Thomas Jefferson Papers

XII. Robert Smith’s Remarks on the Draft Message, [on or before 21 November 1801]

XII. Robert Smith’s Remarks on the Draft Message

[on or before 21 Nov. 1801]

page 1st. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean with overtures of conciliation and with1 instructions to assure the Bey of Tripoli of my cordial disposition to preserve with him a State of peace; but with orders at the same time, in case of a declaration of war by that Regency, to protect our Commerce against depradation and our Citizens against Captivity. The Measure was seasonable and salutary. The Bey had actually declared war in form against us2 before the arrival of our Squadron. Some of his Corsairs were traversing the Mediterranean in quest of our vessels and two of them, destined for the Western Ocean, had arrived at Gibralter. Our Commerce in the Mediterranean had thus for a time been suspended and that of the Atlantic was3 endangered. The seasonable arrival of our squadron afforded however an effectual convoy and enabled our Citizens to prosecute their intended voyages.4

page. 3d—But it is submitted to your consideration whether the industry of our fellow Citizens ought to be burthened with taxes for the purpose of accumulating a Treasure for wars to happen we know not when and which perhaps would not so often happen but from the facility afforded by such Treasures.

page. 5—and for the frames of two extra Seventy four gun ships for the delivery of which contracts5 had been long since made.

page 6—a few days—better say—weeks.

page. 6—Would it not be well to omit the sentence mentioning the removal of the two other frigates? It will occur to practical men that such removal cannot be effected but at an expence of many thousand Dollars—besides the Law directs that they shall be laid up at ports not a port.

page. 3—Qu?—Is this government charged with nothing but “the external and mutual relations of these States”?

page. 8. Qu? Does not the form of the concluding sentence appear too much like party and6 Self-Commendation? Would not the purpose be equally answered in a form somewhat like the following?

—but I would willingly indulge the pleasing persuasion that all will cordially unite in honest and disinterested efforts to preserve the general and State governments in their &c &c &c

page. 7. Would the proposition respecting Juries be acceptable to any but the State of Virga. I am apprehensive such an innovation would alarm. It would be said that the powerful State of Virga. would impose her usages upon the other States.

page. 8. With respect to the Naturalisation-Laws, would it not be better to submit the subject generally without presenting in detail the modifications? The Opinions of Republicans upon this are various.

page. 6. Altho’ I have no doubt of the power of the President to grant in the exercise of a sound discretion a Nolle-prosequi, yet I have very serious doubts respecting the ground stated. The prevailing Opinion among Constitutional Lawyers will I believe7 be opposed to the principles set forth. But why make this communication? Does it give to Congress any information of the State of the Union or does it recommend to them any measure that requires legislative provision? Will it not be hazarding, without necessity, a division of our friends? The claim to such Executive prerogative will not be easily assented to.8

Verbal merely

page. 1—“effect”—qu? retribution.

lessen like evils—prevent9

page 1st—”I receive”—have received

page 1st—10

page. 2. “to reduce”—to make

page. 5—”to be wanting”—wanted

id—“& be in readiness”—may be in readiness

page. 8. “Conclusion”—investigation

page. 8. “in having at length an oppy.” qu? why at length?11

page 6—might not be omitted the detail respecting the fortifications—Vizt. from the words “where important harbours” to the words “be found useful” inclusive.

Qu? the prudence of saying any thing about the building of the 74’s—as it is not proposed by the Executive and as no appropriation for it is submitted

page. 7—Would it not be as well to omit the sentence—”and especially that portion of it recently erected

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 118:20321–4); in Smith’s hand; undated; endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 21 Nov. and so recorded in SJL.

Page 1st: some of Smith’s references to TJ’s wording do not match the fair copy (Document xiii). However, there is some correlation between the page numbers he cited and the pages of the manuscript of Document xiii, which means that the draft he reviewed was similar to Document xiii in arrangement and length.

Seventy four gun Ships: as TJ mentioned in the “Navy” section of his message (see Document xiii), a February 1799 “Act for the augmentation of the Navy” called for the construction of six 74-gun ships. The navy’s appropriation for 1801 contained funds for the ships. By the fall of that year construction was underway or completed on eight frames made of live oak—six for the ships required by the act plus two additional frames—but TJ postponed further work (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 , 1:621; 2:123; 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 , Naval Affairs, 1:79; note to William Duane to TJ, 10 June 1801; Samuel Smith to TJ, 13 June 1801).

The Peace Establishment Act of March 1801 called for seven of the navy’s frigates to be laid up in ports. As referred to by TJ at the end of the “Navy Yards” section of the annual message (see Document xiii), the act also called for the sale of several naval vessels (Vol. 33:250n; Samuel Smith to TJ, 4 May 1801).

In addition to these remarks, TJ received from Smith or his department a statement of “Expenditures on account of Navy yards Docks &c. to the 1st October 1801,” reporting amounts paid for the land and improvements of the navy yards at Washington ($4,000 for land, $54,683.54 for improvements), Norfolk ($12,000 and $14,275.29, respectively), Philadelphia ($37,000 and $1,636.68), New York ($40,000 and $1,864.99), Boston ($40,000 and $3,643.41), and Portsmouth, New Hampshire ($5,500 and $26,304.07) for a total of $240,907.98 (MS in DLC; in Abishai Thomas’s hand; at foot of text: “Navy department Nov. 21. 1801”). TJ also received from Smith’s department a statement of “Annual expense of maintaining a Frigate of 44 Guns, a Frigate of 36 Guns, & a Frigate of 32 Guns, in actual Service, & with their full complement of Men &c.” The expense for a frigate of 44 guns with 400 men was $114,351.70; for one of 36 guns with 340 men, $96,836.65; and for one of 32 guns, 260 men, $73,719.74, for a total of $284,908.09 (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 118:20300; undated; in Thomas’s hand; endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 16 Nov. 1801 and “Annual expence of a frigate in service”).

1Preceding five words interlined.

2Remainder of sentence interlined.

3Smith here canceled “indeed extensively.”

4Below this paragraph Smith interlined and then canceled “page 2nd. bravery and […].”

5Preceding six words interlined in place of “which.”

6Preceding two words interlined.

7Preceding two words interlined.

8Sentence interlined.

9Line interlined.

10Canceled: “exception to a prospect. Qu if a correct figure.”

11Smith left some space between this comment and the one that follows.

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