James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 11 May 1813

From William Jones

Providence May 11th 1813


Agreably to a Resolution of the Legislature of this State, pass’d at their Session the last week, I do myself the honour to forward you the enclosed Memorial, and beg leave to observe—1

That as the War in which the United States are engaged is particularly distressing to this State, and as the danger of an Invasion most certainly increases as War progresses, and the distressing privations of our Citezens keep at least equal pace therewith, together with the pressure of a debt incurred the last War we find ourselves incapable of making such preparations for the defence of the State as is indispensible for our security.

Suffer me also to observe that should the Enimy get possession of the Island of Rhode Island, as they undoubtedly will should the War be continued, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to dispossess them (as pass’d experience has fully proved) and while there, our small but to us valuable coasting and other Trade will be intirely within their power.

Under these impressions, and having recently been informed that a Brigadier General is ordered to this Post, and having a Coln already here, I cannot but hope that your Excellency intends to send sufficient Troops to Garrison Forts Wolcot & Adams at least, as soon as is practicable, which are indispensibly necessary for the security of Newport.2

I would further suggest that as our Coast is extensive, it is frequently within the power of our Citezens to protect valuable property, as well of those that arive from foreign voyages, as those passing the Sound, if we had suitable preparations, this would have been fully proved in the cases of a NewYork Packet and the Whampoa recently taken on the Narraganset Shore.3

Permit me Sir, to repeat that I consceive a few pair of Cannon on travelling Carriages very necessary, for the purposes mentioned, and request your Excellency to give orders to the proper officer for one or two pair of Nine pound Cannon, and three pairs of six pounders, with the Munisions necessary for them, and one thousand stands of Small arms, which are extremely needed to enable us to render necessary aid to the Forts when attacked to effect which the Citezens of Rhode Island are at all times ready. Very respectfully I have the honour to be Your Obedient Servant

Wm Jones

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, J-164:7). RC docketed with a note in an unknown hand: “Note. The Govr. Of R. Island refused to detach the militia.” For enclosure, see n. 1.

1In their memorial (3 pp.), the Rhode Island legislators observed that their state was particularly exposed to depredations by the British, that it was saddled with debt from the Revolutionary War, that despite its small size it had “paid to the United States a Revenue exceeding that of half the States in the Union,” and that it had ratified the Constitution in part because of that document’s stipulation that the federal government would “provide for the common defence.” They requested that JM fulfill this obligation by sending U.S. troops to defend Newport “until the militia could come to their assistance.”

2In the spring of 1813, Col. and Inspector General Jacob Kingsbury was given temporary command of the Second Military District, which consisted of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Brig. Gen. Henry Burbeck took charge of the district in June 1813 but was ordered to first attend to the defense of New London. When Newport was finally garrisoned in 1814, it was by militia, and the federal government did not pay for their services (William B. Skelton, “High Army Leadership in the Era of the War of 1812: The Making and Remaking of the Officer Corps,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3rd ser., 51 [1994]: 267; Raphael P. Thian, Notes Illustrating the Military Geography of the United States, 1813–1880 [Washington, D.C., 1881], 32; John Armstrong to Henry Burbeck, 14 June 1813 [DNA: RG 107, LSMA]; Donald R. Hickey, “New England’s Defense Problem and the Genesis of the Hartford Convention,” New England Quarterly 50 [1977]: 598).

3The Newport Rhode-Island Republican of 8 Apr. 1813 reported that “the packet sloop Fame capt. Walden of this port, bound to New-York, was captured by the British privateer John Sherbroke, on Wednesday, last week.” On 29 Apr. and 6 May, the Republican published accounts of the capture of the Whampoa. Bound to New York from Lorient with a cargo of brandy, wine, and silks, the ship was driven ashore “in the West passage” by the British frigate Orpheus and set afire. A Newport militia company put out the fire after the Orpheus left and saved much of the Whampoa’s cargo.

Index Entries