I approve of the orders you gave for intercepting the pirates, & that they were given as the occasion required, without waiting to consult me, which would have defeated the object. I am very glad indeed that the piratical vessel and some of the crew have been taken, & hope the whole will be taken; & that this has been done by the militia. It will contribute to show the expediency of an organized naval militia.
I send you the extract of a letter I lately wrote to Genl Dearborne on the defence of the Chesapeake. Your situation will better enable you to make inquiries into the practicability of the plan than he can. If practicable, it is all-important.
I do not see the probability of receiving from Gr. Britain reparation for the wrong committed on the Chesapeake, and future security for our seamen, in the same favorable light with Mr. Gallatin & yourself. If indeed the consequence of the battle of Friedland can be to exclude her from the Baltic, she may temporize with us. But if peace among the continental powers of Europe should leave her free in her intercourse with the powers who will then be neutral, the present ministry, perhaps no ministry which can now be formed, will not in my opinion give us the necessary assurance respecting our flag. In that case, it must bring on a war soon, and if so, it can never be in a better time for us. I look to this, therefore, as most probably now to take place, altho I do most sincerely wish that a just & sufficient security may be given us, & such an interruption of our prosperity avoided. I salute you with affection and respect.
TO THOMAS PAINE
Monticello September 6, 1807.
—I received last night your favor of Aug. 29, and with it a model of a contrivance for making one gun-boat do nearly double execution. It has all the ingenuity and simplicity which generally mark your inventions. I am not nautical enough to judge whether two guns may be too heavy for the bow of a gun-boat, or whether any other objection will countervail the advantage it offers, and which I see visibly enough. I send it this day to the secretary of the Navy, within whose department it lies to try & to judge it. Believing, myself, that gun-boats are the only water defence which can be useful to us, & protect us from the ruinous folly of a navy, I am pleased with everything which promises to improve them.
The battle of Friedland, armistice with Russia, conquest of Prussia, will be working on the British stomach when they will receive information of the outrage they have committed on us. Yet, having entered on the policy proposed by their champion “war in disguise,” of making the property of all nations lawful plunder to support a navy which their own resources cannot support, I doubt if they will readily relinquish it. That war with us had been predetermined may be fairly inferred from the diction of Berkley’s order, the Jesuitism of which proves it ministerial from it’s being so timed as to find us in the midst of Burr’s rebellion as they expected, from the contemporaneousness of the Indian excitements, and of the wide & sudden spread of their maritime spoliations. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
Monticello Sept. 8, ’07.
—Mr. Madison, who is with me, suggests the expediency of immediately taking up the case of Capt. Porter, against whom you know Mr. Erskine lodged a very serious complaint, for an act of violence committed on a British seaman in the Mediterranean. While Mr. Erskine was reminded of the mass of complaints we had against his government for similar violences, he was assured that contending against such irregularities ourselves, and requiring satisfaction for them, we did not mean to follow the example, and that on Captain Porter’s return, it should be properly inquired into. The sooner this is done the better; because if Great Britain settles with us satisfactorily all our subsisting differences, & should require in return, (to have an appearance of reciprocity of wrong as well as redress,) a marked condemnation of Capt. Porter, it would be embarrassing were that the only obstacle to a peaceable settlement, and the more so as we cannot but disavow his act. On the contrary, if we immediately look into it, we shall be more at liberty to be moderate in the censure of it, on the very ground of British example; and the case being once passed upon, we can more easily avoid the passing on it a second time, as against a settled principle. It is therefore to put it in our power to let Capt. Porter off as easily as possible, as a valuable officer whom we all wish to favor, that I suggest to you the earliest attention to the inquiry, and the promptest settlement of it. I set out to-morrow on a journey of 100 miles, & shall be absent 8 or 9. days. I salute you affectionately.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Monticello Sept. 18, 07.
I returned here yesterday afternoon & found, as I might expect, an immense mass of business. With the papers received from you, I enclose you some others which will need no explanation. I am desired by the Secy of the Navy to say what must be the conduct of Com Rodgers, at New York, on the late or any similar entry of that harbor by the British armed vessels. I refer him to the orders to Decatur as to what he was to do if the vessels in the Chesapeake. 1. Remain quiet in the Bay. 2. Come to Hampton road. 3. Enter Eliz river: and recommend an application of the same rules to N York, accommodated to the localities of the place. Should the British government give us reparation of the past, & security for the future, yet the continuance of their vessels in our harbors in defiance constitutes a new injury, which will not be included in any settlement with our ministers, & will furnish good ground for declaring their future exclusion from our waters, in addition with the other reasonable ground before existing. Our Indian affairs in the N. W. on the Missouri, & at the Natchitoches, wear a very unpleasant aspect. As to the first all I think is done which is necessary. But for this & other causes, I am anxious to be again assembled. I have a letter from Connecticut. The prosecution there will be dismissed this term on the ground that the case is not cognisable by the courts of the U. S. Perhaps you can intimate this where it will give tranquillity. Affectionate salutations.
The commission to the Secy of Orleans having another mistake, Robinson instead of Robertson, has been returned to me for correction. I have corrected it; but it will be necessary the record should also be corrected.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
Monticello Sept. 18, 1807.
—On my return yesterday I found yours of the 10th, and now re-enclose you Com Rodgers’ letter. You remember that the orders to Decatur were to leave the British ships unmolested so long as they laid quiet in the Bay; but if they should attempt to enter Eliz river to attack them with all his force. The spirit of these orders should, I think, be applied to New York. So long as the British vessels merely enter the Hook, or remain quiet there, I would not precipitate hostilities. I do not sufficiently know the geography of the harbor to draw the line which they should not pass. Perhaps the narrows, perhaps some other place which yourself or Commodore Rogers can fix with the aid of the advice he can get in N York. But a line should be drawn which if they attempt to pass, he should attack them with all his force. Perhaps he would do well to have his boats ordinarily a little without the line to let them see they are not to approach it; but whether he can lay there in safety, ordinarily, he must judge. But if the British vessels continue at the Hook, great attention should be paid to prevent their receiving supplies or their landing, or having any intercourse with the shore or other vessels. I left Mr. Nicholas’s yesterday morning: he is indisposed with his annual influenza. Mrs. Nicholas is well. I shall be at Washington the 3d proximo. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
September 20, 1807.
I return all the papers received in yours of the 18th & 19th, except one soliciting office, & Judge Woodward’s letters, to be communicated to the Secretary at War. Should not Claiborne be instructed to say at once to Govr. Folch, that as we never did prohibit any articles (except slaves) from being carried up the Mississippi to Baton Rouge, so we do not mean to prohibit them, & that we only ask a perfect & equal reciprocity to be observed on the rivers which pass thro’ the territories of both nations. Must we not denounce to Congress the Spanish decree as well as the British regulation pretending to be the countervail of the French? One of our first consultations, on meeting, must be on the question whether we shall not order all the militia & volunteers destined for the Canadas to be embodied on the 26th of Octr, & to march immediately to such points on the way to their destination as shall be pointed out, there to await the decision of Congress? I approve of the letter to Erskine. In answering his last, should he not be reminded how strange it is he should consider as a hostility our refusing to receive but under a flag, persons from vessels remaining & acting in our waters in defiance of the authority of the country? The post-rider of the day before yesterday has behaved much amiss in not calling on you. When I found your mail in the valise & that they had not called on you, I replaced the mail in it & expressly directed him to return by you. Affectionate salutations.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF NEW ORLEANS
Monticello September 20, 1807.
