Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Smith, 8 February 1803

From Robert Smith

Feb. 8. 1803


Mr Nicholson’s letter respecting the Marine Corps I have well considered and since I had the pleasure of conversing with you upon the Subject I have had some Communication with Mr Nicholson. The result is the letter herewith sent to you for your Consideration. It is little more than a Statement of facts for the Committee to form their own Opinion. As to the insufficiency of a Captain to be the Commandant of a Corps in which there is more to do than in any regiment whatever all Military men must concur. And therefore I believe that nothing is hazarded in the Opinion I have expressed upon that point. But in my apprehension I should hazard much, were I to express a different Opinion or even a doubt upon such a question.

Mr Nicholson is desirous of having this Communication soon.

With great Respect, I am Sir Your Obedt Serv

Rt Smith

RC (DLC); at head of text: “private”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 9 Feb. and “Marine corps” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: probably Smith to Joseph H. Nicholson, 8 Feb. 1803, in reply to Nicholson’s letter of 5 Feb.; to assist the House committee in determining whether or not to reduce the Marine Corps, Smith forwards a statement of the current distribution and employment of its officers and privates in the Mediterranean, on ships in ordinary, and at the barracks, as well as estimates of the numbers needed for the next relief squadron and for the proposed guards at the six navy yards; the statement calculates the need for 25 commissioned officers and 624 non-commissioned officers and privates, but the present corps contains only 453 of the latter, leaving a deficiency of 171 men that could be reduced to 46 if the frigates Chesapeake, Constellation, and Adams return before the next relief squadron is sent out; Smith adds his opinion respecting the grade of the commandant, stating that no competent military gentleman would undertake the arduous duties of the office for the pay and emoluments of a captain, which amount to $649.72 per annum, while those of a major and lieutenant colonel commandant amount to $826.80 and $1,722.90, 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 , 2:357–8).

On 27 Jan., the House of Representatives appointed Joseph H. Nicholson, Roger Griswold, and Andrew Gregg to a committee to examine whether alterations were needed to the marine corps and to the rank and pay of its commanding officer (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:306).

Index Entries