James Madison Papers

Memorandum from William Eustis, [ca. 30 November] 1810

Memorandum from William Eustis

[ca. 30 November 1810]

The fortifications for the defence of our maritime frontier (on the plan laid down in 1808) are, with some exceptions (or generally) completed, and furnished with the necessary ordnance. Those for the defence of the city of N. York, with the completing & repairing works at other posts, as will appear by a statement from the War Dept. will require a further time and an additional appropriation.1

The improvements, in quantity and quality, which have been made in the manufactory of small arms, at the public armories, as well as at private factories, warrant additional confidence in their competency to furnish supplies to any amount which the public exigincies may require.

The exercise of The power vested in Congress by the constitution to provide for arming & organizing the Militia, has hitherto failed to produce the desired effect of rendering them an efficient force on which to rely in case of emergency. As the object of arming them is already secured by Law, it remains for the wisdom of Congress to determine whether a due & proper effect can be given to their organization by any other means than by a provision at the public expence to call into the field, a certain portion of them, for a given time, for instruction & discipline.2

Ms (DLC). In Eustis’s hand. Misdated 1812 in the Index to the James Madison Papers. Date here assigned on the basis of JM’s incorporating most of the first two paragraphs as well as the substance of the third paragraph into his annual message of 5 Dec. 1810. Filed with the Ms are two other slips of paper on which Eustis wrote what appear to be drafts of parts of this memorandum (see nn. 1 and 2).

1What seems to be an earlier version of this paragraph reads: “By a statement from the W. Dept. it will appear that the fortifications on the Seaboard are in many of the ports completed, affording the defence which was contemplated: a further time being required to finish those in the harbour of N. York and in some other places.” Eustis subsequently communicated a report on the cost of completing the fortifications at New York and elsewhere to the House of Representatives on 18 Jan. 1811 (see ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Military Affairs, 1:296–97).

2Another version of this paragraph reads:

“To give due effect to the great mass of physical and intellectual powers which distinguish the militia of the U. States it is necessary that they should be instructed and practised in the rules laid down for their government.


“The institution of a system which shall in the first instance provide, at the public expence, for calling into the field, for a given time, certain portions of the commissioned & non commissioned officers for instruction and discipline appears to be the most effectual means of transferring thro’ the whole body that practical knowlege which alone can render them an efficient force on which to rely in case of danger or alarm.”

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