Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William H. Cabell, 27 July 1807

Washington July 27. 07.


The Secretary at War having returned from New York, we have immediately taken up the question respecting the discharge of the militia which was the subject of your two last letters, and which I had wished might remain undecided a few days. from what we have learnt of the conduct of the British squadron in the Chesapeake since they have retired from Hampton roads, we suppose that until orders from England they do not contemplate any further acts of hostility. other than those they are daily exercising by remaining in our waters in defiance of the National authority and bringing to vessels within our jurisdiction. were they even disposed to make an attempt on Norfolk, it is believed to be sufficiently secured by the two frigates Cybele and Chesapeake, by the 12. gunboats now there & 4. more from Matthews county expected, by the works of Fort Nelson; to all of which we would wish a company of artillery of the militia of the place to be retained & trained, putting into their hands the guns used at fort Norfolk, and a company of Cavalry to be employed on the bay shore between Norfolk & Cape Henry, to cut off from these vessels all supplies according to the injunctions of the proclamation, & to give immediate notice to Norfolk should any symptoms of danger appear; to oppose which the militia of the borough and the neighboring counties should be warned to be in constant readiness to march at a moment’s warning. considering these provisions as quite sufficient for the safety of Norfolk, we are of opinion that it will be better immediately to discharge the body of militia now in service both on that & the other side of James river. this is rendered expedient not only that we may husband from the beginning those resources which will probably be put to a long trial; but from a regard to the health of those in service which cannot fail to be greatly endangered during the sickly season now commencing, and the discouragement which would thence arise to that ardor of public spirit now prevailing. as to the details necessary on winding up this service the Secretary at War will write fully, as he will also relative to the force retained in service and whatever may hereafter concern them or their operations, which he possesses so much more familiarly than I do, & have been gone into by myself immediately, only on account of his absence on another service.

The diseases of the season incident to most situations on the tide-waters now beginning to shew themselves here & to threaten some of our members together with the probability of a uniform course of things in the Chesapeake, induce us to prepare for leaving this place during the two sickly months, as well for the purposes of health as to bestow some little attention to our private affairs, which is necessary at some time of every year. our respective stations will be fixed & known, so that every thing will find us at them with the same certainty as if we were here, and such measures of intercourse will be established as that the public business will be carried on at them with all the regularity & dispatch necessary. the present arrangements of the post office admit an interchange of letters between Richmond and Monticello twice a week, if necessary, and I propose that a third shall be established during the two ensuing months of which you shall be informed. my present expectation is to leave this place for Monticello about the close of this or the beginning of the next week. the Secretary at War will continue in this neighborhood until we shall further see that the course of things in the Chesapeake will admit of his taking some respite. I salute you with great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson


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