Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 6 November 1812

To James Madison

Monticello Nov. 6. 12.

Dear Sir

I inclose you a letter from Colo Gibson Secretary under Governor Harrison. I suppose he has addressed it to me on the footing of a very old acquaintance. he is a very honest man, very old in public service & much esteemed by all who know him. all this I believe however is known to yourself, & possibly he may be personally known to you.

The seeing whether our untried Generals will stand proof is a very dear operation. two of them have cost us a great many men. we can tell by his plumage whether a cock is dunghill or game. but with us cowardice & courage wear the same plume. Hull will of course be shot for cowardice & treachery. and will not Van Renslaer be broke for cowardice & incapacity? to advance such a body of men across a river without securing boats to bring them off in case of disaster, has cost us 700. men: and to have taken no part himself in such an action & against such a general could be nothing but cowardice. these are the reflections of a solitary reader of his own letter. Dearborne & Harrison have both courage & understanding, & having no longer a Brock to encounter, I hope we shall ere long hear something good from them. if we could but get Canada to Trois rivieres in our hands we should have a set-off against spoliations to be treated of, & in the mean time separate the Indians from them and set the friendly to attack the hostile part with our aid. ever affectionately your’s

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Madison Papers, Rives Collection). PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the US.”; endorsed by TJ.

John Gibson’s letter to TJ of 14 Oct. 1812, not found, is recorded as received from Vincennes on 4 Nov. 1812 in SJL, which also lists a missing letter from TJ to Gibson of 6 Nov. 1812. In his capacity as secretary of Indiana Territory, Gibson was serving as acting governor in the absence of William Henry Harrison. John Adams first appointed Gibson secretary in 1800, and as his term was set to expire on 18 Nov. 1812, he probably sought TJ’s help in obtaining reappointment. Madison successfully nominated him for another four years on 9 Nov. 1812 (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 8:209–10; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:355, 2:296, 304 [14 May 1800, 9, 16 Nov. 1812]). In the Battle of Queenston Heights on 13 Oct. 1812, General Stephen Van Rensselaer (van renslaer) sent his army across the Niagara river and suffered a major defeat despite the death of Isaac Brock, the British commander. Van Rensselaer’s own letter of 14 Oct. 1812 to Henry Dearborn describing the battle appeared in the Washington National Intelligencer, 29 Oct. 1812, and other newspapers.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; presidency of search
  • Brock, Isaac search
  • Canada; British troops in search
  • Canada; TJ anticipates American conquest of search
  • Dearborn, Henry; and N.Y. campaign search
  • Gibson, John (of Ind. Territory); letters from accounted for search
  • Gibson, John (of Ind. Territory); seeks appointment search
  • Harrison, William Henry; governor of Ind. Territory search
  • Harrison, William Henry; prospects for military campaign of search
  • Hull, William; and surrender of Northwest Army search
  • Indiana Territory; appointments in search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Madison, James; letters to search
  • Queenston Heights, Battle of search
  • Van Rensselaer, Stephen; defeat at Queenston Heights search