James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eustis, 11 September 1811

From William Eustis

War Dept. Septr. 11. 1811.


I have the honor to enclose for your consideration a Letter from W. Jones Esqr Judge Advocate requesting instructions relative to the proceeding of the General Court Martial in the case therein mentioned.1 If the court shall determine that they will not take cognizance of any charges implying offences of more than two years standing, those laid in the five first charges, together with all the specifications of the eighth charge, excepting the last, will, it is presumed, be omitted or not tried, as will appear by reference to a copy of the charges which is also herewith enclosed. I am however strongly impressed with an opinion that the Court will take cognizance of all the charges. With the highest respect your obedt. servt.

W. Eustis

RC (DLC); enclosures (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). For first enclosure, see n. 1. Second enclosure is a copy of the charges against James Wilkinson and a list of witnesses for the prosecution (11 pp.).

1Walter Jones was participating in the court-martial of James Wilkinson in Fredericktown, Maryland, which had opened on 4 Sept. On 9 Sept. 1811 Jones sent Eustis a progress report (2 pp.; docketed by JM), mentioning that the first two days of the trial had been taken up with accommodation problems. Wilkinson’s opening statement consumed more than two days, during which time he succeeded in having three of his judges set aside. “The next question that was stirred,” Jones continued, was “the jurisdiction of the Court to take cognizence of those charges, which bring forward offences of more than two years standing. Genl W. strongly insists upon the Court’s entertaining jurisd⟨ict⟩ion, and so far from availing himself of the limitation exp⟨ress⟩ly waves it, and professes to demand a trial as an act of justice to himself. This may probably prevail with the court to proceed, otherwise it is probable all those charges affected by the limitation would be dismissed. The court has consented to hear Genl W——n’s counsel argue the point in question this morning.” In case the court decided to dismiss the charges affected by the limitation, Jones sought advice on whether the court should proceed on the other charges or be dissolved.

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