Thomas Jefferson Papers

John H. Cocke to Thomas Jefferson, 6 November 1814

From John H. Cocke

Camp Carters Novr 6. 1814

Dear sir,

I have to acknowledge the rect of your letter of the 23d Octo: with an order on your correspondents in Richmond, for the price of the Horse I sold you. I am glad to hear he turns out to your satisfaction.

Since the late intelligence from abroad leaving us no alternative, but national disgrace & infamy or a continuation of the war, I have been looking with great anxiety to Congress for some plan by which the strength of the Country may be drawn forth & directed with effect against the Enemy.

The scheme which seems to be relied upon by the Secretary of War, I trust will be found practicable & judicious, to recruit the ranks of the U.S. Army.

For the defence of the States, I shou’d prefer some efficient organization of the militia to a dependence on regulars, even if they cou’d be obtain’d. A free people shou’d be taught to rely only upon themselves for the defence of their territory against invaders.—A fatal consequence of relying upon regular Armies wou’d be a neglect of the use of Arms; and the noble & manly determination to encounter every hardship & privation in defence of our birthrights, wou’d give place to the mean, calculating, commercial spirit which wou’d look only to buying off the resentment of our Enemies.—Destroy the national sentiment that the people are able to defend the Country against its Enemies, & we are at once reduced1 to a situation that a single battle might lose us our liberties.—whereas if an improved militia system is adopted, diffusing military information, & correct notions of military subordination thro’ the mass of our population we shall, at least, be render’d invincible at home.

The classification of the militia, & calling out the younger part of the population woud be placing the burthen of service where it cou’d be easiest borne & using the materials most susceptible of being wrought upon. A twelve months, or two years tour wou’d be sufficient to establish discipline and this of itself wou’d produce the doubly happy effect of getting rid of the incompetent militia officers & bringing into command the men of respectability & intelligence & public spirit thro’ out the Country.—Under our deplorable existing system every man of common reflection at once sees the impossibility of being able to do anything either useful for the Country or creditable to himself. Shou’d any change take place promising a more favourable result to the efforts of those engaged in the public service, I wou’d gladly devote my best exertions to the State during the War.—

My health has never been as [good?] in my life as since I have been in Camp—May you long continue in the full enjoyment of this first of earthly blessings

Yours with the highest respect & Esteem

Jno H. Cocke

RC (DLC); torn at seal; addressed: “Mr Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 9 Nov.; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Nov. 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

On 17 Oct. 1814 Secretary of War James Monroe sent the United States Senate’s military affairs committee his plan for expanding the ranks of the u.s. army by some 40,000 troops. Although he proposed several methods of accomplishing this goal, he preferred to “Let the free male population of the United States, between eighteen and forty-five years, be formed into classes of one hundred men each,” with property holdings distributed equally among the classes, and to “let each class furnish four men for the war, within thirty days after the classification, and replace them in the event of casualty.” Cocke favored the second of Monroe’s four options, which called for dividing the militia into age groups and extending the term of service to two years (ASP, Military Affairs, 1:514–7).

1Manuscript: “reduceed.”

Index Entries

  • Army, U.S.; expansion of search
  • Bremo (TJ’s horse); purchased from J. H. Cocke search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell; health of search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell; letters from search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell; on militia search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell; TJ purchases horse from search
  • Congress, U.S.; and standing army search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); payments made for TJ search
  • horses; TJ purchases search
  • military; expansion of search
  • militia; J. H. Cocke on search
  • militia; organization of search
  • Monroe, James; on expansion of U.S. military search
  • Senate, U.S.; Committee on Military Affairs search