James Madison Papers

To James Madison from St. George Tucker, 19 March 1813

From St. George Tucker

Williamsburg March 19th. 1813.

Dear Sir,

I persuade myself I need make no apology to you for enclosing for your perusal, a Letter which I have just received from a most respectable friend,1 & which seems to shew that the Enemies prœdatory excursions are likely to be extended up the rivers, unless check’d by some efficient means.

Should it be your wish, Sir, to establish a Communication by means of Telegraphs, I will if you wish it, send you the model of one, which I invented when the use of them in France was first announced;2 it is much more simple than any other; consisting only of two Arms, by which eight and twenty different signs may be expressed so distinctly as not to be mistaken; may be work’d with the utmost facility; and might be erected in two hours by any common carpenter. I am with the most sincere respect, and esteem, Dear Sir Your most obed. Servt.

S: G: Tucker

RC and enclosure (DLC). RC cover marked “private” by Tucker. Docketed by JM, “Mar. 9. 1813.” For enclosure, see n. 1.

1An asterisk appears here with a corresponding note, “William Coleman,” in JM’s hand at the bottom of the page. Coleman was mayor of Williamsburg in 1807 and served as bursar of the College of William and Mary (“Providence Forge,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 1st ser., 5 [1896–97], 22; “Historical and Genealogical Notes,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 1st ser., 21 [1912–13], 203). The enclosure is a 19 Mar. 1813 letter to Tucker from Coleman (2 pp.), reporting that a British frigate had been seen near Yorktown and that other British ships had gone up the James River as far as Carter’s Grove, capturing American vessels there and at Newport News. Coleman expressed the hope that measures would be taken to prevent such “mischeif” if JM were informed of the matter. Tucker added a note in the left margin of the first page explaining that Carter’s Grove was “Formerly the seat of Col. Nath: Burwell seven miles below Williamsburg on Jas. River.”

2In 1794, Claude Chappe established the first mechanical telegraph line, which covered 210 kilometers between Paris and Lille (Laszlo Solymar, Getting the Message: A History of Communications [Oxford, 1999], 22).

Index Entries