James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 14 May 1814

From William Jones

Navy Department May 14. 1814


I have the honor to enclose herewith the proceedings of a Court martial held on board the United States Ship United States in the Harbour of New London for the trial of William S Cox Lieutenant—J W Forrest and Henry P Fleshman1 midshipmen—William Brown Bugleman and Peter Frost John Joyce and Joseph Russell seamen in the Navy of the United States late of the U S. Ship Chesapeake upon charges exhibited against them for offences committed in the action between that Ship and the enemys Ship of War the Shannon.2 The sentences passed upon Lieut Cox and midshipman Forrest require the decision of the President under the XLI art. of the rules &c for the government of the Navy, and that upon Brown is submitted for the consideration of the President under the mitigating power art. XLII if he shall deem it expedient to interpose his authority in consequence of the nature and extent of the punishment though for a capital crime for which the court might have justly passed sentence of death. I am very respectfully Sir your Obdt Servt

W Jones

RC (DLC); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 45, LSP). RC docketed by JM.

1Letterbook copy has “H. P. Fleischman.”

2The court-martial to try Cox and other officers of the Chesapeake was held from 15 Apr. to 5 May 1814. Cox was cleared of charges of cowardice, disobedience of orders, and desertion from his quarters but was found guilty of neglect of duty and unofficer-like conduct. He was sentenced to be cashiered, and not permitted to serve again in the U.S. Navy. Forrest, acquitted of cowardice and neglect of duty but convicted of drunkenness, received the same sentence. Fleischman, having assumed a false name in order to gain parole after the Chesapeake’s capture, pled guilty to imposition and unofficer-like conduct. He was convicted but “in consideration of his youth and inexperience” was sentenced to a mere public reprimand. Brown, found guilty of cowardice, was sentenced to receive three hundred lashes and to serve without pay for the remainder of his term. Russell was acquitted of cowardice and desertion from his quarters, but the court found that he “had been guilty of gross misconduct, not embraced in the charge,” and recommended that he also receive no wages for his remaining service. Jones approved this suggestion, Fleischman’s sentence, and the loss of pay for Brown. The court adjourned without trying Frost and Joyce, who were reported to be “not within the jurisdiction of the United States” (Niles’ Weekly Register 6 [1814]: 314–16).

3For the forty-first article of “An Act for the better government of the Navy of the United States,” 23 Apr. 1800, see Jones to JM, 15 May 1813, PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 6:315 n. 1. The forty-second article authorized the President “to pardon any offence … after conviction, or to mitigate the punishment decreed by a court martial” (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 2:45, 51). JM approved Cox’s and Forrest’s sentences, and lowered to one hundred the number of lashes for Brown (Niles’ Weekly Register 6 [1814]: 314–15).

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