Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 5 September 1801

To Henry Dearborn

Monticello Sep. 5. 1801.

Dear Sir

I inclose for your consideration a paper addressed to me from Lieutt. Landais of the Artillery, to consider & decide whether any thing & what should be done in consequence of it.—I formerly referred to your consideration the petition of John Rowe, confined in jail for having counselled or procured a souldier to desert. he was sentenced to 3. months imprisonmt. & to paiment of costs. his 3. months expired near 2. months ago, and he is detained & likely to be so for costs. you will be pleased to consider the expediency of pardoning him. but there is one circumstance meriting attention. he says the bill of costs is 88. D. when the bill of costs against a prisoner amounts to such a sum the probability is either that the fee bill authorised by law is monstrous, or that there is extortion. in the latter case we should have it punished; in the former make it the occasion of referring to Congress to review their fee-bill. I will pray you to have a copy of this bill forwarded to me. perhaps the one given in to the prisoner will be considered as the best evidence.—I have duly recieved your favor of Aug. 12. and sincerely sympathise with you on the condition of your daughter. I hope the signs of amelioration have continued and ended in perfect re-establishment. where the cause has been so momentary & every subsequent impression tending to recall the mind to it’s former state, I should hope the first effect could not be a permanent one. letters written to me after your reciept of this will find me at Washington where I shall be punctually on the last day of the month. accept assurances of my sincere esteem & high consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (J. M. Fox, Philadelphia, 1946); at foot of text: “The Secretary at War”; endorsed by Dearborn. PrC (DLC). Enclosure not found, but see below.

Philip Landais, a lieutenant of artillerists and engineers since December 1796, had written to TJ from Albany on 17 Aug. Neither that letter nor another that Landais wrote on 14 Dec. has been found, but the lieutenant also wrote to the secretary of war during August. That correspondence was about Landais’s pay and accounts for traveling expenses. One of those letters elicited a reply from Robert Smith, as the acting secretary of war, that severely rebuked the officer for the “illiberality” of his comments about the accountant of the War Department: “Your representations of him,” Smith wrote, “want alike the recommendations of truth, and the grace of decorum.” In December 1801, Dearborn refused a request by Landais for a paid leave of absence of unlimited duration to attend to private business in the West Indies. Turning down a second such request a few weeks later, this time for a leave of one year, the secretary referred to the improper tone of Landais’s correspondence and stated that the lieutenant, who had already received “unusual indulgence,” could “certainly have no claim for such extra favor.” Meriwether Lewis, in his assessment of the army’s officers, marked Landais as politically apathetic and of the “second class” in terms of ability. In June 1802, Landais, a native of France, received an honorable discharge from the army (Heitman, Dictionary description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:613; Landais to secretary of war, 1, 26 Aug., 3 Nov., 14 Dec. 1801, 4 Jan. 1802, recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; Smith to Landais, 3 Sep., Dearborn to Landais, 23 Dec. 1801, 12 Jan. 1802, in DNA: RG 107, LSMA; Meriwether Lewis’s Classification of Army Officers, [after 24 July 1801], and War Department list of officers, 24 July, cited there).

John Rowe had written to TJ from Boston on 18 May, 15 June, 27 July, and 24 Aug. 1801. None of those communications has been found. Rowe also wrote to the secretary of war on 5 Oct. On the 23d of that month TJ signed a pardon for Rowe, who was identified in the clemency as a “Yeoman” from Massachusetts (MS in Ct, in a clerk’s hand, signed by TJ and by Madison; FC in DNA: RG 59, GPR, in a clerk’s hand; DNA: RG 107, RLRMS).

Enticing a soldier to desert could result in a fine of up to $300 or imprisonment for up to a year. Under a 1792 “Act for Regulating Processes in the Courts,” a judge could require a defendant convicted in a noncapital case to pay the costs of prosecution (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:277, 432, 485).

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