From Charles D. Coxe
Sidney, near Pittston N. Jersey October 20th 1820.
On the dismissal of Lieut Col. Gale1 from the Marine Corps, The officers have alledged to me, through my friend Mr. Pleasonton2 of the Treasury Department, that, as they do not conceive I have resigned my commission in that Corps, they would be very glad of my being placed at the head of it; to which the date of my Commission would entitle me.
I conceive it now to be in your power to do me a kindness as well as an act of justice. You know the circumstances attending my being left at Tunis by my commanding officers Captain Dent & Commodore Campbell in 1806,3 and my subsequent appointment as Consular agent by Mr. Lear.4 The latter gentleman approving of my conduct promised to use his endeavours to obtain me the appointment as Consul, on receiving which, I was to have resigned my military Commission, and not otherwise.
I was suffered to remain several years there without any answer. I at length received a letter from the then Secretary of the Navy (Paul Hamilton Esq.)5 dated the 15. June 1809, informing me that “my long absence was complained of by the officers junior to me in rank,” and desired me to inform him “whether it was my determination to remain at Tunis or not?” If I chose to remain he “thought it proper I should transmit to him my military Commission in the Marine Corps”—or if I should “prefer holding my military Commission” to return immediately to the U. States. I answerd Mr. Hamilton stating to Him the cruel dilemma in which I was placed leaving my fate entirely in the hands of Government, implicitly relying on it’s justice. This answer he never acknowledged to me his having received or accepted from which I concluded that he had alter’d his mind about the necessity of my resigning. I retain’d my Commission in my own hands, not doubting that justice would be done me by the President on my return (in case I should be superseded in the Consulate at Tunis) and that my military Commission would remain valid. From his requesting me to inform him “whether it was my determination to remain at Tunis or not”—I naturally concluded the thing was understood between the heads of the Depts. of State and the Navy, and that the choice of remaining was left to me; for I could hardly suppose Mr. Hamilton would on his own authority, without an understanding with the Secretary of State (under whose orders I was acting as Consular agent,) risque leaving the Consulate unrepresented, when there was such a large amount of American property consigned to my care, which I could not abandon without evident risque, before being regularly relieved, I found myself constrained and forced to remain where I was, and to leave my fate in the hands of Government.
On my return to Washington, I paid my respects to you, and stated the very disagreeable situation in which I was placed, after having served my Country so long, during an absence of more than ten years, under so many discouraging circumstances, and with the express approbation of my superiors. You were good enough to say that you had always considered me as attached to the Marine Corps, and that you had appointed a Consul to succeed me under the idea that I wished to return to my post. I do not pretend to recollect your precise words, but I understood that fully to be your meaning. And, again, when my Consular accounts were sent to you from the Dept. of State for inspection, you returned for answer in a note,6 as near as my recollection serves me, that you did not think several charges ought to be allowed to me, as I was an officer in the Marine Corps and not a regularly appointed Consul, which I believe you will recollect.
The letter of Mr. Hamilton to me, therefore, I had every reason to believe was written without even the knowledge of The President, and that its object, (to force from me an involuntary resignation) was abandoned by him, as all the officers I met at Washington with Colonel Wharton,7 disclaimed having any hand in it. The officers now alledge that they would be very glad to see me take my rank at the head of the Corps, the truth of which The President has it in his power to ascertain. As I was placed at Tunis before Mr. Munroe came into office, my case did not come immediately under his notice. I have therefore taken the liberty to write to you on the subject, cherishing the fervent hope, you will have the goodness to address a line to The President in my favor on this occasion, as I have never entertained a doubt of your willingness to do me justice as far as is in your power. I beg leave to solicit the honor of an answer as soon as your convenience will permit, and with my best wishes for the health and happiness of yourself and amiable Lady, to whom, I pray you will present my most respectful regards, I have the honor to remain, With the highest Esteem and respect, Sir, Your most obedt. humle Servt.
Charles D: Coxe8
RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.
1. Anthony Gale (1761–1842) was born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1793. He was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1798, served in the Quasi-War and the Barbary Wars, and commanded the Marine Barracks in Philadelphia, 1801–3 and 1807–17. Gale was Marine Corps Commandant from 1819 to 1820, when he was dismissed for “habitual drunkenness.” He moved to Kentucky in 1826, where he “lived out his days there in poverty and ill health” (Allan R. Millett and Jack Shulimson, Commandants of the Marine Corps [Annapolis, Md., 2004], 45–53).
2. Stephen Pleasonton (ca. 1776–1855), originally from Delaware, was a career bureaucrat who was employed as a clerk in the State Department, before its move to Washington, and throughout JM’s tenure as secretary of state and president. By 1820, Pleasonton had become fifth auditor of the Treasury, and he held that post until his death (Baltimore Sun, 2 Feb. 1855; Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 22:283; PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 1:349–50 and n., and n. 2; A Register of Officers and Agents … 1829, 22; 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, 2:308).
3. For the death of James Dodge, U.S. chargé d’affaires at Tunis, and the subsequent appointment of Coxe as acting chargé by Master Commandant John H. Dent, see Coxe to JM, 8 Dec. 1806, Knox, Naval Documents, Barbary Wars description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1939–44). description ends , 6:491–92. Hugh G. Campbell was commodore of the Mediterranean squadron, 1806–7 (ibid., 435; Christopher McKee, A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794–1815 [Annapolis, Md., 1991], 184).
4. Tobias Lear, U.S. consul general at Algiers, confirmed the appointment of Coxe as acting chargé d’affaires “till the pleasure of the President shall be known,” Coxe to JM, 8 Mar. 1807, Knox, Naval Documents, Barbary Wars description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1939–44). description ends , 6:511. Lear (1762–1816), a New Hampshire native and Harvard graduate, had been private secretary to George Washington. Thomas Jefferson had appointed him commercial agent at Saint-Domingue and in 1803, consul general at Algiers, a post he held until 1812. In 1814 JM appointed Lear accountant to the War Department, and he remained in that office until his suicide in October 1816 (PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 1:13 n. 5; 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 2:413 n. 3; Hartford Connecticut Mirror, 21 Oct. 1816).
5. Paul Hamilton (1762–1816) was a Revolutionary War veteran, state legislator, and governor of South Carolina, 1804–6. In 1809 JM appointed him secretary of the navy, and he served in that position until his resignation in 1812 (Sobel and Raimo, Biographical Directory of the Governors, 4:1391–92).
6. Letter not found.
7. A member of a prominent Philadelphia merchant family, Franklin Wharton (1767–1818) was Marine Corps Commandant, 1804–18 (Millett and Shulimson, Commandants of the Marine Corps, 36–44).
8. Charles Davenport Coxe (d. 1830) was appointed commercial agent at Dunkirk by Thomas Jefferson on 6 Jan. 1802 but declined the post; for his reasons, see Coxe to JM, 21 Apr. 1802, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 3:150. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on 18 Nov. 1805, promoted to first lieutenant in March 1807, and resigned his commission 18 Sept. 1809. In the interim he had been selected by the commander of his ship, John H. Dent, to be acting U.S. chargé d’affaires at Tunis in December 1806, and he was confirmed in that post by Tobias Lear in March 1807. He served at Tunis until 1813. Nominated U.S. consul at Tripoli on 13 Dec. 1825, and confirmed by the Senate six days later, he held the post until his death (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 1:400, 402, 459; Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 (New York, 1901). description ends , 684; Coxe to JM, 8 Dec. 1806, and Coxe to John H. Dent, 3 Mar. 1807, Knox, Naval Documents, Barbary Wars description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1939–44). description ends , 6:491–92, 509–10; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:347, 3:449, 456).