Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 6 June 1813

From James Madison

Washington June 6. 1813

Dear Sir

I recd your favor of and now return the letter of Docr Waterhouse, with the Newspapers sent with it. He appears to be a man of Ability & learning, and to have been rendered interesting to1 several distinguished friends to the Administration by the persecutions he has suffered from its Enemies. Like many others however I see at present no reward for him, but in his own virtues. The Treasury of the Mint, was allotted by the general sentiment to Dr J. Rush. And Docr Tilton has long since been had in view for the superintendence of the Medical Department of the Army.

Your suggestions for protecting the trade of the Chesapeak by Gun boats at the S. End of it, with a safe retreat provided for them, have been taken into consideration, with all the respect due to the importance as well as the motives of them. The present Secy of the Navy, is not unfriendly to Gun boats; and in general, the call for them by the Inhabitants of the Coast, proves a diffusive sense of their Utility. It seems agreed at the same time, that being too slow in sailing, and too heavy for rowing, they are limited in their use to particular situations, and rarely for other than defensive co-operations. That an adequate number of them, in Lynhaven bay, with a safety of retreat would be useful, can not be doubtful; but if the Enemy chuse to bring such a force as they have applied & with appearances of an intended increase, the number of Gun boats necessary to controul them would be very great; and their effect pretty much restricted to guarding the interior navigation of the Bay. Cruisers on the outside of the Capes beyond the range of the Gun boats, would Still blockade the external Commerce.

Commodore Barney has suggested a species of Row Galley which he considers as better fitted for protecting the interior trade of the Bay, than the Gun boat, or rather as an essential auxiliary to the Gun-boats. His plan is to allow them twenty oars & Muskets2 on each side, to be planked up for protection of the oarsmen agst small arms in the Enemies launches; & to have one long & heavy Gun; their construction to fit them for speed & for shallow water, & their length & form to be such that at the end of the war, they might be easily raised on & become ordinary3 Coasters. Twenty of these, costing 50 or 60, thousand dollars, he thinks would put an end to the depredations of the smaller vessels, which have been the greatest; and might even attack large ones in the night, or under special circumstances. I have not yet ascertained the opinion of the Sey of the Navy, who adds to a sound judgment, a great deal of practical knowledge on such subjects.

You have in the newspapers all the latest news both foreign & domestic.

Be assured of my constant & sincerest affection

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 June 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Benjamin Waterhouse to TJ, 1 May 1813, and enclosures.

TJ’s favor was dated 21 May 1813. Joshua barney drafted a plan for the defense of the Chesapeake Bay region that won approval from the Maryland Senate but was defeated in the House of Delegates on 28 May 1813 (Votes and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the State of Maryland [Annapolis, 1813], 19–21; William S. Dudley, Michael J. Crawford, and others, eds., The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History [1985–2002], 2:373–6). On 5 July 1813 Congress approved the expenditure of $250,000 by the president to build “barges for the defence of the ports and harbours of the United States” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:3).

1Manuscript: “to to.”

2Preceding two words interlined.

3Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Army, U.S.; medical department search
  • Barney, Joshua; and row galleys search
  • boats; barges search
  • boats; rowboats search
  • Chesapeake Bay; defense of search
  • Congress, U.S.; and naval expansion search
  • gunboats search
  • Jones, William (1760–1831); as secretary of the navy search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Madison, James; and B. Waterhouse search
  • Madison, James; and row galleys search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on gunboats search
  • Maryland; legislature of search
  • Mint, U.S.; treasurer of search
  • Rush, James; as treasurer of U.S. Mint search
  • Tilton, James; appointment of search
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin; and J. Madison search
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin; seeks appointment search