Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Robert Smith, 15 June 1804

To Robert Smith

Washington June 15. 04.

Dear Sir

The calls for our gunboats at Charleston, Savanna, Mobille & N. Orleans are very imperious. the late insult to our peace officers at Savannah should never be permitted to be repeated a second time. Capt Casson tells me mr Fox is engaged in making the drawings for the lighter gun boat. but while the drawings are preparing to be sent to the several places of construction, could not your orders go immediately to the constructors to be making all the necessary provisions preparations, and contracts, so that the boats may be got ready as expeditiously as possible? will you be so good as to think of this and give your orders accordingly? in the mean time I have so far anticipated those which may respect the gun-boat here (say No. 1. for that will be the best way of naming them) as to desire Capt Casson to get her ready for sea immediately. they begin on her this day and will expect your orders for their continuance. she will be ready by the time of your return here, when we will consider on her destination. in Coleman’s paper of June 11. is a piece which I take for granted is written by Truxton. Accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “The Secretary of the Navy.” Notation in SJL: “gunboats. Truxton.”

late insult: in early May, the French privateer L’Hazard anchored in the Savannah River with two prizes, one of them the American brig Chance, which it had seized within U.S. waters off Charleston. After the local admiralty court ordered the brig detained, French officers “behaved with much insolence” toward the deputy marshal attempting to serve a writ and the commanding officer of nearby Fort Greene. Such was the “crumbling state” of the fort, however, that local observers doubted its garrison or guns would have been able to retaliate, “notwithstanding the privateer lay immediately under, and almost in the very mouth of its cannon” (Columbian Museum and Savannah Advertiser, 16 May; New-York Commercial Advertiser, 28 May; New York Spectator, 4 July).

Acting captain John Cassin (casson) and naval constructor Josiah fox of the Washington Navy Yard oversaw the design of gunboats Nos. 3 through 10 (Gene A. Smith, “For the Purposes of Defense”: The Politics of the Jeffersonian Gunboat Program [Newark, Del., 1995], 77).

coleman’s paper: an article in the 11 June edition of the New-York Evening Post, titled “Massachusetts, No. V.,” criticized TJ’s administration for its failure to employ “several distinguished officers” due to their differing political sentiments. As a result, the author declared that “our navy is almost ruined” and that an “honorable Secretary of the navy would have laid down his private resentments, and supported what he knows would be beneficial to his country.”

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