James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Congress, 11 December 1812

To Congress

Washington December 11th 1812

I transmit to Congress copies of a letter to the Secretary of the Navy,1 from Captain Decatur2 of the Frigate “United States,” reporting his combat and capture of the British Frigate, Macedonian. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on that officer and his companions on board, for the consummate skill and conspicuous valour, by which this Trophy has been added to the naval arms of the United States.

I transmit also a letter from Captain Jones3 who commanded the sloop of war, Wasp, reporting his capture of the British sloop of war the Frolic, after a close action, in which other brilliant titles will be seen, to the public admiration and praise.

A nation feeling what it owes to itself and to its Citizens, could never abandon to arbitrary violence on the ocean, a class of them, which give such examples of capacity and courage, in defending their rights on that Element: examples which ought to impress on the Enemy, however brave and powerful, a preference of Justice and Peace, to hostility against a country, whose prosperous career may be accelerated, but cannot be prevented by the assaults made on it.

James Madison

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages, 12A-E2). RC in the hand of Edward Coles, signed by JM. For enclosures, see nn. 1 and 3.

1JM transmitted Decatur’s 30 Oct. 1812 letter to Paul Hamilton, reporting his 25 Oct. capture of the British frigate Macedonian (3 pp.; printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Naval Affairs, 1:280–81).

2Stephen Decatur Jr. (1779–1820) entered the navy in 1798 as a midshipman. He rose quickly through the ranks and for his efforts in the Tripolitan War was rewarded with a captain’s commission in 1804. Decatur’s major achievement during the War of 1812 was the capture of the Macedonian, after which his ship, the United States, was blockaded in New London until the war’s end. In March 1814 Decatur took command of the President in New York harbor, where he was in charge of naval defenses. On 15 Jan. 1815, after evading a pursuing squadron of British vessels off the Long Island coast and surviving a pitched battle with the Endymion, Decatur’s ship was captured by the British squadron. A court of inquiry declined to censure him for the loss of the President. After brief service off the coast of Algiers, Decatur closed out his naval career on the Board of Navy Commissioners (Leonard F. Guttridge and Jay D. Smith, The Commodores [New York, 1969], 83, 202–4, 246, 264–66, 273, 281).

3Jacob Jones’s 24 Nov. 1812 letter to Paul Hamilton reported the capture of the British sloop Frolic on 18 Oct., a feat which was followed by the capture of the Wasp on the same day by the British ship Poictiers (3 pp.; printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Naval Affairs, 1:281). Jones and his crew were then imprisoned in Bermuda. After being exchanged, Jones (1768–1850) was given command of the Macedonian and received a captain’s commission in March 1813. In 1814 he commanded the Mohawk on Lake Ontario. Between 1815 and 1827 he held several positions overseas; he then served in a series of shore posts until his death (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, 1900). description ends , 301; J. Worth Estes, “Commodore Jacob Jones: A Doctor Goes to Sea,” Delaware History 24 [1990]: 109–22).

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