James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Elbridge Gerry, 22 July 1812

From Elbridge Gerry


Cambridge 22d. July 1812

My dear Sir

Since my recovery from indisposition, I have had an interview with General Dearborn, who informed me that he was soon to depart from Boston; & being informed by him of the state of our Castle, I enquired what was to prevent the Enemy, if apprized of our defenceless situation, from embarking all its regular troops at Nova Scotia, in transports trusting its defence for a short period to their militia & with a ship or two [of] the line & such other naval force as they could command, from attacking our Castle & carrying it by a Coup de main, & from sacking afterwards the town of Boston? His answer was, nothing. He expressed great uneasiness on the subject & said he would write to You immediately on the Subject. If General Varnum could be put into the command, it appeared to be General Dearborn’s opinion, as well as my own, that he would secure the Castle, by his division & artillery companies in particular, on whom he could rely.1

William Little Esq of Boston, a very excellent Character, I find is considered by the Republicans, as a proper candidate for the office of Commissary of prisoners. If no one has the preferrence for any particular reasons, I am sure he would give general Satisfaction.2 I am with the highest esteem & respect dear Sir, your unfeigned friend & obedt Sevt

E Gerry

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1The editors have been unable to locate any correspondence between Dearborn and JM matching this description. However, Dearborn wrote to Eustis on 17 July 1812 to discuss the preparations for his departure from Boston and his concern that the seacoast remained undefended. He explained that he continued to request militia detachments from New England governors but had also begun to look to volunteer troops to defend the seacoast. He expressed his opinion that Senator Joseph B. Varnum of Massachusetts was the best choice to gather a division of volunteers for that purpose (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-114:6). Dearborn wrote to Eustis again on 22 Aug. to discuss his plans for an invasion of Canada and to suggest that Varnum be ordered “to march with a Sufficient number of his Divisions, to occupy the works in Boston Harbour, Salem, Marblehead, & Cape Ann” (NHi: Dearborn Letterbooks).

2William Little was also recommended by Dearborn to Eustis as an appropriate candidate for the position in a 21 July letter, but the post was filled by John Mason (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-115:6; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Miscellaneous, 2:337).

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