Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Smith, 31 August 1801

From Robert Smith

Washington Augt. 31. 1801


From the dispatches received by Captain Rodgers, which will be transmitted by this post from the department of State to you and to mr Madison, we have the unhappiness to perceive that the French Government have not appeared disposed to accede to the terms of ratification proposed by us. Apprehensive that at some future day claims respecting indemnities might be revived, they, it seems, have signified their wish that all the objects of the 2nd. Article Indemnities as well as Treaties be for ever abandoned by both parties. But mr Murray, not considering himself authorised, has not subscribed to such an abandonment.

It is impossible for us to ascertain in this instance the real Object of the first Consul or in what manner this negotiation will terminate. Be this, however, as it may, from a view of this new state of things certain questions present themselves that deserve immediate consideration.

If we should not be informed of the exchange of ratifications at the time the Frigate Boston be ready to sail, ought she to remain here in port without further orders until the ultimate determination of the French Government be communicated to us? or Ought she to proceed directly to the Mediterranean without the Minister? or ought mr Livingston to be sent to France in aid of mr Murray with suitable instructions?

Is it not necessary to be prepared to decide, as soon as the Boston shall be equipped for sea, what course is to be taken? To detain this Vessel in port at so great an expence and upon so uncertain an event would be attended with unpleasant circumstances. To dispatch her directly for the Mediterranean to join the squadron would in my opinion be adviseable, until it should be considered that mr Livingston could be at Paris in time and when there, that he could materially assist mr Murray.

It is probable that in the Course of this Week I shall receive a Letter from Captain McNeill informing me that the Boston is equipped and that agreeably to instructions some time since sent to him, he is about proceeding to New-York.

The enclosed Letters are upon subjects that merit attention. But as I was not in Office at the time the improvements of the Navy Yard and the Barracks were first projected, I have to ask the favor of your advice upon the propriety of these additional buildings.

Accept the assurances of my great respect & high Consideration

Rt. Smith

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 3 Sep. and so recorded in SJL with notation “the Boston.” Enclosures: (1) Captain Thomas Tingey to Smith, 29 Aug., from the Washington Navy Yard, advising the construction of a warehouse for the storage of rigging, sails, stores, and other materials from ships docked at the yard so that their holds may be properly ventilated; the new building would also save costs of renting storage space in Georgetown, where some naval stores are kept now for $200 rent and $400 paid to a storekeeper each year; reporting that he has an estimate of $9,000 to build a warehouse of 100 feet by 40 feet, Tingey notes that a timely authorization for the construction might enable him to save money in the acquisition of materials for the building and would allow for bricks to be made “while the weather remains fine” (RC in same). (2) William W. Burrows, lieutenant colonel commandant of the Marine Corps, to Smith, 31 Aug., stating that the barracks under construction should have a unit built at each end to protect the building from the elements and to save rent that will otherwise have to be paid for the housing of stores; noting also that privies were not provided for in the plans but are necessary for sanitation; and declaring that this required new construction will not exceed $4,000, which, added to the contracted cost of $16,000 for the main part of the building already in progress, will reach the amount of $20,000 appropriated by Congress (RC in same; with diagram, a simple outline plan identifying the main sections of the building, marked “now to be finished,” and the proposed “Ends required to be finished”).

Dispatches received by Captain Rodgers: that is, communications that reached Smith through John Rodgers, the commander of the Maryland. The papers probably included six dispatches from William Vans Murray to the secretary of state, ranging in date from 23 June to 9 July and enclosing copies of Murray’s written exchanges with the French commissioners, and a letter from John Dawson to Madison dated 25 June. Early in July, the French had proposed an explicit renunciation of claims in the form of a statement agreed to by both parties and incorporated into the exchange of ratifications. Murray replied that he was “not authorised to enter into such an Engagement for his Government” (Charles Pierre Claret Fleurieu and Pierre Louis Roederer to Murray, 3 July, Murray to Joseph Bonaparte, Fleurieu, and Roederer, 5 July, in DNA: RG 59, DD, Netherlands; 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 , 1:340–1, 345, 353, 369, 375–6, 390–1; 2:77n; 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, 148, 279).

Preparations had been underway for the Boston to deliver Robert R. Livingston to France and then join the squadron that had been sent to the Mediterranean under Richard Dale’s command. Daniel Mcneill received command of the Boston in July, and on 14 Aug. Smith authorized him to take the frigate from Boston to New York, where Livingston would embark. The ship’s cabin had been enlarged to accommodate Livingston’s party (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, 246, 266, 272, 274–5, 285; Notes on a Cabinet Meeting, 15 May 1801).

Index Entries