Thomas Jefferson Papers

Gabriel Penn to Thomas Jefferson, 3 October 1814

From Gabriel Penn

Portsmouth N.H. Octr 3rd 1814

Dear Sir

Although not having the pleasure of your personal acquaintance I presume you will pass over the liberty I have taken of writing to you when you know the object. It has long been my desire to enter the service of my country and for that end went to sea in the merchant service since the war I have been in an armed Vessel. The object of this letter is to solicit your Friendship in procuring for me an appointment in the Navy. I have written to my Father James Penn of New London whose estate joins the Poplar Forest and with whom I presume you are acquainted for some letters of recommen to the secretary of the Navy. but as there are a number of applications I was fearfull that I should meet with some difficulty unless I could have the good will of some person who was acquainted with me and at the Navy department. As it is presumed that every young man who makes an application will not1 receive an warrant for the greater part are quite young some mere boys: I have been to Sea for three years and think I am2 of a proper age to go in the Navy I am twenty years of age and am vain enough to think Myself capable of the duties of a Midshipman I first went to sea with the intention of entering the Navy but not wishing to enter a Novice have endeavored to inprov myself and become capable of the duties of that station.

We are now engaged in a war that is to establish our liberty on the sea and as I am deeply interested in the welfare of my country. our little Navy increasing and will of course want young officers, a desire to serve my country3 has prompte me to take the liberty of writing to you Soliciting your interest in procuring a warrant for me in the Navy and I trust never shall disgrace you or my country.—

Virginia has fewer officers than any other State in the Navy and as I presume you wish to see them in the list of Naval officers as soon as any other Men Request your Patronage and hope one day to make myself worthy it.

I arrived in this place from sea and as it is a long distance home and should I obtain my wish my services4 will be better here than on any other station. Although not in the Navy I am5 not Idle having a station in Fort Constitution and should an opportunity offer shall enderivor to do my duty.—

Should you condescend to answr this letter it will meet with the highest marks of respect from your Most Obt Servt

Gabriel Penn

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Eqr Charlottsvill Virginia”; franked; postmarked Portsmouth, N.H., 11 Oct.; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Oct. 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

Gabriel Penn (b. ca. 1794) received no commission in the United States Navy. TJ did not write on his behalf, although he had dined at his grandfather Gabriel Penn’s Amherst County ordinary and done legal work for the elder Penn prior to the Revolutionary War (Lee Forney Crawford, William Webb Crawford, Dean of Birmingham Bankers, and Family Sketches, Genealogies [1958], 35–6; Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, 17 Dec. 1813; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:40, 319).

1Preceding two words interlined in place of “to.”

2Manuscript: “an.”

3Manuscript: “county.”

4Manuscript: “serrces.”

5Manuscript: “an.”

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; applications to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Penn, Gabriel; identified search
  • Penn, Gabriel; letter from search
  • Penn, Gabriel; seeks naval appointment search
  • Penn, James (of New London, Va.); and son’s candidacy for naval appointment search