Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Paul Hamilton, 23 January 1810

To Paul Hamilton

Monticello Jan. 23. 10.


The inclosed letter would have been more properly addressed to yourself, or perhaps to the Secretary at War. I have no knolege at all of the writer; but suppose the best use I can make of his letter, as to himself or the public, is to inclose it to you for such notice only as the public utility may entitle it to. perhaps I should ask the favor of you to communicate it, with the samples, & with my friendly respects, to the Secretary at war, who may know something of the writer. I recollect that his predecessor made some trial of cotton tenting, & found it good against the water. it’s combustibility however must be an objection to it for that purpose, and perhaps even on shipboard.  I avail myself of the occasion which this circumstance presents of expressing my sincere anxieties for the prosperity of the administration in all it’s parts, which indeed involves the prosperity of us all, and of tendering to yourself in particular the assurances of my high respect & consideration.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “The honble Paul Hamilton.” Enclosure: John W. Quincy to TJ, 27 Dec. 1809.

Paul Hamilton (1762–1816), of St. Bartholomew Parish, South Carolina, fought in militia and partisan units late in the Revolutionary War before becoming a rice planter. He sat in the state house of representatives, 1787–88 and 1806–09, supported the United States Constitution at the state ratification convention in 1788, served in the state senate, 1794–99, cast his vote for TJ as a presidential elector in 1800, and was South Carolina’s comptroller of finance, 1800–04, and governor, 1804–06. President James Madison appointed Hamilton secretary of the navy in March 1809, and he resigned at the end of 1812. He played little role in the formulation or direction of military policy and, under the pressure created by the outbreak of the War of 1812, he was increasingly beset by rumors of alcoholism, lax record keeping, appointment of unqualified persons, and extravagant contracts. Madison nominated Hamilton as federal commissioner of loans for South Carolina in June 1813, but the Senate rejected the appointment (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; N. Louise Bailey and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985 [1986], 1:645–7; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:120, 373, 391–2 [7 Mar. 1809, 22 June, 19 July 1813]; Peter J. Kastor, “Toward ‘the Maritime War Only’: The Question of Naval Mobilization, 1811–1812,” Journal of Military History 61 [1997]: 464–5).

The current secretary of war was William Eustis, and his predecessor was Henry Dearborn.

Index Entries

  • cotton; tenting search
  • crops; tenting search
  • Dearborn, Henry; as secretary of war search
  • Eustis, William; as secretary of war search
  • Hamilton, Paul (1762–1816); and duck cloth search
  • Hamilton, Paul (1762–1816); identified search
  • Hamilton, Paul (1762–1816); letters to search
  • household articles; cloth search
  • Quincy, John W.; and duck cloth search
  • textiles; duck search
  • textiles; home manufacture of search