James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Shaler, 19 February 1814

From William Shaler

New York. 19 February 1814


As I am persuaded you take pleasure in seeing a display of qualities that reflect honor on our national character I take the liberty of sending you the enclosed account of an action between the Govr. Tompkins of this port commanded by my brother and a British frigate.1 The firmness and constancy displayed in that affair by the commander officers and crew of the Governor Tompkins suppose a state of discipline, and mutual confidence that would do honor to any service. I have the honor to be with the highest consideration and respect Sir Your most obedient Servant

Wm. Shaler

RC (DLC); FC (PHi: Shaler Family Papers). RC postmarked 20 Feb. at New York. Enclosure not found, but see n. 1.

1Pasted on the verso of the RC’s cover sheet is a clipping from the 21 Feb. 1814 New York Mercantile Advertiser of a 1 Jan. 1814 letter from Nathaniel Shaler, captain of the privateer Governor Tompkins, to his agents in New York, describing his vessel’s encounter with a British frigate he believed to be the reputedly fast-sailing Laurel. After pursuing and firing upon the heavily outgunned Governor Tompkins for nearly two and a half hours, the British ship finally gave up the chase, having inflicted minimal damage on the smaller vessel. Captain Shaler praised the performance of his officers and crew, noting particularly the heroism of two mortally wounded black sailors, one of whom encouraged his comrades to keep up the fight, while the other asked to be thrown overboard so as not to impede the defense of the ship. The letter was also published in the New-York Evening Post on 19 Feb. 1814.

Index Entries