Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Sterett, 1 December 1801

To Andrew Sterett

Washington Dec. 1. 1801.


The Secretary of the Navy, the regular organ for the present communication, being absent from the seat of government for causes which may detain him for some time, I do myself the pleasure without further delay of expressing to you on behalf of your country, the high satisfaction inspired by your conduct in the late engagement with the Tripolitan cruiser captured by you. too long, for the honour of nations, have those barbarians been suffered to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights & laws of human nature. you have shewn to your countrymen that that enemy cannot meet bravery & skill united. in proving to them that our past condescensions were from a love of peace, not a dread of them, you have deserved well of your country; and have merited the high esteem & consideration of which I have now the pleasure of assuring you

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); in ink at foot of text: “Lieutt. Sterrett.”

A scion of a prominent family of Baltimore merchants and Federalists, Andrew Sterett (1778–1807) received a lieutenant’s commission in the U.S. Navy in March 1798. After seeing extensive service on board the frigates Constellation and President, Sterett was given command of the schooner Enterprize in October 1800. On 1 Aug. 1801, Sterett’s vessel defeated the corsair Tripoli after a three-hour battle near Malta in the Mediterranean, the first American victory in the Barbary War. Sterett and the Enterprize returned to Baltimore in November 1801, then sailed for the Mediterranean again in early 1802. He remained in the navy until 1805, when he resigned after a dispute over rank. He died in Peru shortly thereafter while on a merchant voyage to Latin America (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Vol. 35:588–9).

Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith was absent from Washington to contend with illness afflicting his family in Baltimore, which had already claimed the life of his eldest son (Vol. 35:723).

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