—I received your favors of the 13 & 15th on my return to this place on the 17th, and such was the mass of business accumulated in my absence, that I have not till now been able to take up your letters. You are certainly free to make use of any of the papers we put into Mr. Hay’s hands, with a single reservation: to wit, some of them are expressed to be confidential, and others are of that kind which I always consider as confidential, conveying censure on particular individuals, & therefore never communicate them beyond the immediate executive circle. I accordingly write to this effect to Mr. Hay. The scenes which have been acted at Richmond are such as have never before been exhibited in any country where all regard to public character has not yet been thrown off. They are equivalent to a proclamation of impunity to every traitorous combination which may be formed to destroy the Union; and they preserve a head for all such combinations as may be formed within, and a centre for all the intrigues & machinations which foreign governments may nourish to disturb us. However, they will produce an amendment to the Constitution which, keeping the judges independent of the Executive, will not leave them so, of the nation.
I shall leave this place on the 30th for Washington. It is with pleasure that I perceive from all the expressions of public sentiment, that the virulence of those whose treasons you have defeated only place you on higher ground in the opinion of the nation. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
TO TENCH COXE
Monticello Sep. 21, 07.
—I have read with great satisfaction your observations on the principles for equalizing the power of the different nations on the sea, and think them perfectly sound. Certainly it will be better to produce a balance on that element, by reducing the means of it’s great Monopoliser, than by endeavoring to raise our own to an equality with theirs. I have ever wished that all nations would adopt a navigation law against those who have one, which perhaps would be better than against all indiscriminately, and while in France I proposed it there. Probably that country is now ripe for it. I see no reason why your paper should not be published, as it would have effect towards bringing the public mind to proper principles. I do not know whether you kept a copy; if you did not, I will return it. Otherwise I retain it for the perusal of my coadjutors, and perhaps to suggest the measure abroad. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
TO WILLIAM THOMSON
Monticello Sep. 26, 07.
—Your favor of July 10. came safely to hand and with that the first 72. pages of your view of Burr’s trial. I have read this with great satisfaction, and shall be happy to see the whole subject as well digested. From this specimen of your writing I have no doubt you will do justice to any subject you undertake, and think you cannot find a better than the one you have fixed on, the history of the Western country. We have been too long permitting it’s facts to go into oblivion. Colo. Boon, the first emigrant to it, is I believe still living on the Missouri.
The scenes which have been acting at Richmond are sufficient to fill us with alarm. We had supposed we possessed fixed laws to guard us equally against treason & oppression. But it now appears we have no law but the will of the judge. Never will chicanery have a more difficult task than has been now accomplished to warp the text of the law to the will of him who is to construe it. Our case too is the more desperate as to attempt to make the law plainer by amendment is only throwing out new materials for sophistry.
I salute you with great esteem & respect.
TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
(CÆSAR A. RODNEY.)
Washington Octr. 8, 07.
—Your letters of Sept. 15 and Oct. 1 have been duly received & I sincerely congratulate you on the addition to your family announced in the last. The good old book speaking of children says “happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them.” I hope Mrs. Rodney is doing well, in which case & when ever her situation will admit your coming on without uneasiness, the approaching convention of Congress would render your assistance here desirable. Besides the varieties of general matter we have to lay before them, on which we should be glad of your aid and counsel, there are two subjects of magnitude in which your agency will be peculiarly necessary. 1. The selection & digestion of the documents respecting Burr’s treason, which must be laid before Congress in two copies (or perhaps printed, which would take 10. days). 2. A statement of the conduct of Gr. Brit. towards this country, so far as respects the violations of the Maritime Law of nations. Here it would be necessary to state each distinct principle violated, & to quote the cases of violation, & to conclude with a view of her vice-admiralty courts, their venality & rascality, in order to shew that however for conveniences, (& not of right) the court of the captor is admitted to exercise the jurisdiction, yet that in so palpable an abuse of that trust, some remedy must be applied. Everything we see & hear leads in my opinion to war; we have therefore much to consult & determine on, preparatory to that event. I salute you with affectionate respect.
SEVENTH ANNUAL MESSAGE
FIRST ROUGH DRAUGHT
England. Circumstances, f. c. which seriously threaten the peace & prosperity of our country have made it a duty to convene you at an earlier period than usual. That love of peace so much cherished in the bosoms of our citizens which has so long guided the proceedings of their public functionaries councils, and induced forbearance under so many wrongs, has not been sufficient to secure us in the paths of peace; quiet pursuits of industry; and the moment is possibly near at hand seems to be approaching when we shall may owe it to mankind as well as to ourselves to restrain wrong by resistance, and to assist in maintaining among nations the authority of most right by defeating all interests calculated on a violation of them it. defeat those calculations of which interest is the sole principle. You well know that the long train of injuries & depredns under which our commerce & navigation have been afflicted on the high seas for years past; the successive innovations on those rules of public law established by the reason & usage of nations to regulate their intercourse, & constituting the sole supplying the office of to be the umpire & guardian of their rights & peace & safety among them. These violations we met with friendly remonstrances only, always indulging the hope that reason would at length prevail over the dictates of mistaken calculations of a mistaken interest, and that voluntary justice redress would spare save us the mutual calamities of war. In this train were our affairs with England when the patience of our citizens was brought to severe proof trial, by the wanton murder of a fellow citizen in the waters of N.Y. following his ordinary occupations in the waters of N. Y. by a shot from a British armed vessel. It became now This added to other occurrences rendering it apparent that unless the points of difference between that nation & ours could be immediately settled by mutual agreement, brought to early settlement, a recurrence to force would be the only alternative certain unavoidable, an extraordinary mission for the purpose therefore took place. After long and earnest efforts by our ministers to obtain conditions of some equality & within the limits of their instructions, pressed reduced on every article to the to the minimum on nearly every article, framed in the truest spirit of amity & moderation, they our ministers at length signed an instrument with a frank avowal however to the British other negociators that they did it against their instructions, and could not authorize an expectation that it would be ratified. pledge their government for it’s ratification. It was entirely in truth inadmissible. Still anxious however to relating with that nation placed on a certain & peaceable footing even to provide for peace, even by greater sacrifices of right than could before have been thought necessary new instructions were sent to our ministers to try whether, even on these conditions, an establishment of certain other rights could be obtained which were indispensable, our ministers were authorized to make further efforts for accommodation. On this new reference of our rights to to amicable discussion was made here on the and was presumed existing in full force we were reposing in confidence when on the 22d day of June last by a solemn formal order from a British admiral the frigate Chesapeake, leaving her port for a distant service, was attacked by one of those vessels which had been lying in our harbours enjoying under the indulgences of hospitality, was disabled from further proceeding, had several of her crew killed, two taken out who have been unquestionably proved to have been native citizens of the US. One other born in S. America but domieiled here from his in faney, and a fourth of whom satisfactory information has not yet been received, but who may be admitted to have been a British subject without at all impairing the unqualified character of this atrocious outrage. and four taken away. On this outrage no temperate commentaries can be made. Nor or can any be necessary. It’s character has been pronounced by general acclamation, in which in no instant of our history has the nation declared such unanimity. the indignant voice of our citizens, who with an unanimity and emphasis never exceeded in any period of our history. I immediately by proclamation interdicted our harbors & waters to all British armed vessels, forbade intercourse with them, and uncertain to what lengths how far hostilities were intended to be carried, and the town of Norfolk indeed being threatened with an immediate attacked a sufficient force was ordered for the protection of that place, and such other preparations immediately commenced and pursued as the prospect rendered proper. An armed vessel of the US. was dispatched with instructions to our ministers at London to call on that govmt for proper satisfaction for the outrage which had been committed and effectual security assurance against the practice which led to it. A very short interval ought now to bring us the answer, which shall be communicated to you as soon as it is received. As well as shall also be Then also or as soon after the public interests shall be found to admit, the unratified treaty with the reasons for rejecting it, and proceedings relative to it, shall be made known to you, under the fullest assurance that there will not be two opinions on the subject.
