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To James Madison from William Tatham, 7 December 1812 (Abstract)

§ From William Tatham

7 December 1812. “Last evening I recieved information, accidentally, that the Committee had acted on my Memorial concerning the subject of topographical documents, without investigating the vouchers or surveys prepared in support of my statement.1 This being a matter of surprize to myself,… I have this day applied to the Chairman for information.

“I learn … that the Committee (being persuaded they would be interfereing with the executive duties, and believing that the annual appropriations afforded that branch of Government were an ample contingent fund) had directed their Chairman to move that I should have leave to withdraw my Memorial. This I have done Sir, under an assurance from the Chairman, that, should the executive desire the possession of such powers as I have offered them; and think the ordinary appropriations insufficient, there is no doubt that any aid they require will be chearfully granted by the house.

“It becomes my duty, Sir, to submit this state of the matter to your consideration without delay; and I accordingly transmit the memorial and vouchers.2 The British and other military surveys remain arranged and labeled in one of my appartments fitted purposely for the committee: they will continue subject to such examination as you may direct, or be removed to the Presidents house for your conveniency, if such a disposition is agreable.

“If, in the interim, the public service requires any portion of the copies of them which I have offered, they shall be executed by faithful and competent assistants, so soon as funds are appropriated to enable me to employ them.”

RC (DLC). 2 pp.; docketed by JM. Printed in McPherson, “Letters of William Tatham,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 2d ser., 16 (1936): 394–95.

1On 23 Nov. 1812 Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina presented a memorial from William Tatham stating that “for the last twenty years” Tatham had been “collecting, at great trouble, risk, and expense, a quantity of topographical materials,” for which he now sought compensation. Some of these materials appear to have been very similar to those that Tatham submitted to Congress in 1806 (see Tatham to JM, 26 July 1812, and n. 1). The petition was referred to the House committee on military affairs, but on 4 Dec. 1812 the chairman, David R. Williams, moved that the committee be discharged from consideration of the petition and that Tatham be given leave to withdraw it (Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, at the Second Session of the Twelfth Congress [Washington, 1813; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 30189], 562–63, 574).

2On 24 Dec. 1812 JM transmitted to the Senate a letter from Tatham “on the subject of maritime defence, referring to sundry documents enclosed.” It seems likely that these documents included eighteen pages describing various proposals for fire rafts, pontoons, and portable bridges, among other things, that Tatham assembled in December 1812 under the heading “Schedule of sundry important military, and economical acquisitions and improvements communicated, in aid of the public safety and prosperity” (DNA: RG 107, LRUS, T-1812). JM was to forward another letter to the Senate from Tatham on the same subject on 18 Feb. 1813, and the Senate referred all these materials to the secretary of war for a report (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 2d sess., 36, 90).

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