James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Justus, 4 January 1814

From James Justus

January 4th A.D. 1814

Most respectfully Sir,

I have submitted to you for consideration a part of a Sketch of the Machine which I Call the Grizzly Bear of the West Intended for to destroy or take the Vessels of war of our Enemies.1 You see it may be called a Steam boat, and a Steam Auger, and an Impregnable fortification for riflemen, I hope sir You will excuse me for any Imaginary Levity When I tell you that my American Soul is alive with pleasing hopes of yet seeing the Plantagenet British Seventyfour a prize to the Grizzly Bear of the West under my Immediate Direction, If I fail It will be for want of pecuniary aid and nothing else. Mr. Lyle can give you an Account of the two men I have consulted. And having been at sea myself I can give a prity good Guess as to the probability of success having seen of the Vessels I am to attack I have Demonstration of steam power In the s[t]eam boats built at Pittsburgh, And every thing in my Machine is most simple & properly reasonable And as to the probable Cost of my Machine. It will be Just According to the Size there will be from Seventy five to two hundred tons of Iron in it and the Steam Engines, suppose three at $5000, each to be $15000, the other Cost will be Comparatively nothing. The Iron will not be Injured from private use in time of peace and my Machine may be conveniently employed as a steam boat and to answer every purpose thereof. I will now wait with Anxiety to hear from You. And so remains Sir Your Most Obedient humble servant

James Justus

RC and enclosure (DLC). For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Justus enclosed a sketch and description of his war vessel (1 p.), which was to have an “auger bit two feet Diameter & Six feet long” driven by “a Steam Engine Wheel of Great Velocity” for the purpose of drilling underwater holes in the hulls of enemy ships. The vessel was to be “cannon proof all round” with portholes for rifles, trapdoors, grappling hooks, and iron rods for measuring the distance to the enemy ship when boarding. Justus noted that as captain of the vessel he would “use Various stratagims in Coming to the Enemy such as taking sheep & poultry to them by break of day &c.” On the verso of the sketch, Justus stated that he had been advised to apply for a patent and that his ship could be built in two months. He also recommended that JM “call home General Wilkinson till he Gets Better or Dies” and replace him with William Henry Harrison, adding: “Take the Command Yourself And provid for two hundred Thousand sons of liberty & let twenty Thousand regulars be Employed by Harrison &c.”

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