The aggression thus begun has been continued on the part of the British armed vessels commanders by remaining within our waters in defiance of the authority of the country & by daily habitual violations of it’s jurisdiction, and at length by putting to death one of the persons whom they had forcibly taken from on board the Chesapeake. These aggravations having taken place since the communications forwarded to our ministers, must of course be a subject of after reckoning with furnished serious demands of additional reparation on that government: and necessarily lead to the policy of either never admitting an armed vessel into our harbors, or of maintaining in every harbor such an armed force as may constrain armed vessels their obedience to the laws & protect the lives and property of our citizens against their armed guests. The expense of such a standing force and it’s inconsistence with our principles dispense with all obligations of hospitality which would necessarily induce that call for it, & leave us equally free to exclude the navy as we are the army of a foreign power from commorance within our limits.
Until a redress of With these aggressions in view we can scarcely bring our minds to notice any addition to the catalogue new violation of maritime rights, violated to wards us by that nation their government however which has been added to the catalogue of former unlawful practices. One however is of such extent as cannot be overlooked. The government of that nation has issued an order interdicting all trade by neutrals, not only from one port to another of the same nation at war with her, but of different nations also at war with her: between ports not in amity with them. And being now at war with every nation on the Atlantic & Mediterranean seas, our vessels are now forbidden to pass from any one port to any other of those seas without first returning home, so that unless their whole cargo must be sold in the first port they touch at or brought back. The object of these successive protensions cannot be cloacked. It is that there shall be no vessel on the ocean which does not belong to Great Britain, and required to sacrifice their cargo at the first port they touch, or to bring it home return home without the benefit of trying going to any other market. Under this new law of the ocean our trade on the Mediterranean has been swept away by seizures & condemnations, and that in other seas places has been more recently attacked also not a little vexed assailed is likely to share threatened with the same fate.
Spain. Our differences with Spain remain still unsettled, no measure having been taken on her part, since my last communications to Congress, to bring them to a close. But the present under a state of things in Europe admitting their being resumed under better expectations, which may favor reconsideration they have been recently pressed, and may be expected without further delay to be brought to an issue of some sort. To our former grounds of complaint has been added a very serious one, as you will see by the decree, a copy of which is now communicated. Proper representations have been made on the occasion, and I have reason to expect they have not been without effect. No new collisions have taken place with their subjects on our borders, have taken place, or seem to be apprehended during the short period now to intervene before an answer which shall decide our course.
Other nations. With the other nations of Europe our harmony has been uninterrupted, & commerce & friendly intercourse have been maintained on their usual footing.
Barbary. Our peace with the several states on the coast of Barbary appears as firm as, at any former period, and as likely to continue as that of any other nation.
Indians. Among our Indian neighbors in the North Western quarter, some fermentation was observed soon after the late occurrences threatening the continuance of our peace. Messages were said to be interchanged, and tokens to be passing which usually denote a state of restlessness among them, and the character of the agitators pointed to the source of excitement. Measures were immediately taken for providing against that danger; instructions were given to require explanations, and, with assurances of our continued friendship, to admonish the tribes to remain quiet at home, taking no part in quarrels not belonging to them. As far as we are yet informed, the tribes in our vicinity, who are most advanced in the pursuits of industry, are sincerely disposed to adhere to their friendship with us & to their peace with all others; while those more remote & more frequented by foreign agents do not shew that present appearances sufficiently quiet aspect which would permit an to justify the intermission of military preparation precaution on our part.
The great tribes on our South Western quarter, much advanced beyond the others in agriculture & household arts, appear tranquil & identifying with us in their views with ours in proportion to their advancements. With the whole of these people in every quarter I shall continue to inculcate peace & friendship with all their neighbors, & perseverance in those occupations & pursuits which will best promote their own well-being.
Fortifications. The appropriations of the last session for defence of our Sea port towns & harbors, were made under the expectation that a continuance of our peace would permit us to proceed in that work according to our convenience. It has been thought better to employ apply the sums then given chiefly to the defence of New York, Charleston, & New Orleans, as most open & most likely first to need protection; and to leave places less immediately in danger to the provisions of the present session.
Gunboats. The gunboats too already provided, have on the same a like principle been chiefly assigned to New York, New Orleans & the mouth of the Chesapeake. Whether our moveable force on the water, so material in aid of the defensive works on land, should be augmented in this, or what any other form, is left to your the wisdom of the legislature. For the purpose of manning these vessels in sudden attack of on our harbors, it becomes difficulties too are likely to occur in manning these vessels even for harbor defence it is is a matter therefore for consideration therefore whether the seamen of the US. may not justly be formed into a special militia to be called on for tours of duty in defence of the harbors where they shall happen to be.
Magazines. The moment our peace was threatened, I deemed it indispensable to secure ample provision of every article of military stores, of with which our magazines were not sufficiently provided furnished. To have awaited a previous & special sanction by law, would have lost occasions which might never be retrieved. I did not hesitate therefore to authorize engagements for such supplements to our existing stock, as would render it adequate to the emergencies threatening us. These contracts are considerable, and depend for their execution, on provisions to be made by yourselves the legislature, who feeling the same anxiety for the safety of our country, so materially ensured by this precaution, will, I trust, approve, when done, what, if then assembled, you they would have seen so important to be done, if then assembled. Accounts of these contracts shall be laid before you.
Army. Whether a regular army is to be raised, & to what extent, must depend on the information so shortly expected. In the meantime I have called on the states for quotas of militia to be in readiness for present defence; & have moreover encouraged the acceptance of Volunteers, & am happy to inform you that these have offered themselves with great alacrity in every part of the Union. and in greater numbers than they were required. They are ordered to be organized, and ready at a moment’s warning to proceed on any service to which they may be called; and every preparation within the Executive powers has been made to ensure us the benefit of early exertions.
I informed Congress, at their last session, of the enterprises against the public peace which were believed to be in preparation by Aaron Burr & his associates, of the measures taken to defeat them, & to bring the offenders to justice. Their enterprises were happily defeated, by the patriotic exertions of the militia, wherever called into action, & by the fidelity of the army, and energy of the Commander in chief of the army of the US. in promptly arranging the difficulties presenting themselves on the Sabine, repairing to meet those arising on the Mississippi, & dissipating before their explosion, plots engendering there. And truth & duty alone extort the observation that wherever the laws were appealed to in aid of the public safety, their operations were was on behalf of those only against whom they were invoked. As a part of the public you have learned the arraignment of the principal offenders in the District court of Virginia. I have thought it my duty to lay before you the proceedings & the evidence publicly exhibited there together with some which was not publicly heard. This You will be enabled you to judge whether the defect was in the testimony, or in the laws, or whether there is not a radical defect in the administration of the law? And wherever it shall be found the legislature alone can apply or originate the remedy. The framers of our constitution certainly supposed they had guarded, as well their government against destruction by treason, as their citizens against oppression under pretence of it: and if the pliability of the law as construed in the case of Fries, and it’s wonderful refractoriness as construed in that of Burr, shew that neither end has been attained, and induce an awful doubt whether we all live under the same law. The right of the jury too to decide law as well as fact seems nugatory without the evidence portinent to their sense of the law. If these ends are not attained it becomes worthy of enquiry by what means more effectual they may be secured?
