James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 14 January 1813

From William Jones

Philada. Jany 14. 1813


I am honored with your letter of the 12th Inst enclosing my Commission as Secretary of the Navy for which mark of your confidence I pray you to accept my sencere acknowledgements.

Having seen my nomination in the public prints1 I had given to the subject the consideration due to so weighty and important a trust, and although I feel the full force of the responsibility proposed to be vested in me, and that your own and the public confidence far transcends my merits, I have determined to accept the appointment and devote my humble talents to the discharge of the duties you have assigned to me.

My own private interest, domestic convenience and a just estimate of my own qualifications would have forbidden my acceptance, but the sacred cause in which we are engaged and my confidence in and attachment to the administration of our Government demands the sacrifice of every personal consideration. Therefore after four or five days of partial arrangement of my private affairs (or sooner if possible) I will set out for the seat of Government, trusting to the probable chance of a short relaxation after the adjournment of Congress to arrange finally my private concerns. With the most perfect respect and regard I am Sir Your Obdt

W Jones2

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1The announcement of Jones’s nomination as secretary of the navy appeared in the 11 Jan. 1813 issue of the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser.

2William Jones (1760–1831), a native of Philadelphia, had served in the Continental navy under Thomas Truxtun. From 1801 to 1803 he sat as Philadelphia’s Republican representative in the Seventh Congress. Prior to his appointment by JM as secretary of the navy, he had refused an assignment in 1810 to be a special minister to Denmark. Jones reorganized many of the routine duties of the Navy Department before resigning in September 1814 and vacating the office by 1 Dec. From May 1813 until February 1814, he also served as acting secretary of the treasury. In July 1816 Jones was elected the first president of the Second Bank of the United States; he resigned from this post amidst rumors of financial indiscretion in January 1819. In his later years he operated a shipbuilding company with Joshua and Samuel Humphreys and served as collector of customs for Philadelphia from 1827 to 1829 (Edward K. Eckert, The Navy Department in the War of 1812 [Gainesville, Fla., 1973], 16; Edward K. Eckert, “William Jones: Mr. Madison’s Secretary of the Navy,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. description ends 96 [1972]: 169–82).

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