Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Robert Fulton, 21 July 1813

To Robert Fulton

Monticello July 21. 13.

Dear Sir

Immediately on the reciept of your favor of July 8. I forwarded it to the President, and had no hesitation in expressing my own wish that it should be tried. in fact as we cannot meet the British with an equality of Physical force, we must supply it by other devices, in which I know no body equal to yourself, and so likely to point out to us a mode of salvation. accordingly I hope this honor is reserved for you, and that either by subaqueous guns, torpedoes, or diving boats you will accomplish it by the aid of government. the New York Evening post has given us a Quiz on this subject, hoping, I presume, to draw a flimsy veil of jest over his habitual lies, and wishing us to suppose all those were but jests. I confess I have more hopes of the mode of destruction by the submarine boat, than any other. no law of nature opposes it, and in that case nothing is to be despaired of by human invention, nor particularly by yours. Accept the just tribute of an American citizen, & of a friend in the assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (CtY: Franklin Collection); addressed: “Robert Fulton esquire New York”; franked; postmarked Milton, 22 July. PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ.

On 13 July 1813 TJ had forwarded Fulton’s letter of 29 June, not that of 8 July, to president James Madison. An article entitled “Bushnell the Second” in the new york evening post, 9 July 1813, reported on an unnamed Norwich resident who, reminiscent of Revolutionary War inventor David Bushnell, had invented “a diving boat, which by means of paddles he can propel under water at the rate of three miles an hour, & ascend & descend at pleasure.” The new inventor allegedly failed in three successive attempts to sink HMS Ramillies but alarmed its captain enough that he moved the vessel away from New London.

Index Entries

  • boats; diving (submarine) search
  • Bushnell, David; submarine inventor search
  • Fulton, Robert; and torpedo search
  • Fulton, Robert; and underwater cannon search
  • Fulton, Robert; letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; submarine weaponry search
  • machines; cannon, underwater search
  • machines; torpedo (mine) search
  • Madison, James; and underwater cannon search
  • newspapers; New-York Evening Post search
  • New-York Evening Post (newspaper) search
  • Ramillies, HMS (ship of the line) search
  • submarines; invented by D. Bushnell search
  • torpedo (mine) search