James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jonathan Williams, 10 July 1812

From Jonathan Williams

New York July 10 1812


Since my Letter to you of the 21 June,1 Brigre General Bloomfield communicated to me an order from the Secretary of War, which in substance agreed with the request, I had the honour to make to you, and of which you have a Copy inclosed.2 After compleating some official duties at Philadelphia I returned to New-York and reported myself ready to take such command as might “comport with my rank.”

General Bloomfield was about to issue the requisite order when he received a communication, of which I also enclose a Copy, being a remonstrance against the measure signed by eighteen company officers.3

Far be it from me, Sir, to create any division among men whose profession of all others should form a well connected & affectionate Brotherhood; but I must be permitted to judge for myself in what relates to me personally, therefore it only remains to do the last, and only, act that can be done consistently with my honour, and a desire to preserve harmony among the officers of the Army, and I hereby resign my Commission.

The Case is too imperious to need much argument; but it may not be improper to observe that after having resigned on a former occasion, I was called again into Service upon an express stipulation which was afterwards made Law by the 63d Article of the Rules & Regulations for the Government of the Army.4 This being the condition, upon which alone I accepted my Commission, I hold myself absolved from all obligation the moment it ceases to operate. The loss of an Officer in his sixty third year may not be considered of great importance when compared with that of eighteen Officers in the vigour of youth, for by the tone of the remonstrance it is to be presumed that this consequence would follow if the order were to be enforced. I have the honour to be with the highest deference & respect Sir Your obedient Servant5

Jona Williams

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, W-196:6); draft (InU: Jonathan Williams Papers). RC docketed as received in the War Department on 15 July 1812. For enclosures, see nn. 2 and 3.

1PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (5 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 4:495.

2The enclosure is a copy of William Eustis to Joseph Bloomfield, 23 June 1812 (1 p.) (see ibid., 4:495 n. 3).

3The enclosure is a copy of a remonstrance of eighteen officers to Col. Henry Burbeck, 8 July 1812 (3 pp.) (see ibid., 4:495 n. 3).

4In the draft statement concerning his resignation (see n. 5, below), Williams claimed to have turned in his lieutenant colonel’s commission when the secretary of war ruled on 20 June 1803 that engineers were “not entitled to any command of ports.” Williams returned to service on 19 Apr. 1805, after a general order restored command privileges to him. The order was codified the following year in Article 63 of “An Act for Establishing Rules & Articles for the Government of the Armies of the United States,” which reads: “The functions of the engineers being generally confined to the most elevated branch of military science, they are not to assume, nor are they subject to be ordered on any duty beyond the line of their immediate profession, except by the special order of the President of the United States, but they are to receive every mark of respect, to which their rank in the army may entitle them respectively, and are liable to be transferred at the discretion of the President, from one corps to another, regard being paid to rank” (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 , 2:367). Williams’s statement detailed recent events that had led him to believe that this article was no longer in effect.

5Filed with the draft is a copy of Williams to Eustis, 10 July 1812 (1 p.), in which Williams resigned his commission, and a draft statement (3 pp.) of Williams’s reasons for resigning (see n. 4, above).

Index Entries