Finance. The receipts of the Treasury, during the year ending the day of have exceeded the sum of millions of Dollars: which with millions in the treasury at the beginning of the year, have enabled us after meeting the current demands to pay millions of the principal of our public debt & millions of interest. These paiments with those of the preceding 5½ years have extinguished of the funded debt millions of D. being the whole which can could be paid or purchased within the limits of the law & of our contracts, and have left us in the treasury millions of Dollars. This sum may be considered as a commencement of accumulatn of the surpluses of revenue, which after paying the instalments of debt as they shall become payable will remain without any specific object. A part indeed may be advantageously applied towards providing defence for the exposed points of our country, on such a scale as shall be adapted to our principles & circumstances. This object is doubtless among the first which claims entitled to attention in such a state of our finances, & it is one which whether we have peace or war, will give a state of security always desirable where it is due. Whether what will remain of this with the future surplusses, may be usefully applied to purposes already authorized, or more usefully to others requiring new authorities, or how otherwise they shall be disposed of, are questions calling for early the notice from Congress, unless indeed they shall be superceded by a change in the our state of things public relations, now depending on awaiting the decision determination of others. Whatever be that determination it is a great consoln that it will be read become known at a moment when the supreme council of the nation is assembled at it’s post, and ready to give the aids of it’s wisdom & authority to whatever course the good of our country shall then call us to pursue.
Some matters of minor importance will be the subjects of future communications, & nothing shall be wanting on my part which may give informn or dispatch to the proceedings of the legislature, in the exercise of their high duties and at a moment so interesting to the public welfare.
To the Senate & H. of Representatives of the U.S.
Circumstances, fellow citizens, which seriously threaten the peace & prosperity of our country, have made it a duty to convene you at an earlier period than usual. That love of peace so much cherished in the bosoms of our citizens, which has so long guided the proceedings of their public councils, and induced forbearance under so many wrongs, has not been sufficient to secure us may not ensure to us a our continuance in the quiet pursuits of industry, and the moment seems approaching when we may owe it to mankind, as well as to ourselves to restrain wrong by resistance, and to defeat those calculations of which is not the sole principles justice is not the basis. You well know the long train of injuries and depredations under which our commerce and navigation have been afflicted on the high seas for years past; the successive innovations on those rules principles of public law which have been established by the reason and usage of nations to regulate as the rule of their intercourse, and be the umpire and guardian of their rights & peace. These violations we have met with friendly remonstrances only, always indulging the hope that reason would at length prevail over the dictates of a mistaken interest, and that voluntary redress would spare us the actual calamities of war. In order to bring our differences to so desirable a termination, a mission extraordinary to that government took place, with instructions framed in the truest spirit of amity and moderation, & with the usual powers for preparing a treaty which might place the relations of the two nations on a friendly & permanent basis. After long & earnest efforts to obtain conditions of some equality, & within the limits of their instructions, our Ministers, finding that could not be done, thought it advisable to sign an instrument, for our consideration with the frank avowal, at the same time, to the other negociators that they did it against their instructions, & could not pledge their government for it’s ratification. It was in truth inadmissible. Still anxious to provide for peace, even by greater sacrifices of right than could before have been thought necessary, our ministers were authorized to make further efforts for accommodation. On this new reference to amicable discussion we were reposing in confidence, when on the 22d day of June last, by a formal order from a British Admiral, the frigate Chesapeake leaving her port for a distant service, was attacked by one of these vessels which had been lying in our harbors under the indulgences of hospitality, was disabled from proceeding, had several of her crew killed & four taken away. On this outrage no temperate commentaries can be made nor can be are necessary. It’s character has been pronounced by the indignant voice of our citizens with an emphasis & unanimity never exceeded. I immediately by Proclamation interdicted our harbors and waters to all British armed vessels, forbade intercourse with them, and uncertain how far hostilities were intended, and the town of Norfolk indeed being threatened with immediate attack, a sufficient force was ordered for the protection of that place, and such other preparations commenced & pursued as the prospect rendered proper. An armed vessel of the US was dispatched with instructions to our ministers at London to call on that government for the satisfaction and security required by the outrage for the outrage committed indemnity an assurance against the practice which had led to it. A very short interval ought now to bring the answer which shall be communicated to you as soon as received. Then also, or as soon after as the public interests shall be found to admit, the unratified treaty, and proceedings relative to it, shall be made known to you.
The aggression thus begun has been continued on the part of the British commanders, by remaining within our waters in defiance of the authority of the country, by habitual violations of it’s jurisdiction, and at length by putting to death one of the persons whom they had forcibly taken from on board the Chesapeake. These aggravations having taken place since the communication forwarded to our ministers, must of course furnish serious demands of additional reparation on that government & necessarily lead to the policy either of never admitting an armed vessel into our harbors, or of maintaining in every harbour such an armed force as may constrain obedience to the laws & protect the lives and property of our citizens against their armed guests. But the expense of such a standing force and it’s inconsistence with our principles dispense with all those obligations of hospitality which would necessarily call for it, & leave us equally free to exclude the Navy, as we are the Army of a foreign power within from entering our limits.
With these aggressions in view, we can scarcely bring our minds to notice any new violations of maritime rights which has been added to former unlawful practices. To former violations of maritime rights another is now added of very serious extent. One however is of such extent as cannot be overlooked. The government of that nation has issued an order interdicting all trade by Neutrals between ports not in amity with them. And being now at war with nearly every nation on the Atlantic & Mediterranean seas, our vessels are required to sacrifice their cargoes at the first port they touch, or to return home without the benefit of going to any other market. Under this new law of the Ocean, our trade on the Mediterranean has been swept away by seisures & condemnations, and that on other seas is threatened with the same fate.
Our differences with Spain remain still unsettled, no measure having been taken on her part, since my last communications to Congress to bring them to a close. But under a state of things, which may favor reconsideration, they have been recently pressed, and may be expected without further delay to an expectation is entertained that they may now soon be brought to an issue of some sort. To our former grounds of complaint has been added a very serious one, as you will see by the decree, a copy of which is now communicated. Proper representations have been made on the occasion and I have reason to expect they have not been without effect. No new collisions with their subjects on our borders have taken place, or seem to be apprehended during the short period now to intervene before an answer which shall decide our course will be decided by other circumstances. With their subjects on our borders no new collisions have taken place; nor seem immediately to be apprehended. Whether this decree which professes to be conformable to that of the French government of Nov. 21. 1806, before communicated to Congress, will also be conformed to that in it’s construction and application in relation to the US. had not been ascertained at the date of our last communications. These however gave reason to expect that it would.
With the other nations of Europe our harmony has been uninterrupted, & commerce & friendly intercourse have been maintained on their usual footing.
