James Madison Papers

To James Madison from J. A. P. Poutingon, 30 January 1811 (Abstract)

§ From J. A. P. Poutingon1

30 January 1811, Philadelphia. Submits to JM several “reflexions” originally published in the Philadelphia Tickler,2 the Boston Columbian Centinel,3 and the Boston Democrat,4 the last two dealing with coastal fortifications and flying artillery. Asserts that no one can prove that a successful invasion of Great Britain is impossible or that invasion forces prepared by Napoleon might not be used against the U.S. Argues that the U.S. has no reason to believe that it will be treated differently from any other nation and that no one has ever proved that harbor fortifications are a waste of money. Points out that these publications show his desire to serve the U.S. and suggests that it is customary to reward such services. Asks JM to take into consideration that he is a foreigner, blind in one eye, without property, “and without any other capacity, than my professional of a military man of Cavalry.” Seeks JM’s support for his scheme to establish a military academy in Boston, for which he encloses a prospectus requesting payment of $10.5

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, P-208:5). RC 2 pp. Docketed by a War Department clerk as received 8 Feb. 1811. For enclosures, see nn. 2–4.

1J. A. P. Poutingon, who signed his letter as “Riding Master / Philadelphia,” was probably the same person as the Peter Poutingam who had opened a riding school in July 1810 at Tenth and Arch Streets in Philadelphia (Pa. Magazine of History and Biography, 47 [1932]: 372).

2Poutingon enclosed an undated newspaper clipping (1 p.), written under his signature, which argued that an invasion force being prepared in French-controlled harbors was destined for North America. The argument assumed that the only way for Napoleon to destroy Great Britain was by producing a “civil commotion or revolution” and this could best be achieved by the bankruptcies that would result from the loss of American provisions and markets.

3The enclosure (1 p.) is a handwritten copy of a note by Poutingon, headed “for the Centinel,” addressed to the American government, and posing the question: “If the British navy passed the strong forts of the Dardanelles, what then can be the use of fortifications at the entrance of harbours?”

4Poutingon enclosed a handwritten copy of an essay headed “for the Democrat” (2 pp.), on flying, or light, artillery.

5“Prospectus of a Military Academy, for Artillery, Infantry, and Cavalry to be established in the City of Boston” (2 pp.). Poutingon sent JM a similar letter on 15 Feb. 1811. On that occasion, however, he asked JM to return the prospectus sent earlier, regardless of whether JM chose to subscribe (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, P-213:5; 1 p.).

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