Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Smith, with Jefferson’s Note, 19 January 1803

From Robert Smith, with Jefferson’s Note

Nav: Dep:
19th Jany 1803


The enclosed Letter, to Mr Eustis is proposed in answer to a Letter received from him some time since. I have mentioned four small vessels instead of three—that if it shall be deemed proper to purchase a Zebec, the purchase may be made out of the money that may be appropriated, in pursuance of my Recommendation to Mr. Eustis—

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect & esteem, Sir, your mo: ob: St

Rt Smith

[Note by TJ:]

building  a 14. 20,000. a 16. 24,000
annual exp. 27,000  30,000

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Smith; at foot of text: “President U States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 19 Jan. and “small vessels” and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 45, LSP). Enclosure: Smith to William Eustis, 18 Jan. 1803, replying to a letter from Eustis dated 23 Dec. 1802; to better protect American seamen and commerce in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, Smith recommends that Congress authorize the construction or purchase of four small vessels of war not exceeding 16 guns each, leaving the means of acquisition to the president’s discretion; Smith subjoins a cost estimate for building a vessel of 14 or 16 guns, calculating an average cost of $24,000 per vessel; if Congress authorizes the procurement of these vessels, Smith believes that an appropriation of $96,000 would be adequate; Smith also encloses an estimate of the annual expense of maintaining a vessel of 14 and 16 guns, respectively (NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939-44, 6 vols., and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801-1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:346).

Congressman William eustis was a member of the House committee appointed 17 Dec. 1802 to consider the part of TJ’s annual message relating to Tripoli and the other Barbary states. The committee presented its report on 25 Jan., which the House considered the following day. After debate, the House agreed to a resolution that “provision ought to be made, by law, for building or purchasing four vessels of war, to carry not exceeding sixteen guns each” and ordered a bill brought in on the subject. On 28 Feb. 1803, Congress passed “An Act to provide an additional armament for the protection of the seamen and commerce of the United States,” appropriating $96,000 for the purpose and an additional $50,000 for the construction of up to 15 gunboats (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:253, 301, 304; 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 , 2:206).

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