Our peace with the several states on the coast of Barbary appears as firm as at any former period, and as likely to continue as that of any other nation.
Among our Indian neighbors in the North Western quarter, some fermentation was observed soon after the late occurrences threatening the continuance of our peace. Messages were said to be interchanged and tokens to be passing which usually denote a state of restlessness among them, & the character of the Agitators pointed to the source of excitement. Measures were immediately taken for providing against that danger. Instructions were given to require explanations, and with assurances of our continued friendship, to admonish the tribes to remain quiet at home, taking no part in quarrels not belonging to them. As far as we are yet informed, the tribes in our vicinity, who are most advanced in the pursuits of industry are sincerely disposed to adhere to their friendship with us & to their peace to adhere to their friendship with us and to their peace with all others while those more remote do not present appearances sufficiently quiet to justify the intermission of military precaution on our part.
The great tribes on our South Western quarter, much advanced beyond the others in agriculture and household arts, appear tranquil and identifying their views with ours, in proportion to their advancements. With the whole of these people, in every quarter, I shall continue to inculcate peace and friendship with all their neighbors, & perseverance in those occupations and pursuits which will best promote their own well being.
The appropriations, of the last session, for the defence of our Seaboard towns & harbors, were made under expectation that a continuance of our peace would permit us to proceed in that work according to our convenience. It has been thought better to apply the sums then given chiefly towards the defence of New York, Charleston, & New Orleans chiefly as most open and most likely first to need protection; and to leave places less immediately in danger to the provisions of the present session.
The gunboats too already provided have, on a like principle, been chiefly assigned to New York, New Orleans & the Chesapeake. Whether our moveable force on the water, so material in aid of the defensive works on the land, should be augmented in this or any other form, is left to the wisdom of the legislature. For the purpose of manning these vessels, in sudden attacks on our harbours, it is a matter for consideration whether the seamen of the US. may not justly be formed into a special militia, to be called on for tours of duty, in defence of the harbours where they shall happen to be; the ordinary militia of the place furnishing that portion which may consist of landsmen.
The moment our peace was threatened, I deemed it indispensable to secure ample a greater provision of every article of military stores, with which our magazines were not sufficiently furnished. To have awaited a previous and special sanction by law, would have lost occasions which might never be retrieved. I did not hesitate therefore to authorize engagements for such supplements to our existing stock as would render it adequate to the emergencies threatening us. These contracts are considerable, and depend for their execution on provisions to be made by the legislature, which feeling the same anxiety for the safety of our country, so materially ensured by the precaution, will, I trust, approve when done, what they would have seen so important to be done if then assembled. Accounts of these contracts shall be laid before you.
Whether a regular army is to be raised & to what extent, must depend on the information so shortly expected. In the meantime I have called on the states for quotas of militia to be in readiness for present defence; and have moreover encouraged the acceptance of volunteers, and I am happy to inform you that these have offered themselves with great alacrity in every part of the Union. They are ordered to be organized, and ready at a moment’s warning, to proceed on any service to which they may be called, and every preparation within the Executive powers, has been made to ensure us the benefit of early exertions.
I informed Congress at their last session of the enterprises against the public peace which were believed to be in preparation by Aaron Burr and his associates, of the measures taken to defeat them, & to bring the offenders to justice. Their enterprises were have been happily defeated, by the patriotic exertions of the militia, wherever called into action, by the fidelity of the army, and energy of the Commander in chief in promptly arranging the difficulties presenting themselves on the Sabine, repairing to meet those arising on the Mississippi, and dissipating, before their explosion, plots engendering there. And truth & duty alone extort the observation that whenever the laws were appealed to in aid of the public safety, their operation was on behalf of those only against whom they were invoked. As a part of the public you have learned the arraignment of the principal offenders in the District court of Virginia. I have thought it shall consider it my duty to lay before you the proceedings, & the evidence publicly exhibited on the arraignment of the principal offenders before the District court of Virginia, there, together with some evidence which was not publicly there heard. From the whole you will be enabled to judge whether the defect was in the testimony, in the law, or in the administration of the law; and wherever itshall be found, the legislature alone can apply or originate the remedy. The framers of our constitution certainly supposed they had guarded, as well their government against destruction by treason, as their citizens against oppression under pretence of it: and if these ends are not obtained, it becomes worthy of enquiry is of importance to enquire by what means, more effectual, they may be secured.
Finance. The accounts of the receipts of revenue during the present year being not yet all made up received, a correct statement will be hereafter transmitted from the Treasury. In the meantime it is ascertained that the receipts have Dollars; which with millions in the treasury at the beginning of the year have enabled us, after meeting the current demands and interest incurred, to pay millions of the principal of our funded debt. These paiments, with those of the preceding five & a half years have extinguished of the funded debt, millions of dollars, being the whole which could be paid or purchased within the limits of the law, and of our contract, and have left us in the treasury millions of Dollars. A portion of this sum may be considered as a commencement of accumulation of the surpluses of revenue, which, after paying the instalments of debt, as they shall become payable, will remain without specific object. A part indeed may be advantageously applied towards providing defence for the exposed points of our country, on such a scale as shall be adapted to our principles & circumstances. This object is doubtless among the first entitled to attention, in such a state of our finances, and it is one which, whether we have peace or war, will give security where it is due. Whether what shall remain of this, with the future surpluses, may be usefully applied to purposes already authorized, or more usefully to others requiring new authorities, or how otherwise they shall be disposed of, are questions calling for the notice of Congress; unless indeed they shall be superceded by a change in in our public relations, now awaiting the determination of others. Whatever be that determination it is a great consolation that it will become known at a moment when the supreme council of the nation is assembled at it’s post, and ready to give the aids of it’s wisdom & authority to whatever course the good of our country shall then call us to pursue.
Matters of minor importance will be the subjects of future communications; and nothing shall be wanting on my part which may give information or dispatch to the proceedings of the legislature in the exercise of their high functions, and at a moment so interesting to the public welfare.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF THE MISSISSIPPI TERRITORY
Washington November 1, 1807.
—I have duly received your letter of August 25th, in which you express a wish that the letters received from you may be acknoledged, in order to ascertain their safe transmission. Those received the present year have been of Mar. 14, May 11, & 30, June 8, July 3, August 12, and 25. They have not been before acknoleged in conformity with a practice which the constant pressure of business has forced me to follow, of not answering letters which do not necessarily require it. I have seen with regret, the violence of the dissensions in your quarter. We have the same in the territories of Louisiana & Michigan. It seems that the smaller the society the bitterer the dissensions into which it breaks. Perhaps this observation answers all the objections drawn by Mr. Adams from the small republics of Italy. I believe ours is to owe it’s permanence to it’s great extent, and the smaller portion comparatively, which can ever be convulsed at one time by local passions. We expect shortly now to hear from England, and to know how the present cloud is to terminate. We are all pacifically inclined here, if anything comes from thence which will permit us to follow our inclinations. I salute you with esteem & respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Nov. 22, 07.
The defence of Orleans against a land army can never be provided for, according to the principles of the Constitution, till we can get a sufficient militia there. I think therefore to get the enclosed bill brought forward again. Will you be so good as to make any alterations in it which the present state of the surveys may have rendered necessary, & any others you shall think for the better?
[Dec. 7. 1807.]
