Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William H. Cabell, 20 July 1807

Richmond July 20. 1807


I am sorry that the information I must now give is not calculated to strengthen those hopes which might have been excited by my last that the British Squadron intended to respect the authority of our Government—I enclose for your perusal a copy of a letter this morning received from General Mathews, together with copies of his instructions to Captains Shepard & Taylor, and also of the report of Majr. Lee who had been charged with the delivery of the Despaches from Mr. Erskine—You will perceive that a detachment of horse under the command of Capt: Shepard had taken two midshipmen and three seamen who had come armed for the purpose of procuring water from Lynhaven Inlet; and that they are detained by General Mathews until the pleasure of the Government shall be known—I have submitted the case to the Council of State, & I beg leave to refer you to the enclosed extract from their journals, for an exposition of their views of the subject, and the course which they have advised me to pursue. The subject is highly important, and I pray you to lose no time in communicating to me the course which in your opinion the interests of our country require—I make this request, at this time, in pursuance of the advice of the Council—But lest it should be supposed that my opinions are different from what they really are, candor obliges me to declare that altho no man can entertain a higher respect for your opinions than I do, yet in this case I did not perceive the necessity of waiting for any farther information than that which we already possessed: Your Proclamation & our own orders, as well as the present situation of our Country are before us—Altho I presume there can be no doubt but that force, if necessary, may be used under the proclamation, to prevent the British Squadron from obtaining supplies, yet, in my opinion, force ought to be carried no farther than to the purposes of prevention—it gives no power to detain their persons—and had I been acting singly in the government of Virginia, I should immediately have ordered their liberation—But the respectable gentlemen with whom I am associated think differently, that it was right to take & detain their persons as stated in Genl. Mathews letter—That respect in which I hold their judgments, induces me at least to suspect the correctness of my own opinion—As it is a subject which so much concerns the nation over which you preside, the course which you shall prescribe will be pursued with alacrity.

I am with the highest respect Sir yr. ob. St

Wm H: Cabell

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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