Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, 11 July 1801

To Levi Lincoln

Washington July 11. 1801.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 15th. came to hand on the 25th. of June, and conveyed a great deal of that information which I am anxious to recieve. the consolidation of our fellow citizens in general is the great object we ought to keep in view, and that being once obtained, while we associate with us in affairs to a certain degree the federal sect of republicans, we must strip of all the means of influence the Essex junto & their associate monocrats in every part of the union. the former differ from us only in the shares of power to be given to the executive, being with us attached to republican government, the latter wish to sap the republic by fraud if they cannot destroy it by force, & to erect an English monarchy in it’s place, some of them (as mr Adams) thinking it’s corrupt parts should be cleansed away, others, (as Hamilton) thinking that would make it an impracticable machine. we are proceeding gradually in the regeneration of offices, & introducing republicans to some share in them. I do not know that it will be pushed further than was settled before you went away, except as to Essex men. I must ask you to make out a list of those in office in your’s & the neighboring states, & to furnish me with it. there is little of this spirit South of the Hudson. I understand that Jackson is a very determined one, tho’ in private life amiable & honorable. but amiable monarchists are not safe subjects of republican confidence. what will be the effect of his removal? how should it be timed? who his successor? what place can Genl. Lyman properly occupy? our gradual reformations seem to produce good effects every where except in Connecticut. their late session of legislature has been more intolerant than all others. we must meet them with equal intolerance. when they will give a share in the state offices, they shall be replaced in a share of the General offices. till then we must follow their example. mr Goodrich’s removal has produced a bitter remonstrance, with much personality against the two Bishops. I am sincerely sorry to see the inflexibility of the federal spirit there, for I cannot believe they are all monarchists.

I observe your tory-papers make much of the Berceau. as that is one of the subjects to be laid before Congress, it is material to commit to writing, while fresh in memory, the important circumstances. you possess more of these than any other person. I pray you therefore immediately to [state?] to me all the circumstances you recollect. I will aid you with the following hints, which you can correct & incorporate. Pichon I think arrived about the 12th. of Mar. I do not remember when he first proposed the question about the Insurgente & Berceau. on the 20th. mr Stoddart wrote to his agent at Boston to put the Berceau into handsome order to be restored, but whether he did that of his own accord, or after previous consultation with you or myself I do not recollect. I sat out for Monticello Apr. 1. about that time Genl. Smith sent new directions to put her precisely into the state in which she was before the capture. do you recollect from what fund it was contemplated to do this? I had trusted for this to Stoddart who was familiar with all the funds, being myself entirely new in office at that time. what will those repairs have cost? did we not leave to LeTombe to make what allowance he thought proper to the officers, we only advancing money on his undertaking repaiment? I shall hope to recieve from you as full a statement as you can make. it may be useful to enquire into the time & circumstance of her being dismantled. when you shall have retraced the whole matter in your memory, would it not be well to make a summary statement of the important circumstances for insertion in the Chronicle, in order to set the minds of the candid part of the public to rights?—mr Madison has had a slight bilious attack. I am advising him to get off by the middle of this month. we who have stronger constitutions shall stay to the end of it. but during August & September we also must take refuge in climates rendered safer by our habits & confidence. the post will be so arranged as that letters will go hence to Monticello & the answer return here in a week. I hope I shall continue to hear from you there. accept assurances of my affectionate esteem & high respect.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. the French convention was laid before Senate Dec. 16. I think the Berceau arrived afterwards. if so she was dismantled when it was known she was to be restored. when did she arrive? by whose order was she dismantled?

PrC (DLC); at foot of first page in ink: “Levi Lincoln.”

Jonathan Jackson, the supervisor of the revenue for Massachusetts since 1796, was affiliated with the Essex Junto. He held other federal positions from 1789 to 1795, and in 1795 declined appointment as comptroller of the Treasury (Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 18:195; 24:575n, 580n).