To the Senate & House of Representatives of the United States:
Having recently received from our late Minister Plenipotentiary at the court of London a duplicate of dispatches, the original of which has been sent by the Revenge schooner not yet arrived, I hasten to lay them before both houses of Congress. They contain the whole of what has passed between the two governments on the subject of the outrage committed by the British ship Leopard on the frigate Chesapeake. Congress will learn from these papers the present state of the discussion on that transaction, and that it is to be transferred to this place by the mission of a special minister.
While this information will have it’s proper effect on their deliberations & proceedings respecting the relations between the two countries, they will be sensible that, the negociation being still depending, it is proper for me to request that the communications may be considered as confidential.
TO JOEL BARLOW
Washington Dec. 10, 07.
—I return you Mr. Law’s letter, with thanks for the communication. I wish he may be a true prophet as to peace in 6. months. It is impossible that any other man should wish it as much as I do; altho’ duty may controul that wish. The desire of peace is very much strengthened in me by that which I feel in favor of the great subjects of yours & Mr. Fulton’s letters. I had fondly hoped to set those enterprizes into motion with the last legislature I shall meet. But the chance of war is an unfortunate check. I do not however despair that the proposition of amendment may be sent down this session to the legislatures. But it is not certain. There is a snail-paced gait for the advance of new ideas on the general mind, under which we must acquiesce. A 40. years’ experience of popular assemblies has taught me, that you must give them time for every step you take. If too hard pushed, they baulk, & the machine retrogrades. I doubt whether precedence will be given to your part of the plan before Mr. Fulton’s. People generally have more feeling for canals & roads than education. However, I hope we can advance them with equal pace. If the amendment is sent out this session, returned to the next, and no war takes place, we may offer the plan to the next session in the form of a bill, the preparation of which should be the work of the ensuing summer. I salute you affectionately.
SPECIAL MESSAGE ON COMMERCIAL DEPREDATIONS
December 18, 1807.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:—
The communications now made, showing the great and increasing dangers with which our vessels, our seamen, and merchandise, are threatened on the high seas and elsewhere, from the belligerent powers of Europe, and it being of great importance to keep in safety these essential resources, I deem it my duty to recommend the subject to the consideration of Congress, who will doubtless perceive all the advantages which may be expected from an inhibition of the departure of our vessels from the ports of the United States.
Their wisdom will also see the necessity of making every preparation for whatever events may grow out of the present crisis.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Washington Dec. 29, 1807.
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.
Washington Feby 3, ’07.
—I pray you to read the enclosed letter, to seal & deliver it. It explains itself so fully, that I need say nothing. I am sincerely concerned for Mr. Reibelt, who is a man of excellent understanding and extensive science. If you had any academical berth, he would be much better fitted for that than for the bustling business of life. I enclose to Genl Wilkinson my message of Jan. 22. I presume, however, you will have seen it in the papers. It gives the history of Burr’s conspiracy, all but the last chapter, which will, I hope, be that of his capture before this time, at Natchez. Your situations have been difficult, and we judge of the merit of our agents there by the magnitude of the danger as it appeared to them, not as it was known to us. On great occasions every good officer must be ready to risk himself in going beyond the strict line of law, when the public preservation requires it; his motives will be a justification as far as there is any discretion in his ultra-legal proceedings, & by indulgence of private feelings. On the whole, this squall, by shewing with what ease our government suppresses movements which in other countries requires armies, has greatly increased its strength by increasing the public confidence in it. It has been a wholesome lesson too to our citizens, of the necessary obedience to their government. The Feds, & the little band of Quids, in opposition, will try to make something of the infringement of liberty by the military arrest & deportation of citizens, but if it does not go beyond such offenders as Swartwout, Bollman, Burr, Blennerhasset, Tyler, &c., they will be supported by the public approbation. Accept my friendly salutations, & assurances of esteem & respect.
Washington Oct 27, 07.
—I have reflected on the case of the embodying of the militia in Ohio, and think the respect we owe to the State may overweigh the disapprobation so justly due to the conduct of their Governor pro tem. They certainly had great merit, and have acquired a very general favor thro’ the Union, for the early & vigorous blows by which they crushed the insurrection of Burr. We have now again to appeal to their patriotism & public spirit in the same case; and should there be war, they are our bulwark in the most prominent point of assault from the Indians. Their good will & affection, therefore, should be conciliated by all justifiable means. If we suffer the question of paying the militia embodied to be thrown on their legislature, it will excite acrimonious debate in that body, & they will spread the same dissatisfaction among their constituents, and finally it will be forced back on us through Congress. Would it not, therefore, be better to say to Mr. Kirker, that the general government is fully aware that emergencies which appertain to them will sometimes arise so suddenly as not to give time for consulting them, before the State must get into action; that the expenses in such cases, incurred on reasonable grounds, will be met by the general government; and that in the present case, altho’ it appears there was no real ground for embodying the militia, and that more certain measures for ascertaining the truth should have been taken before embodying them, yet an unwillingness to damp the public spirit of our countrymen, & the justice due to the individuals who came forward in defence of their country, & who could not know the grounds on which they were called, have determined us to consider the call as justifiable, & to defray the expenses. This is submitted to you for consideration. Affectionate salutations.
- Misipi river }
- L. Pontchartrain }
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- Charleston }
- Cape Fear }
- Ocracock }
- Chesapeake Bay & waters
- Delaware bay
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- Boston }
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MESSAGE RESPECTING GUNBOATS.
2d Paragraph. Might not this be altogether omitted? It is true that the resolution of the House has arisen from the debate on fortifications vs. gunboats. But as it does ask information only on the last subject, it is not necessary to allude to the other subject: such allusion will be construed as taking sides against N. York fortifications: and the expression of that opinion of the President is necessary neither to prevent too large a fortification appropn, nor to shew the efficiency of gunboats. On the contrary, the third paragraph with some trifling alterations in its introduction would present the whole system contemplated by the Executive (which in fact embraced, under the name of land batteries, a species of fortifications), without giving offence, or interfering with the question of permanent & detached fortifications. It may be added that Castle William reg. Mud Island, Fort Johnson, and, even the works now going on on Governor’s Island must be considered as regular fortifications, not properly embraced under the designations of land batteries, and from their insular & detached situation to be necessarily manned by a standing military force.
5th Paragraph. Omit or modify the words ‘inhabited by &c. whose system like ours is peace & defence’: Otherwise Algiers will be stated as having a system of peace & defence exclusively.
Omit the sentence already pencilled relating to our squadron; it is not I think altogether correct in point of fact; we wanted gunboats there to attack theirs in shallow water & even to attack their batteries; but our frigates never avoided them; for their ground (of the frigates) was on the high seas where the Tripolitan boats dared not come.
To gunboats properly so called I do not think that the British have much resorted in the channel; but they did under Curtis in completing the destruction of the floating batteries at Gibraltar: It is well known that during that long siege, they found it indispensable to have such an armament to meet a similar enemies force. The Swedes & Russians have used them to a greater extent than any other nation. The most splendid achievement by gunboats was the destruction (on the 28th & 29th June 1788) of a great part of the Turkish fleet under their celebrated capitan Pacha Hassan Aly, in the Liman or mouth of the Dnieper by the Russian flotilla under Prince of Nassau. Nassau had twenty-two one gunboats and 27 galleys. Hassan attacked him, in order to force the passage and besiege Kimburn, with 16 ships of the line & several frigates, & lost nine of his ships.
