James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eustis, 2 September 1811

From William Eustis

Washington Septr 2. 1811.

Dear Sir,

Since the receipt of your Letter of the 24th of August enclosing the papers from Govr. Harrison &c nothing very remarkable has occurred. The alternation of alarm and of quiescence observable in the public papers, particularly in those of New York, is the natural consequence of the variegated intelligence from Europe and of the movements of the British Marine on the coast. By a letter from Baltimore I am informed that a vessel arrived at that port passed a squadron of three ships of the line in the gulph stream in the night conjectured to be the fleet under Sir J. Yorke.1 In case the aggressions shall be multiplied and come nearer I fear we shall be obliged to adjourn the court martial. The absence of so many field officers, and more particularly those of the artillery, from the posts on the sea board, is sensibly felt: and but for the confidence that no act of hostility will be authorised by the B. Government previous to the receipt of Mr Fosters despatches, I should think that Colo. Burbeck & Major Stoddard should be remanded to N. York & Major Porter to R. Island. At the former place I am assured the works will be completed in all the present month, and that on an emergency the guns may be all mounted within that time. R. Island is still vulnerable. With the highest respect

W. Eustis

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Ever since Foster had raised in mid-July the prospect of British retaliation against JM’s policy of nonintercourse, speculation was rife as to what this might involve. The National Intelligencer, on several occasions, alluded to the matter and had discussed whether it would take the form of commercial restrictions or “maritime war,” including the possibility of a blockade of the American coast. On 29 Aug. the administration newspaper reported news from London, under 1 and 5 July datelines, that Rear Admiral Sir Joseph Yorke had sailed for America with a “small squadron” of five vessels, said to be “large enough to blow the whole American navy out of the water.” The conduct of the squadron, however, was said to be contingent upon how the U.S. settled the dispute over the incident between the Lille Belt and the President (see JM to Richard Cutts, 23 July 1811, and n. 3; National Intelligencer, 25 July and 20, 29, and 31 Aug. 1811).

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