Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William H. Cabell, 19 July 1807

Washington July 19. 07.


Your letter of the 15th. was recieved yesterday, and the opinion you have given to General Matthews against allowing any intercourse between the British Consul & the ships of his nation remaining in our waters in defiance of our authority, is entirely approved. certainly while they are conducting themselves as enemies defacto, intercourse should be permitted only, as between enemies, by flags under the permission of the commanding officers & with their passports. my letter of the 16th. mentioned a case in which a communication from the British officers should be recieved if offered. a day or two ago we permitted a parent to go on board the Bellona with letters from the British minister to demand a son impressed: and others equally necessary will occur. but they should be under the permission of some officer having command in the vicinity.   With respect to the disbanding some portion of the troops, altho I consider Norfolk as rendered safe by the batteries, the two frigates, the 8. gunboats present, and 9 others & a bomb-vessel which will be there immediately, & consequently that a considerable proportion of the militia may be spared, yet I will pray you to let that question lie a few days; as in the course of this week we shall be better able to decide it. I am anxious for their discharge the first moment it can be done with safety because I know the dangers to which their health will be exposed in that quarter in the season now commencing. by a letter of the 14th. from Colo. Tatham, stationed at the vicinities of Lynhaven bay to give us daily information of what passes—I learn that the British officers & men often go ashore there, that on the day preceding 100. had been at the pleasure house in quest of fresh provisions & water, that negroes had begun to go off to them. as long as they remain there we shall find it necessary to keep patroles of militia in their neighborhood sufficiently strong to prevent them from taking or recieving supplies. I presume it would be thought best to assign the tour for the three months to come to those particular corps, who being habituated to the climate of that part of the country, will be least likely to suffer in their health, at the end of which time others from other parts of the country may relieve them if still necessary. in the mean time our gun-boats may all be in readiness, and some preparations may be made on the shore, which may render their remaining with us not eligible to themselves. these things are suggested merely for consideration for the present, as by the close of the week I shall be able to advise you of the measures ultimately decided on. I salute you with friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson


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