The latter part of this paragraph commencing with the words ‘and indeed’ to the end, might be omitted.
7th Paragraph. ‘& the 127 &c would cost from 5 to 600 thd dollars.’ Query whether any gunboats fit for sea including rigging guns &c. have actually been built for less than five thousand dollars; and whether it be intended that they should all be built of a size that will cost no more? Are also the appropriations already made sufficient to compleat the first 73? For the idea conveyed is that less than 600 thd dollars will complete the whole number of 200. If there be any uncertainty on that point, such modification in the expressions should be made as will avoid a premature commitment.
‘Having regard &c. it has been thought that ½ might be built this year & the other half the next.’ I am clearly of opinion that we ought to build now all those that are wanted for the Mississippi, & also that number which it may be thought proper to keep afloat in time of European war in the other ports. The number for the Mississippi is stated in the message at 40: that to be kept afloat generally in time of European war is stated in the 8th paragraph at 24 at most. This makes at the utmost 64; and there are already 73 building. It does not seem to me that there is any necessity to build beforehand any greater number for the others are expressly stated in the message to be wanted only in case the U. States are at war. If any length of time was necessary to build such vessels, it might be proper to be at all times prepared with the whole number wanted. But of all the species of force which war may require, armies ships of war fortifications, & gunboats, there is none which can be obtained in a shorter time than gunboats, & none therefore that it is less necessary to provide beforehand. I think that within sixty days, perhaps half the time, each of the seaports of Boston, New York, Philada & Baltimore might build & fit out thirty; and the smaller ports together as many; especially if the timber was prepared beforehand. But beyond that preparation I would not go: for exclusively of the first expense of building & the interest of capital thus laid out, I apprehend that notwithstanding the care which may be taken they will infallibly decay in a given number of years & will be a perpetual bill of costs for repairs and maintenance. Sheds will be of use provided the boats are built & not launched; but if once in the water they must share the fate of all other vessels whether public or private. It will be an economical measure for every naval station to burn their navy at the end of a war, & to build a new one when again at war, if it was not that time is necessary to build ships of war. The principle is the same as to gunboats; and the objection of time necessary to build does not exist. I also think that in this as in everything else connected with a navy & naval departments, the annual expense of maintenance will far exceed what is estimated; and I would not be in the least astonished, if supposing two hundred gunboats were actually built, it should add half a million dollars a year to our annual expenses for the support of that establishment. I would therefore suggest that the latter part of this paragraph which contemplates the building of 123 in 2 years should be omitted: and at the end of the 8th paragraph to omit also the words ‘without the expense for repairs or maintenance,’ and to insert the substance of that part of the 7th paragraph which submits the question to the legislature, but with a modification so as to read in substance; with the legislature it will rest to decide on the number sufficient for the ‘object & the time of building.’
Indorsed “recd Feb. 8th 07.”
Sunday Feb. 1, ’07.
The more I consider the letter of our minister to London, the more seriously it impresses me. I believe the sine qua non we made is that of the nation, & that they would rather go on without a treaty than with one which does not settle this article. Under this dilemma, and at this stage of the business, had we not better take the advice of the Senate? I ask a meeting at 11 o’clock to-morrow, to consult on this question.
Washington March 24th, 1807.
I expect you are at a loss to understand the situation of the British treaty, on which the newspapers make so many speeches for me which I never made. It is exactly this. By a letter received from our negociators in January, we found they were making up their minds to sign a treaty containing no provision against the impressment of our seamen. We instantly (Feb. 3) instructed them not to do so; and that if such a treaty had been forwarded, it could not be ratified; that therefore they must immediately resume the negociations to supply that defect, as a sine quâ non. Such a treaty having come to hand, we of course suspend it, until we know the result of the instructions of Feb. 3, which probably will not be till mid-summer. We reserve ourselves till then to decide the question of calling the Senate. In the meantime, I have, by proclamation, continued the suspension of the non-importation law, as a proof of the continuance of friendly dispositions. There was another circumstance which would have prevented the acceptance of the treaty. The British Commissioners, at the time of signing, gave in a written declaration, that until they knew what we meant to do in the subject of the French decree, the king reserved to himself the right of not ratifying, and of taking any measures retaliating on France which he should deem proper, notwithstanding the treaty. This made the treaty binding on us; while he was loose to regard it or not, and clearly squinted at the expectation that we should join in resistance to France, or they would not regard the treaty. We rejected this idea unhesitatingly. I expected to have paid a short visit to Monticello before this, but have been detained by the illness of my son-in-law, Mr. Randolph, and now by an attack of periodical headache on myself. This leaves me but an hour & a half each morning capable of any business at all. A part of this I have devoted to write you this letter, and to assure you of my constant friendship and respect.
Washington May 26, 07.
On re-examination of a letter of Nov. 12, 1806, from Genl. Wilkinson to myself, (which having been for a considerable time out of my possession, and now returned to me,) I find in it some passages entirely confidential, given for my information in the discharge of my executive functions, and which my duties & the public interest forbid me to make public. I have therefore given above a correct copy of all those parts which I ought to permit to be made public. Those not communicated are in nowise material for the purposes of justice on the charges of treason or misdemeanor depending against Aaron Burr; they are on subjects irrelevant to any issues which can arise out of those charges, & could contribute nothing towards his acquittal or conviction. The papers mentioned in the 1st and 3d paragraphs, as enclosed in the letters, being separated therefrom, & not in my possession, I am unable, from memory, to say what they were. I presume they are in the hands of the attorney for the U. S. Given under my hand this 7th day of September, 1807.
July 1, 1807.
I received last night your letter from Havre de Grace, in which you count on being here to-day by two o’clock. It will save a day in the measures we may determine to take if I can see you soon after your arrival. If you arrive before half after three, come and take a family dinner with me, that I may put you in possession of what is under contemplation, so that you may have to reflect on it till to-morrow, when, as you will see by another note, I have asked a meeting. Affectionate salutations.
Washington July 8, ’07.
—Your late letters have been regularly referred to the Secretary at War, who has already answered their several enquiries, or will do it immediately. I am inclined to believe that the departure of the British vessels from our waters must be in consequence of orders from England to respect the authorities of the country. Within about a fortnight we think we may expect answers from England which will decide whether this cloud is to issue in a storm or calm. Here we are pacifically inclined, if anything comes which will permit us to follow our inclinations. But whether we have peace or war, I think the present Legislature will authorize a complete system of defensive works, on such a scale as they think we ought to adopt. The state of our finances now permits this. To defensive works by land they will probably add a considerable enlargement of the force in gun-boats. A combination of these, will, I think, enable us to defend the Chesapeake at it’s mouth, and save the vast line of preparation which the defence of all it’s interior waters would otherwise require. I salute you with great esteem and respect.
Monticello Sepr. 1, ’07.
