James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles W. Goldsborough, 7 January 1813 (Abstract)

§ From Charles W. Goldsborough

7 January 1813. “With great deference—but for very special reasons—C W Goldsborough would propose to the President the immediate revocation of the order, to which the enclosed letter is an answer;1 & which was unknown to C. W. G. till this moment.”

RC (DLC). 1 p.; docketed by JM. Enclosure not found, but see n. 1.

1On 31 Dec. 1812 Paul Hamilton had directed George Harrison, naval agent at Philadelphia, to deliver to Thomas Ewell, hospital surgeon at the Washington Navy Yard recently turned government contractor, “Sixty thousand lbs of Saltpetre either crude or refined—and ten thousand lbs of sulphur taking his receipt for the same” (DNA: RG 45, Misc. Letters Sent). In a pamphlet he was to publish on 22 Jan. 1813, Goldsborough revealed that he had long been on bad terms with Ewell and that they had quarreled over the terms of Ewell’s gunpowder contracts with the Navy Department. On this occasion Goldsborough objected to a contract made on 31 Dec. 1812, the fulfillment of which was contingent on the above order and which would pay Ewell “twenty-two and a half cents per pound, for every pound of Powder made by him for the Navy Department.” Goldsborough claimed that the contract was “so twisted and turned, and cunningly contrived, that the contractor will receive more than twenty-two and a half cents!” He also objected that “In this contract, no security was taken—the quantity of Powder to be made was undefined—no stipulation as to the period of delivery—besides other informalities and defects” (Charles W. Goldsborough, To the Public [n.p., 1813; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 51307], 24–25). This contract, Goldsborough believed, had been written by Ewell himself, and Goldsborough declared that he “knew nothing of it till the 7th January, 1813” (ibid., 24), when he was alerted to its existence, apparently by a 5 Jan. 1813 letter from George Harrison (not found, but acknowledged in Goldsborough to Harrison, 7 Jan. 1813 [DNA: RG 45, Misc. Letters Sent]). After meeting with JM, Goldsborough directed Harrison to suspend the order “till further directions shall be sent to you upon the subject,” and he signed his letter “by order of the President” (ibid.). In one of his many responses to Goldsborough’s intervention, Ewell stated that it was his understanding that JM suspended the order for the saltpeter and sulfur until the time of William Jones’s arrival in Washington to take up the duties of secretary of the navy (Thomas Ewell, Conclusion of the Evidence of the Corruption of the Chief Clerk of the Navy Department [n.p., n.d.; DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections Division], 12).

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