William Lyman, a Republican from Northampton, Massachusetts, and a former brigadier general of militia, had served in the Third and Fourth Congresses (Paul Goodman, The Democratic-Republicans of Massachusetts: Politics in a Young Republic [Cambridge, Mass., 1964], 62, 78, 225; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

The U.S. frigate Boston captured the French corvette Berceau northeast of Guadaloupe in October 1800 after a battle that damaged both vessels. The Berceau, which had lost its masts, was taken to Boston, condemned as a prize by the federal district court, dismantled, and sold in January 1801. The U.S. government purchased the vessel through an agent, and the officers and crew of the Boston, as the captors of the prize, received half the proceeds of the sale. Under Article 3 of the Convention of 1800, “Public Ships” taken by either side were to be “restored,” and Louis André Pichon mentioned warships, along with other issues related to the convention, in a letter to the secretary of state on 19 Mch. 1801. The next day Benjamin Stoddert wrote to Stephen Higginson, Sr., the navy agent at Boston, ordering him to have the Berceau put into shape to be handed over to the French “with all her Guns, Ammunition apparel, & every thing belonging to her.” “This business should be done,” Stoddert noted, “as if no reluctance accompanied the restoration. We are now at Peace with France, & We should act as if we returned to a state of amity with pleasure. Let there be no cause of complaint against the Govt. or its agents.” On 1 Apr., in instructions to Samuel Brown, Higginson’s successor as navy agent, Samuel Smith asked Brown to determine what state the Berceau was in at the time of its capture and to restore it to “the same condition.” Following repairs, the ship was turned over to representatives of the French government at Boston on 22 June. In addition to refitting the vessel, the United States advanced money to the ship’s officers for their pay and subsistence. Stoddert wrote to the chairmen of the congressional committees on naval affairs and ways and means, suggesting on 15 Feb. 1801 that an appropriation of $100,000 for the execution of the convention would be “amply sufficient” to cover the costs of restoring the Berceau and other French vessels. The Sixth Congress was then drawing to a close, however, and Stoddert reported to Madison after the end of the session that neither chairman had “paid the least attention to the subject.” Stoddert was confident that the next Congress would see to the matter, and on 3 Apr. 1802 Congress did approve an appropriation of up to $318,000 for carrying the Convention of 1800 into effect. In October 1801, Brown’s accounts indicated that repairs and supplies for the Berceau had cost $32,800 in addition to the $13,600 expended on the ship’s purchase (NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 1935–38, 7 vols. (cited by years) description ends , June 1800–Nov. 1800, 456–8; NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 1935–38, 7 vols. (cited by years) description ends , Dec. 1800–Dec. 1801, 122, 150, 171, 210, 258; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:429–31, 433–7; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:49–50; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:148; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:459; Palmer, Stoddert’s War description begins Michael A. Palmer, Stoddert’s War: Naval Operations during the Quasi-War with France, 1798–1801, Columbia, S.C., 1987 description ends , 219).

The French warship insurgente, captured by the United States in 1799, was lost at sea before the signing of the convention with France (see TJ, over Lincoln’s signature, to Oliver Ellsworth and William Vans Murray, [18] Mch. 1801).

For Insertion in the Chronicle: during the spring of 1801 the Columbian Centinel of Boston, echoed by other Massachusetts newspapers, made the refitting of the Berceau and the payments to its officers a political issue. As early as April the Centinel predicted that the cost of fixing the ship would run between $30,000 and $40,000. In June, declaring that there had been no congressional appropriation for the funds, the Centinel charged that whoever authorized the expenditures for the Berceau was “guilty of a high misdemeanour” and subject to impeachment. Another Boston paper, the Independent Chronicle, took the lead in refuting the Centinel’s accusations. On 29 July the National Intelligencer, stating that much of the commentary on the subject was “replete with misrepresentation,” printed a long statement about the Berceau. Saying that it was “believed” that orders to repair the vessel were issued before John Adams left office, the Intelligencer averred that the officers of the new administration “did no more than pursue the steps of their predecessors.” The piece in the Intelligencer cited the authority on international law Emmerich de Vattel as justification for restoring the ship to the condition it was in when it was taken and stated that the desire for a quick restoration of good relations between the United States and France was the motive for restoring the ship immediately, rather than after final ratification of the convention. The Columbian Centinel, protesting that at the time of its capture the Berceau was “a mere wreck,” declared scornfully that the Intelligencer “lugs in the ‘worm-eaten’ Vattel as the bob to its kite” (Columbian Centinel, 29 Apr., 9 May, 6, 10 June, 8 Aug.; Independent Chronicle, 7–11 May, 8–11, 18–22 June; Stockbridge Western Star, 11 May, 22 June 1801).

When did she Arrive: the Berceau arrived off Boston in mid-November and entered the harbor on 11 Dec., after its condemnation as a prize. It was dismantled on 30 Dec. and its rigging, ropes, casks, ammunition, and other loose items were auctioned individually or in lots when the ship was sold on 15 Jan. 1801 by order of the U.S. district court (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:428–9, 436, 437; NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 1935–38, 7 vols. (cited by years) description ends , Dec. 1800–Dec. 1801, 27).

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