Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Smith, 27 August 1802

From Robert Smith

Navy Dept. Augt. 27. 1802

Sir,

Agreeably to your letter of instructions of the 23d I have put in Commission the additional frigate. I have selected the John Adams because she is the smallest and of course the Cheapest and she will, besides, answer all the purposes of the largest frigate. Dispatch is of the Utmost importance. Notwithstanding the oppressively hot weather we have been progressing with the New York with an expedition that will not be credited to the Eastward. She will to a certainty haul off from the Wharf and drop down out of the Eastern Branch on Sunday next1 completely equipped. She will then have to receive a great variety of small articles and will perhaps be delayed until Tuesday. She now has on board her complement of men and her guns. Some of the Officers have not yet joined her owing to the difficulty of conveying letters to them. The John Adams will be supplied with equal dispatch. To relieve your mind with respect to funds, it is proper to state to you that the aggregate of the appropriations will carry me through even if the Boston should return and be paid off within the year. My clerks being all much engaged I have to send to you the first draught of my letter to Morris. Some time since I authorised Commodore Morris to send Capt. McNeill home and to appoint a certain Lieutenant to the Command of the Boston. I did not consider it necessary to state in this order any ground for the proceeding. Such a Committment was not necessary. It was sufficient for us to know that he had been deranged. And we can now, if necessary, take as broad a ground as we please. But his Offences are many as an officer. Duplicates will be sent.

The idea of a league suggested in the Marginal Note of your letter of the 23d. entirely accords with my opinion and I am Confident it could be accomplished by a Gentleman of talents and address. Would not Mr Short be well qualified for such a negotiation?

Some of the officers attached to the John Adams are already on board of her and with the Seamen of the Ships in Ordinary are making great progress. Her Officers will be all here in the course of a few days.

Accept assurances of my high respect and Esteem

Rt Smith

On friday next the John Adams will be in such forwardness that I shall be able to state to you with certainty the day she will be completely equipped for Sea. It will be some day of the second Week—

R. S.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 29 Aug. and “Barbary affairs. ships” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: probably a draft of Smith’s instructions to Commodore Richard V. Morris, ca. 27 Aug. 1802, enclosing copies of State Department dispatches for Morris’s perusal and informing him that he is to have “a superintending agency” in the peace negotiations with the Barbary powers; in this charge Morris is to cooperate with consul James Leander Cathcart to bring about “an honorable accommodation” with Tripoli, Morocco, and any other Barbary power at war with the United States; William Eaton is not to be considered “an authorized agent of the Government” in these negotiations; Smith also mentions Daniel McNeill’s reported engagement with a Tunisian squadron on or about 1 June; “This Report, I am willing to persuade myself, is not correct,” writes Smith, but if true, the aggressor in the action deserves punishment; the administration trusts that if Tunis was at fault, it was not by order of the bey and that proceedings in consequence thereof should be left to Tunisian hands; if McNeill was the aggressor, however, “he will be proceeded against according to the Laws of our Country and every reparation will be made which Justice and Honor shall require”; the $30,000 for the dey of Algiers and the $20,000 for the other Barbary powers should be employed as per the secretary of state’s instructions; since Morocco has declared war on the United States and other Barbary powers might be induced to do the same, “it is the Command of the President and you are hereby instructed to protect our Commerce by all the means in your Power against the armed Vessels of any Barbary State that may either declare or wage War against us”; the frigates New York and John Adams are being dispatched to reinforce Morris’s squadron and, “considering the varying aspects of our affairs in the Mediterranean,” Smith leaves the deployment of American naval forces in the region to Morris’s discretion, although he trusts that the commodore will employ at least one frigate in convoying merchant vessels through the gut of Gibraltar between Cadiz and Malaga; the gun carriages and letter from the president for the emperor of Morocco are now being withheld; Morris is to cooperate with Sweden and with “every other nation at War with those Barbary Powers that may have declared or waged war against us,” while avoiding anything that might “have a tendency to bring us in collision with any friendly State” (NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:257–8).

In his 13 Aug. instructions to COMMODORE MORRIS, Smith ordered the removal of Daniel MCNEILL as commander of the frigate Boston and that command of the ship be given to LIEUTENANT Charles Stewart of the frigate Constellation or to Lieutenant Isaac Hull of the frigate Adams (NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:232; Smith to TJ, 16 Aug.). McNeill’s OFFENCES as commander of the Boston from 1801 to 1802 included running the ship aground in New York harbor, stranding several of his officers at Malaga, lying to health officials at Toulon in order to avoid quarantine, then abruptly leaving the port with a party of French officers and the chaplain of the frigate President still on board. He later enticed members of a Neapolitan military band to desert and join his ship as musicians. Such conduct earned McNeill the disapprobation of Commodore Richard Dale and Robert R. Livingston, and culminated in his dismissal from the service in October 1802 (Christopher McKee, A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794–1815 [Annapolis, Md., 1991], 191–3; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:27–8, 44–5, 232–3, 307; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:76–9; Vol. 35:446–7).

1Remainder of sentence interlined.

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