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not understand the hail. The Leopard immediately fired a shot ahead, and a few seconds afterwards poured a full broadside into the American vessel. She continued steadily firing from twelve to eighteen minutes, until Barron, after repeatedly desiring that at least one gun be discharged, ordered his colors to be struck, and as they reached the taffrail, a gun was discharged by an officer, who applied with his fingers a coal brought from the galley. Captain Humphreys, of the Leopard, refused to accept. the surrender of the ship twice tendered, but he took away four deserters found on board. The Chesapeake returned to Hampton,Roads. She was considerably damaged, especially in her spars and rigging. Three of her men were killed, and eighteen wounded. Among the latter were Commodore Barron and his aid, Mr. Broom.'
The four men taken from the Chesapeake were tried at Halifax and condemned to be hung. Three who were Americans were subsequently pardoned, on condition of returning to service in the British fleet; but on the British deserter the sentence was executed.
On the return of the Chesapeake, an intense excitement broke out among the American people. The inhabitants of Norfolk and Portsmouth unanimously passed resolutions to hold no further intercourse with the British vessels until the pleasure of the Government should be known. Douglas, the commander of the squadron, wrote the Mayor of Norfolk an insolent letter, July 3d, saying the inhabitants could have war or peace as they desired. Governor Cabell at once ordered out bodies of militia to cover these towns. It would seem that at about the same time, a vessel, on her way to New York, and on board of which were Vice-President Clinton and his daughter, was either endangered or insulted by a British cruiser."
The President immediately dispatched a vessel to England to instruct our ministers to demand reparation for the insult we had received, and on the 2d of July he issued a proclamation forbidding the waters of the United States to all British vessels of war, unless in distress or bearing dispatches.
1 Courts martial were held on Barron, Captain Gordon, Captain Hall of the marines, and the gunner. The first was entirely acquitted of cowardice, but found guilty of neg. ligence, and was suspended from rank and pay for five years. Gordon and Hall were reprimanded, and the gunner cashiered.
See Jefferson to Clinton, July 6, 1807. VOL. III.-15
Douglas, however, remained in the neighborhood of Norfolk, and even took soundings of the passage to the town, as if intending an attack on it or on the Chesapeake, Cybele, and some gunboats lying there. These facts flew through the United States, increasing the public indignation; and the nation, as one man, called for instant war. The President wrote General Lafayette soon afterwards:
"I inclose you a proclamation, which will show you the critical footing on which we stand at present with England. Never, since the battle of Lexington, have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present. And even that did not produce such unanimity. The Federalists themselves coalesce with us as to the object, although they will return to their old trade of condemning every step we take towards obtaining it. 'Reparation for the past, and security for the future,' is our motto. Whether these will be yielded freely, or will require resort to non-intercourse, or to war, is yet to be seen. We have actually near two thousand men in the field, covering the exposed parts of the coast, and cutting off supplies from the British vessels."
The following hitherto unpublished letter to Mr. Eppes gives the President's views as to the proper course to be pursued by the Government as well as any of the numerous published ones of the same period; and it alludes to another domestic bereavement-the death of the second child of his deceased daughter, Mrs. Eppes:
TO JOHN W. EPPES.
WASHINGTON, July 12, '07.
Yours of the 3d is received. At that time, I presume, you had not got mine of June 19th, asking the favor of you to procure me a horse. I have lost three since you left this place; however, I can get along with the three I have remaining, so as to give time for looking up a fourth, suitable in as many points as can be obtained. My happiness at Monticello (if I am able to go there) will be lessened by not having yourself and Francis there; but the circumstance which prevents it is among the most painful that have happened to me in life. Thus comfort after comfort drops off from us, till nothing is left but what is proper food for the grave. I trust, however, we shall have yourself and Francis the ensuing winter, and the one following that, and we must let the aftertime provide for itself. He will ever be to me one of the dearest objects in life.
The affair of the Chesapeake seems to have come in as an interlude during the suspension of Burr's trial. I suspect it will turn out that the order Berkley received from his Government was in equivocal terms, implying force or not as should suit them, to say; and the construction would be governed by Bonaparte's successes or misfortunes. I know that Berkley's order to the ships under him was of that character. However, their orders are to be nothing in our eyes. The fact is what they have to settle with us. Reason and the usage of civilized nations require that we should give them an opportunity of disavowal and reparation. Our own interest, too, the very means of making war, requires that we should give time to our mer
chants to gather in their vessels and property and our seamen now afloat and our duty requires that we do no act which shall commit Congress in their choice between war, non-intercourse, and other measures. You will be called as early as the circumstances of health and of an answer from England will recommend, probably some time in October. Should that country have the good sense to do us ample justice, it will be a war saved; but I do not expect it, and every preparation is therefore going on, and will continue, which is within our power. A war need cost us very little, and we can take from them what would be an indemnification for a great deal. For this everything shall be in readiness at the moment it is declared. I have not yet heard how Commodore Douglas has taken the proclamation. That he will obey it, I doubt. Should he not, the moment our 16 gunboats in that quarter are ready they will be able to take off all his small vessels and to oblige his large ones to keep together. I count on their being all ready before the end of this month, and that by that time we shall have 32 in New York, and a good provision of batteries along the shores of the city; for to waste labor in defending the approaches to it would be idle. The only practicable object is to prevent ships coming to before it. We have nothing interesting to us from either London, Paris, or Madrid, except that Yrugo leaves us, and a successor is to come. In the meantime, we have received Foronda as chargé des affaires, a most able and amiable man. In consequence of this, Bowdoin will probably go on to Madrid. We shall thus avoid the mischief which the dissensions between him and Armstrong were likely to produce. Present my warm affections to Mr. and Mrs. Eppes and to the family, and accept the same for yourself.
