Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Fulton, 24 January 1809

Kalorama Jany 24th 1809—


I have the honor to inclose you an estimate of the expence of a fair experiment on the practice and efficacy of Torpedoes, Should they prove to be a discovery which will give liberty to the seas, what a Blessing beyond calculation would it be to these states, to this great continent and all its future millions, by preventing every embarrassment with European and foreign nations; On my mind the conviction is full and strong that if practiced to its ultimate powers, it will completely annihilate military marines and give all the liberty to commerce which can be desired by the most philosophic and Benevolent mind, Hence sir if there is but the faintest gleam of hope, to effect so vast an object, and the expence to prove the practicability is so inconsiderable, I do hope the administration will give it warm and nourishing support; and take measures to let me act without embarrassment for this purpose it is only necessary to put a sum not exceeding 3000 dollars at my disposal, with which I will Buy the vessel, build the Boats expressly, find and pay the men pay every expence of the experiment Keep the accounts with vouchers and return the surplus if any. Perhaps this will be the least trouble and most agreeable to the government. it will be most agreeable to me.

with great respect yours

Robt Fulton

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.


Kalorama January 24th 1809

Estimate for a Torpedo experiment to blow up a vessel while she is under sail.


One old vessel of about 200 tons with her anchor and cable, sails and rigging, it being intended to blow her up while sailing 500 } 1300
Ten clockwork locks commenced, to be finished 400
Ten Torpedo copper cases 400
400 ℔ of powder 120
Rope line harpoons & Contingencies 200
Two Boats Should it be necessary to build them    200
Men to man the boats 14
Men to be in the vessel to sail her in various directions while the boats practice harpooning her on every possible tack 6
One officer or harpooner to each boat    2
22 persons
To be employed in practice for one month their pay
and expences on an average 20 dollars a month      440
Total expence $ 2,260

Robt Fulton

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