Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Andrew Jackson, 3 August 1804

August 3rd 1804


On the 7th. of August 1803, at the request of a number of the Citizens of this District, I addressed a note to you, on the subject of Colo Butlers arrest, which as was then understood, was for not cutting of his hair agreable to an order of the General of the 30th of April 1801—your polite attention to that note was highly gratifying to the citizens who felt interested on the welfare of Colo. Butler, and truly pleasing to myself—and we rested well satisfied, from the information given to you by the secretary of war, and communicated to us by your note of 19th. of September 1803 that, no ‘Stress’ would have been laid upon that specification for not cropping the hair—and that the charges for disobedience of orders & neglect of duty “for not going to fort adams When ordered & absence from his command for near twelve months without leave” would have been the objects of enquiry by the court, and on this alone his peers would have pronounced his guilt or innocency—

If guilty we knew that the rules and regulations for the government of the army required punishment and that from our personal acquaintance with the Colo. attention to duty Whilst within this State we were of oppinion that those charges would not be substantiated—The result, has Shewn that in this good oppion of the Colo. we were not mistaken of war, the whole ground work of his conviction was for not conforming the cut of the hair to the order of the 30th. of april

here sir I would stop without making another remark was I not well convinced from evidences that carries conviction to my mind that you are not informed, truly of the sensibility of both officers of the army, and citizens excited in this occassion and that colo. Butler is yet doomd. to persecution by the Genl and if possible to be made a victim to that order, to satiate the revenge of the Genl. or by his oppression to be driven from the army—and being conscious were ever you see the buds of oppression you will lop them off—From the order of the Genl. of the 1st. of February last, approving the Sentence of the court, reprimanding the Colo. (in terms as novel as the order) and renewing the order of the 30th of april 1801—there is to say the least of it—sufficient evidence of ill will, and a disposition of oppression displayed—on the receipt of this order, the Colo. addressed a note of the 6th of June to the Secretary of War stating to him among other things the receipt of the order—that the Genl must have been Sensible that the first part of it (cutting of the hair) he would not conform to, as it would be a tame surrender of a natural right, over which the laws of the country had given him no control—and if it was the intention of the Genl to arrest for [. . .] [. . .]edience of the first part of the order, requesting that he might not be Subjected to a vexatious Journey to new orleans, and back to Maryland there to Stand a trial &c &c This letter has not been answered by the Secretary but Sir you can easily Judge of our astonishment, when we found from the decission of the court, that the only charge that did authorise a conviction was the disobedience of the order of 30 april 1801, on which by the sentence of the court he was Subjected to a reprimand from the Genl, and this contrary to the information given you by the Secretary of War—

The order and the principles attempted to be established by the trial of Col. Butler under it, has agitated the Publick mind—The citizens feelings are roused, and they think they see the buds of Tyranny arising out of it, That may in a day of trial when the situation of the country calls them into the field, may extend its baneful influence to them, hence resulted the pleasure we experiencd from the information given by your note that stress would not be laid on this order and that it would necessarily sink into oblivion—had this been the case, we would have been cotent, you would not have been troubled with this note, but sir This is not the case we see the order received in consequence of which we see the Colo. addressing a note to the Secretary of war, of 6th of June to which we refer and that unanswered, but submitted to the genl for inspection, and recognized by the Genl order of the 9th of July—by the order of the Secretary of war of June 22. and of the Genl 23. all avenue of communications that [. . .] thro the genl, whose oppression is complained off, under appearances like these we cannot be silent, facts we wish to reach you     we rest assured that Justice will be done—

These facts under existing circumstances, will impress a belief upon the mind that the order of the 22 23 of June, was intended to set the Colo. case and should this Genl. conduct from investigation arising from complaints from this quarter—will not the order of the 22 & 23 of June place it in the power of the genl to oppress any officer under his command Tyranise over them and keep his conduct Shielded from investigation and may it not be construed into a disobedience of these orders, if an officer does attempt to address a complaint to you, upon which the Genl may arrest the officer from these same facts, we think an old and Valuable officer driven to be the victum to satiate the Spleen and revenge of the Genl, subjected to persecution and if possible, by oppression to be driven out of the army, unless you do interpose—or continually harrassed with arrest, for disobedience of orders that enfringe his natural rights, which it is well understood he will not obey, and for obedience of which he would meet with the imprecations of every true republican in our country, and idea is taken up that the arest of Colo. Butler originated in personal motives—from the avenues of communication to the heads of departments being closed except thro the Genl, ideas will be taken up that the aid of the Government is about to be lent to strengthen the hands of oppression, and to make a meritorius officer a sacrifice to private resentment an illegal order the implement—and it matters not whether those ideas are correct or not the effect is be the same—If it is necessary that the Colo. should be arrested again. that the legality of the order may be tested by a competent authority I hope that this may be done without oppressn and without Vexatious Journeys, these are the objects of this letter, and I hope that under your administration the avenues of information will always be kept open and that you will not permit individuals by combination or otherwise to wall themselves around by orders that the injured cannot apply for redress but thru the organ of the oppression—

It is unpleasant to thingk that such an order ever had an existence it is still more so to view how it has excited the Publick mind, and to see this order revived at the present moment has roused the resentment of the citizens very much, but in you Sir both citizen and soldier has confidence, and they know, that it is only that you should be informed of facts and Justice will be done—I am Sir with respect

Yr, Mo, ob, Serv,

Andrew Jackson

DLC: Papers of Andrew Jackson.

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