Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Drayton, 29 July 1801

From John Drayton

Charleston July 29th: 1801.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th: June, accompanied with sundry papers from the Naval department; And, whenever any French Consul or Commercial Agent repairs to this place, I shall request him to hasten the discharge of the French prisoners here: unless, you should otherwise direct.

I am also favored with your dispatches of the 15th: July; and feel myself much indebted to you, for the confidence you have reposed in me, respecting the same: believe me Sir, it shall not be misplaced.   This business has been fortunately arranged sooner, than my hopes had led me to expect: and I have the pleasure to inform you, that Edward Darrell Esq of this City, has, this day accepted the appointment of Commissioner for the first division of this State, under the act of Congress providing for the enumeration of lands, dwelling houses, and slaves. He is a Gentleman, who has been at the bar for some years, in habits of business; and, is Lieutenant Colonel commanding the regiment of Artillery in this City.   The office he has accepted being of invidious nature, without profit or pleasure, I hope, as he has been induced to accept the same merely from a desire of forwarding the public business, and thereby of giving what support he is able to your administration, to which he is sincerely attached, it may not be a bar, to any promotion, with which the Federal Government may be pleased to entrust him.   I shall further endeavour to assist this business, by writing to each of the other Commissioners in this State; whom I will urge to proceed without delay: and in fine, will leave nothing undone, which I can do, towards enabling you to carry the above mentioned law into effect, with energy & dispatch.

As I trust much to a well regulated Militia, for those defences, which a republican government requires, my endeavours in this State are much directed to effect due obedience & subordination, throughout its different departments.   A Court martial, which has lately been holden here, having cashiered one officer, and suspended another, has given me an opportunity of pressing those principles on the militia of this State; which I flatter myself will be attended with beneficial effects.   I have done myself the honor of enclosing you, a copy of the Orders, which are issued on the occasion. And trust, that in due time a proper return shall be transmitted to you of the Militia of this State: among which, is a body of uniformed Cavalry, well mounted and conditioned of not less than fifteen hundred men, that I can draw to any one point in this State, at a short notice.

I must apologize, for intruding these matters on your time and attention; and, my excuse must be, that, it proceeds from an earnest desire, of promoting the public welfare: which I have been taught to consider, as the sacred duties of a Man & a Citizen. And I avail myself of this opportunity, of tendering to you the assurance of high respect & consideration, with which, I have the honor to be

Sir Yr. most obedient Sevt.

John Drayton

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 13 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: see below.

Dispatches of the 15th: July: see Gallatin’s first letter to TJ of 11 July.

Copy of the Orders: in his general orders issued on 23 July to the South Carolina militia, Drayton confirmed the sentence of a court-martial that found Captain William Fair and Lieutenant Retier Whittemore, officers in the 28th militia regiment, guilty of disobedience and of “unmilitary, unbecoming and mutinous conduct.” Fair was dismissed from service, while Whittemore was suspended for a term of twelve months. Drayton used the occasion to emphasize the importance of a well-ordered militia in a republic, where “the citizen and soldier are intimately blended,” and to declare his intention to uphold the authority of courts-martial to dismiss any commissioned officer from service, no matter how high his rank, and that such dismissals would be published in general orders across the state. Drayton’s orders of 23 July also directed that a complete return of the militia in South Carolina be prepared and that a copy be forwarded to the president of the United States (Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 27 July 1801).

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