Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Henry Dearborn, 18 June 1801

From Henry Dearborn

War Department June 18th. 1801


I have had the honour of receiving your note of this day accompanied with the proceedings of two Courts Marshall held for the trial of Doctr. Charles Webb, Lieut. John Latimore & Edward Atwood a Midshipman, and five seamen, I have examined the aforesaid proceedings, and take the liberty of reporting as my oppinnion that there does not appear any sufficient reason for disapproving of any one of the sentences of the said Courts.

I am Sir with the highest respect your Obedt. Huml. Servt.

Henry Dearborn

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 June and “Webb & Latimer” and so recorded in SJL; with note in TJ’s hand adjacent to closing: “the sentences were approved by Th:J. July 10. 1801.”

At a court-martial held on 11 May 1801, Lieutenant John Latimer (Latimore) was found guilty of striking a midshipman and dismissed from the service. On 10 July, at the foot of the trial transcript, TJ wrote, “I have examined the proceedings of the Court martial above stated in the case of John Latimer a Lieutenant in the Navy, and also the Sentence pronounced by the said court, and I do direct the sentence to be carried into execution. Th: Jefferson” (DNA: RG 125, GCMCI). On the following day, the same court-martial dismissed from the service Midshipman Edward Atwood after he pleaded guilty to conveying rum to two seamen under confinement for desertion (same). Later that day, the court-martial found five seamen guilty of desertion, sentenced each to receive fifty lashes, and halted their pay from the time of their desertion to the time of their sentence (same).

Also on 19 June, TJ received from the Navy Department an undated “List of Captains in the Navy retained &c. on the Peace establishment.” Compiled in the handwriting of principal clerk Abishai Thomas, the list included fifteen names, grouped into three categories with braces. John Barry, Samuel Nicholson, and Thomas Truxtun were noted as “On furlough & half pay.” Silas Talbot, Richard Dale, Samuel Barron, John Rodgers, James Barron, Edward Preble, and William Bainbridge were noted as “For active service & full pay.” The final five names (Stephen Decatur, Sr., Richard V. Morris, Alexander Murray, Daniel McNeill, and Hugh G. Campbell) were “proposed to be recommended to Congress,” even though the Peace Establishment Act stipulated that only nine captains were to be retained in the service. At the foot of the text, Henry Dearborn wrote: “the foregoing is taken from a list made out by Genl. Smith and left with the principle clerk in the Navy Department” (MS in DLC, endorsed by TJ as received 19 June and “Captains retained” and so recorded in SJL; Stoddert to TJ, printed at 11 Mch. 1801).

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