Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward Barnwell, 26 July 1807

Beaufort, South Carolina, St Helena point
July 26th. 1807.


I have the honor to enclose the resolutions, passed by the inhabitants of St. Helena parish, on the 21st. instant, and which, I was directed as chairman of the meeting, to forward to the executive department of the United States.

I was directed at the same time, to represent to the government, the totally unprotected and defenceless state of our Town, Islands and Harbour— It has been generally and I believe accurately stated, that the united States possess south of the Chesapeake, no other port affording such deep water and forming such a capacious and secure harbour for vessels of war, as PortRoyal Inlet. Among those who are acquainted with it, the opinion is universal, that whenever the United States engage in war, this Inlet will become a naval station, either for ourselves or our Enemies—

As we have understood, that an accurate Survey of the waters in this vicinity, has been made by the direction and for the use of the general government, it is unnecessary for me to enter into detail, it will be sufficient to remark, that the principal division of the Inlet called broad-River is too wide to be defended by batteries, but on the other hand, it is so much exposed to eastwardly winds, as to be rendered a very insecure station in stormy weather, while the branch which leads up to this town (called PortRoyal river) forms a secure and sheltered retreat to vessels of every description and admits of an easy and effectual defence, for this purpose the Legislature of this State ceded in December 1805 to the united States, an Island of marsh near the mouth of PortRoyal-river (called mustard Island) and seven acres of land on the opposite shore of St. Helena Island, on the condition that they should be fortified, within three years from the date of the cession. It is indeed probable that if the Island of marsh was well fortified and supported by some Gun-boats and assisted by a few pieces of heavy field artillery to be employed by the Militia of the surrounding Islands, no hostile Vessel would find it convenient if practicable to remain within the Inlet, untill this, could be affected the presence of a few Gun-boats, with our own aid and exertions secure us perhaps from insult or conflagration.

I feel myself authorised to assure you that if the government should deem it expedient to make any efforts for the defence and protection of this harbour you might rely on the cordial assistance and cooperation of the Inhabitants of this Parish. I am with due respect Your Most Obt.

Edward Barnwell Senr

Chairman of the Committee

Beaufort South Carolina

NB, I may be permitted to remark that the town of Beaufort consists of upwards of one hundred dwelling houses, and travellers, who have seen it generally acknowledged that in proportion to the number of buildings it contains it is the best built town they ever saw—


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