Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Devereux DeLacy, 23 July 1813

To John Devereux DeLacy

Monticello July 23. 13.


I have duly recieved your favor of the 8th and entirely concur in opinion with you as to the ease & importance of the inland navigation from St Mary’s to James river, and will certainly give it whatever aid may be in my power. as this may be best done by way of letters to those on whom the measure would rest, I return you the blank petition. I go out so little & see so few people that I could do nothing with the petition, altho’ it is one which every man in the state would readily sign.

I am now myself pressing on the government to station from 50. to 100. gunboats in Lynhaven river, as a sufficient defence for the Chesapeak bay & all it’s waters. I am satisfied that were such a force there, no vessel of war would ever pass a night in the Chesapeak. but a previous operation absolutely necessary would be to open a Canal from the head of Lynhaven river into the East river, to give a safe retreat to the gunboats if attacked from the shore of the river, and to enable them to go to the defence of Norfolk if attacked. as a military work the government has power to do it; altho’ for the mere purposes of navigation they have not the power. there is a proposition now before Congress for an amendment to the Constitution to give them that power. Accept the assurance of my respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNGL, on deposit NHi); mutilated at folds, with missing text supplied from PoC; at foot of text: “Mr John Dev. De Lacy.” PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosure not found.

On 10 July 1813 Virginia representative John G. Jackson placed a resolution before congress for an amendment to the constitution that would grant Congress the “power to make canals in any State, with the consent of the State within which the same shall be made.” Jackson successfully moved on 24 Jan. 1815 to postpone “indefinitely” consideration of that and other constitutional amendments he had proposed (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 9:87, 685).

Index Entries

  • canals; constitutional amendment regarding search
  • canals; proposed search
  • Chesapeake Bay; defense of search
  • Congress, U.S.; constitutional amendments proposed in search
  • Constitution, U.S.; proposed amendments to search
  • DeLacy, John Devereux; and inland navigation search
  • DeLacy, John Devereux; letters to search
  • gunboats search
  • Jackson, John G.; proposes constitutional amendments search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; defense of Chesapeake Bay search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; gunboats of search