Steps were immediately taken to put New York, Charleston, and New Orleans in the best practicable state of defence. The Virginia militia effectually cut off all communication between the British fleet in the Chesapeake and the shore, and measures were under discussion to drive it from its present menacing position, when Captain Douglas rendered it unnecessary by returning to the outer bay, and announcing that he contemplated no acts of hostility until the orders of his Government should be received.
Decatur, in command of our naval force at Norfolk, was instructed to leave the British squadron unassailed if it remained quiet in its present situation, but to attack it with all his force should an attempt be made to enter the Elizabeth River. Similar orders were sent to Rodgers at New York, in case British armed vessels attempted to enter the bay. Gallatin and Madison, being both ill with the bilious disease incidental to the climate of Washington in the hot months, and there being no further special reasons for the Cabinet remaining together, they dispersed, after arranging for a constant communication with each other. The President reached Monticello on
the 1st of August. Congress was convened for the 26th of October-as early as it was expected an answer would be received from England.
Spain having demanded satisfaction for the pretended participation of the United States in Miranda's expedition, the President wrote to the Secretary of State, August 16th:
"If anything Thrasonic and foolish from Spain could add to my contempt of that Government, it would be the demand of satisfaction now made by Foronda. However, respect to ourselves requires that the answer should be decent, and I think it fortunate that this opportunity is given to make a strong declaration of facts, to wit, how far our knowledge of Miranda's objects went, what measures we took to prevent anything further, the negligence of the Spanish agents to give us earlier notice, the measures we took for punishing those guilty, and our quiet abandonment of those taken by the Spaniards. But I would not say a word in recrimination as to the western intrigues of Spain. I think that is the snare intended by this protest, to make it a set-off for the other. As soon as we have all the proofs of the western intrigues, let us make a remonstrance and demand of satisfaction, and, if Congress approves, we may in the same instant make reprisals on the Floridas, until satisfaction for that and for spoliations, and until a settlement of boundary. I had rather have war against Spain than not, if we go to war against England. Our southern defensive force can take the Floridas, volunteers for a Mexican army will flock to our standard, and rich pabulum will be offered to our privateers in the plunder of their commerce and coasts. Probably Cuba would add itself to our confederation."
Some lively correspondence took place with the British Minister, Mr. Erskine; and on his asking indemnification for water casks, belonging to the British fleet, destroyed by the people of Hampton, after the return of the Chesapeake, the President wrote the Secretary of State:
"It will be very difficult to answer Mr. Erskine's demand respecting the water casks in the tone proper for such a demand. I have heard of one who, having broke his cane over the head of another, demanded payment for his cane. This demand might well enough have made part of an offer to pay the damages done to the Chesapeake, and to deliver up the authors of the murders committed on board her."
And still from another quarter came menaces of hostilities. The Northwestern Indians, who had been tampered with by the Governor of Upper Canada, were in commotion. On the 28th of August, the President proposed to the Secretary of War that the Governors of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana be at once instructed to enroll bodies of militia, to fall upon such tribes as should take up the war hatchet. He thought, however,
Governors Hull and Harrison should first make an earnest effort to induce the Indians to remain at peace; and he wished the following representations to be made to the latter:
INDIAN HOSTILITIES MENACED.
"That we never wished to do them an injury, but on the contrary, to give them all the assistance in our power towards improving their condition, and enabling them to support themselves and their families; that a misunderstanding having arisen between the United States and the English, war may possibly ensue. That in this war it is our wish the Indians should be quiet spectators, not wasting their blood in quarrels which do not concern them; that we are strong enough to fight our own battles, and therefore ask no help; and if the English should ask theirs, it should convince them that it proceeds from a sense of their own weakness, which would not augur success in the end; that at the same time, as we have learnt that some tribes are already expressing intentions hostile to the United States, we think it proper to apprise them of the ground on which they now stand; for which purpose we make to them this solemn declaration of our unalterable determination, that we wish them to live in peace with all nations as well as with us, and we have no intention ever to strike them or to do them an injury of any sort, unless first attacked or threatened; but that learning that some of them meditate war on us, we too are preparing for war against those, and those only who shall seek it; and that if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi. Adjuring them, therefore, if they wish to remain on the land which covers the bones of their fathers, to keep at peace with a people who ask their friendship without needing it, who wish to avoid war without fearing it. In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them. Let them then continue quiet at home, take care of their women and children, and remove from among them the agents of any nation, persuading them to war, and let them declare to us explicitly and categorically that they will do this: in which case, they will have nothing to fear from the preparations we are now unwillingly making to secure our own safety."
How different would have been the character of both of our wars with England, and how different would have been the fate of the red man, if our enemy also had acted on the humane and enlightened policy here shadowed forth!'
It would appear that the President was less sanguine of a favorable termination of the present negotiation with England than some of his Cabinet. He wrote the Secretary of the Navy, September 3d:
"I do not see the probability of receiving from Great Britain reparation for the wrong committed on the Chesapeake, and future security for our seamen, in the same favorable light with Mr. Gallatin and yourself. If indeed the consequence of the battle of Friedland can be to exclude her from the Baltic, she may temporize with us. But if peace among the continental powers of Europe should leave her
The Society of Friends, or "Quakers," at Philadelphia, expressed to the President soon after this, through James Pemberton, their high satisfaction at his uniform course of policy towards the Indians.