§ From Robert Fulton
January 1810. In January 1809 at Kalorama, Joel Barlow’s District of Columbia estate, Fulton demonstrated his torpedo to JM, Jefferson, and members of Congress.1 Favorable response encourages him to present details of his experiments in France and England, which have enabled him to correct the torpedo’s past defects. Asserts that his invention will prevent the necessity of an expensive naval shipbuilding program, with its attendant threat to republicanism, and allow the government to “direct the genius and resources of our country to useful improvements, to the sciences, the arts, education, the amendment of the public mind and morals.”2
Ms (DNA: RG 45, Naval Records, Subject File B). 100 pp. Undated. Addressed to JM and “the members of both Houses of Congress.” Printed as Robert Fulton, Torpedo War, and Submarine Explosions (New York, 1810; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819 (22 vols. to date; New York, 1958-). description ends 20177); reprinted in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States ... (38 vols.; Washington, 1832-61). description ends , Naval Affairs, 1:211–27. Received by both houses of Congress on 9 Feb. (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States ... (42 vols.; Washington, 1834-56). description ends , 11th Cong., 2d sess., 556, 1402).
1. Fulton here erred on the date of his demonstration of the torpedo. The experiment to which he invited JM and Jefferson was held on 12 Feb. 1809 (Fulton to JM, 9 Feb. 1809 [DLC]; Fulton to Jefferson, 9 Feb. 1809 [DLC: Jefferson Papers]).
2. On 30 Mar. JM signed a bill appropriating $5,000 for Fulton’s torpedo experiments. On 14 Feb. 1811 Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton reported that Fulton “has not … proved that the Government ought to rely upon his system as a means of national defence” but concluded, “it is contemplated to authorize further experiments” to test improvements made by Fulton (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America ... (17 vols.; Boston, 1848-73). description ends , 2:569; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States ... (38 vols.; Washington, 1832-61). description ends , Naval Affairs, 1:234–45).