Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Fulton to Thomas Jefferson, 8 July 1813

From Robert Fulton

New york July 8th 1813


on the fourth inst, I sent you a letter containing drawings details and observations on my experiments on firing cannon under water, and the consequence of such a mode of conducting maritime war, on the preceding pages is an exact copy of Commodore Decaturs opinion in favor of this discovery, which from so experienced an officer must have weight with those who are not familiar with nautical affairs

The object now is to give a fair experiment to this discovery By building a Vessel and fitting her in the best manner to secure success and for which Congress should appropriate 100,000 dollars. In which good work I hope for the friendly aid of your influence on your friends in both houses, Since my last letter to you I have composed the steam engine to work in the ship In such manner that it is within the wooden walls principally below the water line and out of danger of shot from the enemy. I have this day sent a copy of the commodores opinion to Mr Madison you will have the goodness to send the letter to him, with such opinion of the plan as you think it merits

I am Sir respectfully your most obedient

Robt Fulton

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqre Monticello Virgina”; franked; postmarked New York, 7 July; endorsed by TJ as received 14 July 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

No letter from Fulton to TJ of the fourth inst has been found, and none is recorded in SJL. Fulton’s letter to TJ of 29 June matches his description above. Fulton wrote to President James Madison this day, enclosing Stephen Decatur’s opinion and stating that “I have succeeded in some very interesting experiments on firing cannon under water of which I intended sending you the drawings and details, but as I wished also to communicate them to Mr Jefferson and fearing that your indisposition would not at the time permit you to Study them with attention, I Sent them first to him, he will forward them to you” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 6:409–11). TJ did indeed send Fulton’s earlier letter to the president (TJ to Madison, 13 July 1813).

Index Entries

  • artillery; underwater search
  • boats; steamboats search
  • Congress, U.S.; and vessel for R. Fulton’s underwater cannon search
  • Decatur, Stephen; and R. Fulton’s underwater cannon search
  • Fulton, Robert; and steamboats search
  • Fulton, Robert; and underwater cannon search
  • Fulton, Robert; letters from search
  • machines; cannon, underwater search
  • Madison, James; and underwater cannon search
  • Madison, James; illness of search