James Madison Papers
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Draft of a Naval General Order, [ca. 29 July] 1813

Draft of a Naval General Order

[ca. 29 July 1813]

The palpable and criminal intercourse held with the enemys forces blockading and invading the waters and shores of the United States is in a military view an offence of so deep a die as to call for the vigilant interposition of all the Naval Officers of the United States.

This intercourse is not only carried on by foreigners under the specious garb of friendly flags who convey provisions water and succors of all kinds (ostensibly destined for friendly ports, in the face too of a declared & rigorous blockade) direct to the fleets and Stations of the enemy with constant intelligence of our naval and military force and preparation and the means of continuing and conducting the invasion to the greatest possible annoyance of the country; but the same traffic intercourse and intellegence is carried on with great subtilty and treachery by profligate citizens who in vessels ostensibly navegating our own waters from port to port, under cover of night or other circumstances favoring their turpitude find means to convey succour or intelligence to the enemy and elude the penalty of the law. This lawless traffic and intercourse is also carried on to a great extent in craft whose capacity exempts them from the regulations of the revenue laws and from the vigilance which vessels of greater capacity attract.1

I am therefore commanded by the President of the United States to enjoin and direct all naval commanding officers to exercise the strictest vigilance and2 to stop & detain all vessels or craft whatsoever proceeding or intending to proceed towards the Enemys vessels within the waters or hovering abt. the harbors of the U.S. or towards any station occupied by the Enemy within the jurisdiction of the U.S. from which vessels or craft the Enemy might derive succours or intelligence.3

Draft (PHi: William Jones Papers). In Jones’s hand with emendations by JM. Docketed by Jones: “Rough dft of Genl order.” Undated; date assigned on the basis of the 29 July 1813 date of the letterbook copy of the order (DNA: RG 45, Letters to Officers) and the copy published in the Daily National Intelligencer on 30 July. The published version appeared on the same page as the Intelligencer’s report of the Senate’s failure, on 28 July, to pass the embargo legislation proposed by JM (see JM to Congress, 20 July 1813, and n. 1). Federalists commented that JM, who reportedly manifested “great agitation” when discussing the defeat of the embargo bill, had directed the issuing of the naval general order in “an attempt to substitute an executive for a legislative provision” (Boston Columbian Centinel, 14 Aug. 1813).

1Here JM placed a pencilled “X” in front of the following clause, which was struck out and did not appear in the letterbook copy or the published copy of the order: “As no doubt can exist in a state of invasion of the Constitutional power of the Executive to prohibit such criminal and mischievous intercourse and to bring the authors thereof when detected to lawful punishment.”

2The remainder of the text is written in pencil in JM’s hand at the bottom of the draft. It replaces the following text written in Jones’s hand and crossed through in pencil by JM: “to prohibit and stop all vessels laden with provisions fresh water or succors of any kind attempting to pass the enemys vessels within the waters or hovering off the harbours of the US—and also all vessels or craft whether laden or not attempting to pass the enemys force as aforesaid, except foreign vessels not laden with provisions or fresh water.”

3A final paragraph in Jones’s hand was struck out in pencil and did not appear in the letterbook copy or published copy of the order: “And the officers aforesaid are further enjoined to hold in custody all persons detected of whom proof of such criminal intercourse can be adduced, until the said persons shall be delivered over to the civil authority of the United States to be proceeded against according to law.”

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