James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jonathan Williams, 17 November 1811

From Jonathan Williams

Fredrick town Novr 17. 1811


Perceiving by your Message at the opening of the present Session of Congress that you entertain the same favourable Sentiments relative to military Seminaries, which you expressed to me last February, I feel emboldened to transmit a Copy of the form of a Bill drawn in consequence of a Council of Field Officers of my Corps, which I called for the purpose. The Bill, except in one Section, is formed from that which passed the Senate last February1 varying only as the aspect of the times seems to justify. This Section, which authorizes the President to establish two practical Schools, was made to meet your Ideas on the subject; it was apprehended that the Establishment of three separate Seminaries, would, in the present state of the public mind on military subjects, appear extravagant; while on this plan no one can deny the necessity of practical military institutions whose sentiments are favourable to a theoretical one. I should have prefered a personal interview on this subject; but the Bill being already before the Senate,2 and my duties here being too indefinite to enable me to judge of their termination,3 I am apprehensive that a further delay would cause the application to be too late. Permit me to observe that if the Bill should have passed the Senate, I would not wish that any proposition from me should occasion a return of it from the House of Representatives; for I deem it more essential to the public Interest that the Law should be made in a limited degree, than that it should be endangered by too much discussion. I have the honour to be with the highest Respect Sir Your devoted & faithful Servant

Jona Williams

RC (PHi: Daniel Parker Papers). Enclosure not found.

1See Jonathan Williams to JM, 27 Feb. 1811 (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (4 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 3:191–92 and n. 1).

2Samuel Smith of Maryland had introduced a bill making further provision for the Corps of Engineers on 12 Nov. 1811. The bill passed the Senate on 4 Dec. 1811, but only after removal of the clause authorizing the president to designate the place for the erection of additional buildings. Efforts to reinstate this clause in the House of Representatives in March 1812 were unsuccessful, and Congress would only consent to provide some additional professors of philosophy, mathematics, and engineering for the establishment already based at West Point (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 16, 18, 19, 24, 27, 28, 402, 403, 795, 1035, 1218–20, 1330–33; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:720–21).

3Williams was a member of the court-martial of Brig. Gen. James Wilkinson sitting at Fredericktown, Maryland.

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