—Your favor of the 9th is received, & with it the copy of Dr. Priestley’s Memoirs, for which I return you many thanks. I shall read them with great pleasure, as I revered the character of no man living more than his. With another part of your letter I am sensibly affected. I have not here my correspondence with Govr. McKean to turn to, but I have no reason to doubt that the particular letter referred to may have been silent on the subject of your appointment as stated. The facts are these: The opinion I have ever entertained, & still entertain as strongly as ever, of your abilities & integrity, was such as made it my wish, from the moment I came to the administration, that you should be employed in some public way. On a review, however, of all circumstances, it appeared to me that the State of Pensylva had occasions for your service, which would be more acceptable than any others to yourself, because they would leave you in the enjoyment of the society of Dr. Priestley, to which your attachment was known. I therefore expressed my solicitude respecting you to Gov. McKean, whose desires to serve yourself & the public by employing you I knew to be great, & of course that you were an object of mutual concern, and I received his information of having found employment for your talents with the sincerest pleasure. But pressed as I am perpetually by an overflow of business, & adopting from necessity the rule of never answering any letter, or part of a letter, which can do without answer, in replying to his which related to other subjects, I probably said nothing on that, because my former letter had sufficiently manifested how pleasing the circumstance must be to me, and my time & practice did not permit me to be repeating things already said. This is a candid statement of that incident, and I hope you will see in it a silence accounted for on grounds far different from that of a continuance of my estimation & good wishes, which have experienced no change. With respect to the schism among the republicans in your State, I have ever declared to both parties that I consider the general government as bound to take no part in it, and I have carefully kept both my judgment, my affections, & my conduct, clear of all bias to either. It is true, as you have heard, that a distance has taken place between Mr. Clay & myself. The cause I never could learn nor imagine. I had always known him to be an able man, & I believed him an honest one. I had looked to his coming into Congress with an entire belief that he would be cordial with the administration, and even before that I had always had him in my mind for a high important vacancy which had been from time to time expected, but is only now about to take place. I feel his loss therefore with real concern, but it is irremediable from the necessity of harmony & cordiality between those who are to manage together the public concerns. Not only his withdrawing from the usual civilities of intercourse with me, (which even the federalists with 2 or 3 exceptions keep up,) but his open hostility in Congress to the administration, leave no doubt of the state of his mind as a fact, altho’ the cause be unknown. Be so good as to communicate my respects to Mr. Priestley, and to accept yourself my friendly salutations, & assurances of unaltered esteem.
Monticello August 9, 1807.
—I received yesterday yours of the 7th, with the proposition for substituting 32,000 twelve-month volunteers instead of 15,000 regulars as a disposable force, and I like the idea much. It will of course be a subject of consideration when we all meet again, but I repeat that I like it greatly.
On some occasion, a little before I left Washington, when we were together (all, I think, except Mr. Gallatin, but I am not quite so sure as to yourself as the others), conversing on the bungling business which had been made by the officers commanding at Norfolk, with Erskine’s letters, and the more bungling conduct to be expected when the command should devolve on a militia major, Mr. Smith proposed that the whole business of flags should be committed to Decatur. This appeared to obtain at once the general approbation. Thinking it so settled, on lately receiving a letter from Govr. Cabell, asking full & explicit instructions as to the mode of intercourse, I endeavored to lay down the general rules of intercourse by flag, as well digested as I could to meet all cases, but concluded by informing him that the whole business was committed to Decatur. Mr. Madison now informs me that either not recollecting or not understanding this to have been the arrangement, instructions have been given to the officer commanding by land, relative to intercourse, which may produce collision. The remedy I think is easy, & will on the whole place the matter on more proper ground. That is, to give to the commanding officers by land as well as sea, equal authority to send & receive flags. This is the safer, as I see by the papers that Mr. Newton (of Congress) is the Major. I shall accordingly write to Govr. Cabell to-day to correct the error, & to inform him that the two commanders stand on an equal footing in the direction of flags.
I wrote you yesterday as to the additional company of infantry employed, and shall await your opinion before I say anything on it to the Governor. I salute you affectionately.
Washington Oct. 21, 07.
—Your favor of the 17th has been duly received. I have long seen, and with very great regret, the schisms which have taken place among the republicans, & principally those of Pensylvania & New York. As far as I have been able to judge they have not been produced by any difference of political principle, at least any important difference, but by a difference of opinion as to persons. I determined from the first moment to take no part in them, & that the government should know nothing of any such differences. Accordingly it has never been attended to in any appointment or refusal of appointment. Genl. Shee’s personal merit universally acknoleged, was the cause of his appointment as Indian Superintendent, and a subsequent discovery that his removal to this place (the indispensable residence of that officer) would be peculiarly unpleasant to him, suggested his translation to another office, to solve the double difficulty. Rarely reading the controversial pieces between the different sections of Republicans, I have not seen the piece in the Aurora, to which you allude; but I may with truth assure you that no fact has come to my knolege which has ever induced any doubt of your continued attachment to the true principles of republican government. I am thankful for the favorable sentiments you are so kind as to express towards me personally, and trust that an uniform pursuit of the principles & conduct which have procured, will continue to me an approbation which I highly value. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
Washington Oct. 9, ’07.
—Your 2d letter on the subject of gunboats came to hand just before my departure from Monticello. In the meantime, the inquiry into the proposition had been referred, agreeably to our usage, or to reason, to the practical persons of the department to which it belonged, deemed most skilful. On my arrival here, I found the answers of the persons to whom it was referred, the substance of which I now enclose you. I am not a judge of their solidity, but I presume they are founded, and the rather as they are from officers entirely favorable to the use of gunboats.
We have as yet no knolege of the arrival of the Revenge in England, but we may daily expect to hear of it; and as we expected she would be detained there & in France about a month, it would be a month hence before we can expect her back here. In the meantime, all the little circumstances coming to our knolege are unfavorable to our wishes for peace. If they would but settle the question of impressment from our bottoms, I should be well contented to drop all attempts at a treaty. The other rights of neutral powers will be taken care of by Bonaparte & Alexander; and for commercial arrangements we can sufficiently provide by legislative regulations. But as the practice of impressment has taken place only against us, we shall be left to settle that for ourselves; and to do this we shall never again have so favorable a conjuncture of circumstances. Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of great esteem & respect.
Monticello September 20, 1807.
—General Wilkinson has asked permission to make use, in the statement of Burr’s affair which he is about to publish, of the documents placed in your hands by Mr. Rodney. To this, consent is freely given with one reservation. Some of these papers are expressed to be confidential. Others containing censures on particular individuals, are such as I always deem confidential, & therefore cannot communicate, but for regularly official purposes, without a breach of trust. I must therefore ask the exercise of your discretion in selecting all of this character, and of giving to the General the free use of the others. It will be necessary that the whole be returned to the Attorney General by the first week in the next month, as a selection will be made from them to make part of the whole evidence in the case, which I shall have printed and communicated to Congress. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
Dec. 7, 1807.
—The papers now communicated to your house for perusal being to be read in the other house also, and, as originals, to be returned to me, Mr. Coles, my Secretary, will attend to receive them, after they shall have been read to the satisfaction of your house; and, having handed them to the other house for the same purpose he will return them to me. I ask the favor of your aid in having this course pursued & in preventing their going from the clerk’s table, or copies, or extracts being made from them by any one. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
Dec. 8.—The Speaker apprehending it might be necessary for him to read this letter to the house, & that the last paragraph might be offensive, I took back this, & gave him a copy to the words ‘return them to me,’ and I took back also that to the V. President (not yet delivered) and sent a copy to the word ‘pursued.’
December 18, 1807.
Monroe will be here on Sunday; he will bring us no new information, as far as can be judged from his letter; but on the subject of the proclamation, should the message wait for him? I will keep it back till half after ten o’clock for your opinion, either written or verbal. Affectionate salutations.
I have just received your note, and am clearly for the exception; but come here before half after ten, and let us be together before the message goes out of our hands.