James Madison Papers

Memorandum from Thomas Law, [ca. April 1814]

Memorandum from Thomas Law

[ca. April 1814]

The following Extract of a Law of Congress passed Feby. 26th 1811 is in Vol: 10. page 343.

“The Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of war, & Secretary of the Treasury appointed a board of Commissioners. 50,000 Ds. appropriated. All fines imposed on Navy officers Seamen & Marines to be paid to them. The Commissioners to fix hospitals at suitable places & to provide a permanent assylum for disabled & decrepid Navy Officers Seamen & Marines.”1

Congress here evinced a grateful & generous disposition towards the wounded or worn out defenders of their Country, & the Secretaries obtained a plan of a building from Mr Letrobe & laid out the ground on the public Squares South of Mr Dl Carrolls house on account of the salubrity of the situation & its springs of pure water. Mr Hamilton at this crisis resigned lamenting that so noble an Institution was not commenced during his continuance in Office.

The hospital of Greenwich in England & of invalids in Paris gladden each eye & warm each heart of its beholders. Expenditures on war are lost for ever & the only traces of their consequences remain on the bloody pages of History, or in the ruins of a devastated Empire, whilst these Œdifices constantly exhibit the benevolence & gratitude of a Nation to the Patriots who have suffered in the support of Liberty or Sovereignty.

The President & all the Members of the Administration would delight in remembering that a building was erected, Trees planted & walks laid out, where the maimed or decayed Veteran might with exultation acknowledge that he found refuge from the storms of adversity, & comfort amidst pains & sickness during the Government of Mr Madison. Every Citizen who shall behold them reclining under the shade of trees or sauntering in their garden, will be cheer’d at the sight & applaud the humanity, which requited patriots sacrifices by such an honorable Assylum.

The flags taken from foes may be suspended from the cieling of the Hall,2 & the faultering Sailor animated by these trophies of Victories may

“Smile oe’r his wounds, or tales of sorrow done

“Point to a flag & tell how ships were won.[”]3

I can save one hundred times the expenditure required by a financial System, & all I request is the satisfaction of a successful claim of attention to this Law; it will be a consolation to me in my declining Years, & will encourage hopes of approval hereafter.4

Ms (DLC). Unsigned; docketed by JM: “Law Tho:.” Undated; dated 1 Jan. 1813 in the Index to the James Madison Papers; conjectural date assigned here based on evidence in n. 2.

1Law summarized “An Act establishing Navy Hospitals” (U.S. Statutes at Large, description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends 2:650–51). His page reference was to Acts Passed at the Third Session of the Eleventh Congress (Washington, 1811; 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 24081), which was part of the tenth volume of The Laws of the United States of America.

2On 18 Apr. 1814 Congress passed a law providing that flags captured by the army and navy of the United States be sent to the President, who was to see that they were “preserved and displayed in such public place as he shall deem proper” (U.S. Statutes at Large, description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends 3:133).

3Law adapted lines 157–58 of Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village”: “Wept o’er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done, / Shouldered his crutch, and shewed how fields were won” (Arthur Friedman, ed., Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith [5 vols.; Oxford, 1966], 4:293).

4Filed with the Ms is a second memorandum in which Law summarized, in wording similar to that of his first, the key points of the 1811 legislation to which he referred. In a second paragraph he wrote: “The secretaries met—obtained a plan for Mr Latrobe, fixed upon the spot 734 had the ground marked out—Mr Hamilton suddenly resigned & said that he should lament to the last hour of his life that he had not seen this monument of the humanity & gratitude of the Govt. commenced during his secretaryship. Here the captured flags were to be suspended—here the patriots who had received wounds or impaired their healths in defence of their Country were to find a comfortable retirement.”

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