James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Nathaniel H. Rhodes, 9 May 1812 (Abstract)

§ From Nathaniel H. Rhodes

9 May 1812, Beaufort, South Carolina. Encloses “a Memorial of the Inhabitants of St: Helena Parish, relating to the defenceless situation of the harbour of Port Royal,1 with the resolution authorising the same,” passed at a meeting chaired by Robert Barnwell2 in Beaufort on 8 May.

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, R-90:6). RC 1 p.; docketed as received in the War Department on 1 June 1812. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The two-page memorial, signed by Robert Barnwell, expressed alarm at the “exposed and defenceless situation of the Parish, bounded as it is by the Ocean, admitting vessels of every description within its harbor, and yet destitute of fortifications, or naval force.” The memorial also pointed out that there had been a fort erected near Beaufort nearly seventy years before which had been “by the direction of one of the Engineers of the United States entirely demolished,” leaving the people “in a more defenceless State than before.” Should the enemy occupy St. Helena, Barnwell continued, “they would have a Key to all the Southern States; as this Parish affords the only harbor to the South of the Chesapeake capable of containing a large fleet of line of Battle ships.” Nor could the inhabitants contemplate resisting the enemy “without being powerfully aided by the Government itself,” but they did believe that they could withstand privateers and freebooters, provided some fortifications, mounted cannon, a small naval force, and a corps of regular troops were provided “to guard against surprise” as well as “to serve as a rallying Point for the local Militia.” In the event that the administration agreed to erect the works requested, the inhabitants offered to provide “a considerable portion of the labor … without expence to Government.”

2Robert Gibbes Barnwell (1761–1814) was a prominent rice planter in the Beaufort District of South Carolina. His lengthy public career included military service during the Revolution and political activities on both the state and federal levels. In addition to serving several terms in both branches of the South Carolina General Assembly, Barnwell was also a member of the 1788 ratifying convention and a Federalist member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the Second Congress, 1791–93 (Edgar et al., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 3:53–55).

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