Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel Smith (of Maryland) to Thomas Jefferson, 13 May 1822

From Samuel Smith (of Maryland)

Baltimore 13 may 1822

Dr sir.

In publick life those to whom we render the greatest service are little sensible of it—I have rendered to Colo Monroe the greatest service that Could have been rendered to a President of the U. S—I have brought the publick expenditures within the receipts for which I ought to have his thanks, instead of the hostility (I fear) he entertains towards me.

In 1819–20. I was Called to be Chairman of the Committee of Ways & Means, my duty, (as assigned by the Rule of the House) was to examine into the publick expenditures—The secy reported a deficit of five million, it was in truth Eight. A Loan became indispensable, my Object was to make that as Small as possible—On a Critical examination and Close Scrutiny I found that Retrenchments from the Estimates1 to the Amount of two million, two hundred thousand2 dollars, Could be made without injury to the publick service. they were opposed but the House sustained me—At the session of 1820–21. a deficiency of seven3 million was reported by the secy of the treasury.—This Caused a strict enquiry on the part of the Ways & Means, and we found a most prodigal expenditure of the publick money, especially on fortifications, and in Consequence4 I reported appropriations Specifically to each fortification, and refused to appropriate anything for Dauphine Island. this gave great Offence to the secy of War, who made great exertions with the members individually and with the senate, the House sustained me,—the senate refused, but the House Stood firm, and we had nearly lost the military app: Bill,—Dauphine Island has already Cost $254.000., and all they have to shew is the foundation laid for the Off. Barracks and some Bricks burnt—It was intended to mount 116 Guns & to defend a pass where „at high water„ there is only Eight & a half feet—In that session the retrenchments made from the Estimates exceeded $2.200.000—making a saving in two years of $4.400.000—I asked the President at the beginning of the last session, if the publick service had suffered by those deductions. he said,—No—I then said: that if they had not been made he must have applied for another loan of five millions, which would have made his administration very unpopular, and that by what I had done I had shewn myself to be his best friend, altho: I believed I had made myself obnoxious—He said—No—that I had acted the part of an honest independent Representative of the people, and no One Could or ought to Censure me—And those were probably the real sentiments of the moment. They were Changed by the influence of the secy of War, with whose Views they militate—and by whom the President was induced to send his message respectg Dauphine Island, but the reasoning of the Com: on Military Affairs was such that no member of either House Could be brought to move a Cent for that silly Object. It would have Cost a million and have required 2000 Men in time of War to defend it—During the last session the W & M. reduced the Estimates $435.000—But apps for new Objects to nearly that amount were made—

I had hoped the President would have given me the mission to Lisbon, he has given it to General Dearborne who did not want it, He is in the receipt of $20.000 ⅌ annum. his son is rich and his son in law worth $100.000—Nothing but my poverty which is extreme, almost amounting to want, Could have induced me to solicit an office—I was further induced, by the President having assured me of his wish to serve me—on first5 seeing me after my misfortunes. He desired me in Case I wanted an Office6 to apply to him direct, and not thro: any of his secretaries—I have troubled you with this detail to which an answer is unnecessary, and am, with the highest regard—

your Obed servt

S. Smith

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson. Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 June 1822 and so recorded in SJL.

Treasury secretary William H. Crawford announced a deficit of five million dollars in his 10 Dec. 1819 annual report to Congress. A year later his report of 1 Dec. 1820 put the shortfall in excess of seven million (ASP, Finance, 3:423–6, 547–53). militate: in this context, “conflict” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). Despite President James Monroe’s plea in a 26 Mar. 1822 message to Congress respectg dauphine (Dauphin) Island in Mobile Bay for a resumption of work on fortifications there, no further funding was forthcoming at this time (ASP, Military Affairs, 2:368–75, 388–9; Calhoun, Papers description begins Robert L. Meriwether, W. Edwin Hemphill, Clyde N. Wilson, and others, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun, 1959–2003, 28 vols. description ends , 6:xiii–xiv, 761, 7:xxvi–xxvii). Henry Dearborn’s wealthy son in law was Joshua Wingate.

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Word interlined.

3Word interlined in place of “five.”

4Preceding two words interlined.

5Word interlined.

6Preceding six words interlined.

Index Entries

  • building materials; bricks search
  • Calhoun, John Caldwell; as secretary of war search
  • Congress, U.S.; J. Monroe’s messages to search
  • Crawford, William Harris; as secretary of the treasury search
  • Dauphin Island, Ala.; fortifications on search
  • Dearborn, Henry; as minister plenipotentiary to Portugal search
  • Dearborn, Henry; finances of search
  • Dearborn, Henry Alexander Scammell; finances of search
  • firearms; cannon search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; mentioned search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; Military Affairs Committee search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; Ways and Means Committee search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); and appointments search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); and U.S. fortifications search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); presidential messages of search
  • Senate, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); and J. Monroe search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); as chairman of House Ways and Means Committee search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); finances of search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); letters from search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); seeks diplomatic appointment search
  • United States; fortifications search
  • Wingate, Joshua search