Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Truxtun, 1 December 1807

Philadelphia 1th December 1807.


The enclosed Sheet, is one of a few copies of a letter I wrote in answer to one received from Mr Pickering, and had printed in consequence of Several other Gentlemen in various parts of the United States, having made Similar inquiries of me, and for the sake of Uniformity, and to prevent any mistake, or, misconstruction of my Opinion, and to Save me the trouble of writing almost daily on the Same theme, to such, as chose to ask questions of me concerning the Utility of Gun boats. And as very much is every where Said among us respecting this mode of home defence in connection with fortifications &c and to prevent my expressions being Metamorphosed, I do myself the honor to furnish a Copy of the Substance of what I have uniformly Said on the Subject, for your perusal. I have written all the Gentlemen that has requested this Sort of information from me, that I had No Ambition for my Opinions to go into the Newspapers—Especially in my present Situation, and on that Account prohibited their Suffering any Editor to have Access to my letter on this Subject—tho’ I had no Objection to any Gentleman in or out of Congress Seeing it.

Some Sort of marine folks who have held different opinions to me, as to the eligibility of this kind of defence, have No doubt led many of the editors (having no knowledge themselves of the Subject) into errors and caused So much ridicule of the Gun boats, when Neither the editors or their informants had a Competent Idea of their Capacity, or utility in our waters—While Some others have ignorantly or from an over Zeal in their favour Said too much of them. For my part I have endeavoured to State in as concise a manner as I Could my candid opinion of them, as to what they could do, and what they could not do for our home Security. And I do verily beleive that from What I have Said, and from forty years Attention to marine Affairs, that the Editors of News papers in future in this City (particulary) will be Silent at least on the Subject of these boats, if they do not magnanimously State to the public their true Character and usefulness—After having published So many nonsensical things Concerning them, for I have taken much pains to Correct their errors.—   I annexed to my letter to M. Pickering my Communication to You of About a year past—recommending the employment of a force on the Coast of Louisiana and My plan of Attacking Tripoli, to Show further the Utility of the [. . . .]alley System within our waters. If I was at Washington Could add—But have the honor to be Sir respectfully Your very Obedient humble Sevt.

Thomas Truxtun.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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