Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Stoddert, 3 March 1801

From Benjamin Stoddert

Navy Department. 3d March 1801.


I have the honor, by permission of the President, to enclose for your information & consideration, letters Just recd. from the West Indies.—Also a copy of the Instructions given to Capt Barry, the Commanding officer on the Windward Station—at a time when it was not known whether the Treaty with France would, or would not be ratified.

All our other Public Vessels have recd. similar Instructions.

I have the honor to be With great respect sir Yr. Most Obed. servt.

Ben Stoddert

RC (InU: M. A. I. Blair Papers); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President Elect.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 45, LSP). Enclosures: see below.

Captain Thomas Truxtun and the President had recently arrived in Norfolk from the West Indies. Commanders of ships in that squadron had written reports in January and early February (NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 1935–38, 7 vols. (cited by years) description ends , Dec. 1800–Dec. 1801, 69–70,72, 86–90,112–14, 119, 129).

Captain John Barry had been dispatched to St. Kitts with the frigate United States to take command of the navy’s squadron on the Guadeloupe Station and to convoy merchant ships to the Windward Islands. His initial orders from Stoddert were dated 6 Dec., when rumors of a Treaty with France were circulating. In those instructions Adams and Stoddert asked the captain to avoid encounters with French naval vessels unless they continued to capture American ships. Barry was not to hold back against privateers, however, until he received definitive word of a peace and could ascertain that the privateers no longer molested American shipping. On 30 Dec. Stoddert sent additional instructions based on the arrival of the Convention of 1800 in Washington. The convention contained a provision for the return of any shipping captured by either side since 1 Oct., but had not yet been ratified. The secretary instructed Barry in the meantime to treat all armed French vessels, whether privateers or ships of the line, “exactly as you find they treat our Trading vessels” (same, 14–15, 55–6).

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