Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel Smith, 5 May 1806

Balt. 5 May. 1806.


I am honored with your letter & I perfectly correspond in opinion with you as to the Appointments in Louisiana, I have always thought & still do think that Genl. W. was precisely the man best fitted for the appointment in every point of view.

I take leave to observe that I do not agree with the construction given, at the Navy Department, relative to the law fixing the navy peace Establishment. It may comport with strict legal decision, but does not consist with the common sense of Man; is foreign to the Legislative intention, & directly in contadiction to our practice under a similar law, when we were similarly situated.

The conferees of the House of Representatives declared to those of the Senate that they considered the bill as Relating solely to a state of Peace, that its provisions could have no bearing on the Force now in the Mediterranean that force, they considered, as the War Establishment which they presumed would be recalled, or so much thereof as would reduce the number together with the force now about to proceed in the Chesapeake, to that of the 925 contemplated by the bill, they would therefore not consent to the making of any change of a temporary nature in a Law intended to be perpetual—Such also was the opinion of every Gentleman of the Senate with whom I conversed.—(the number voted is eleven more than asked by the Secretary in his Ex Official letter to Mr Gregg Chairman of the Committee.) The opinion supposes that Congress would pass an impracticable law—Does the law bind on the force in the Mediterranean? If it does—then the Secy must refuse to pay the Wages that will be due since the 1st. Jany to 300 Men now employed in that sea—the secretary has I conceive, the same Right to ship & pay the Men for the Chesapeake as he will have to pay the Men now employed in the Mediterranean beyond the 925.

The former Peace establishment directed Six Ships, manned with 2/3rd the usual complement of Men to be kept in Constant Service. Yet Sir, you did not hesitate to send two Ships & two Schooners immediately, & soon after another Ship to the Mediterranean, altho: more than the number of Ships & Men allowed by the Law were then actually at Sea, you considered “as was correct” that the Ships employed in our Quasi War & then out, could not & ought not to be understood as part of the peace Establishment; But it is said there is not appropriations sufficient to enable you to send out another ship—I will not undertake to discuss this subject against the two secretaries—I cannot however but entertain my own Opinion; to wit—The Mediterranean fund of 2½ p Cent was appropriated to the Tripolitan War, It was continued for three months after a peace should be made—why? To enable you to call home your force, which would require at least 3 Months to effect, that fund (according to my Idea) is bound for three Months after the Ratification of the Treaty with Tripoli, for the expense incurred by the Squdron now employed in the Mediterranean. The Surplus of that fund will amount (I verily believe) to four hundred thousand dollars which with the appropriation for the Current year (granted exactly agreeably to the Estimate) will be fully sufficient for all probable purposes. Another observation—Had the law contemplated the exact numbers of 925 Men as applicable to the current year—it would have so stated it & have said, There shall be employed 925 Men & boys for the year 1806. It does not say so—I wish sincerely the subject to be reconsidered & that a more liberal construction may be given to both the laws.

With Great Esteem I have the honor to be Sir your Obed Servt.

S. Smith

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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