David Porter.

An exposition of the facts and circumstances which justified the expedition to Foxardo (Volume 2) online

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,7*7 Vn




This humble effort to vindicate my conduct and
character is most respectfully Dedicated by his very

And faithful servant,


Washington, May 11, 1825.


The reader will bear in mind that when I was re-
called from my command, to account for the affair
atFoxardo, I pledged myself to justify it. By the
conduct of the Court, to which the subject was re-
ferred for investigation, I was driven from its pre-
sence, and prevented from making the explanations
on which I founded my justification. Therefore, to
redeem my pledge, I submit the following sheets.

D. P.



Washington-, March Isf, 1025.

Sir : I have the honour to inform you, that, in obedience
to your orders, I have come to this place, and I now await
your further directions.

With the greatest respect, your obedient servant,

5Lr D (Signed) D. PORTER „

Hon. Samuel L. Southard.


Washington, March 2d> 1825.
Sir : Having this day seen in a print several letters from.
Mr. Thomas Randall and Mr. John Mountain, communicated
through the State Department to Congress, and highly inju-
rious to the character of myself and other officers belonging
to the West Ind.a squadron, I have to request that an inquiry
may be instituted, to ascertain how far facts will justify their
statements and remarks, and the injurious remarks they have
elicited on the floor of Congress.

I have the honour to be, & with great respect, your obedi-
ent servant, J

(Signed) d. PORTER.

Hon. Samuei L. Southard.


Washington, March Sih, 1825.
Sir : The officers named in the enclosed list, will be ne-
cessary as witnesses, to enable me to repel, in a suitable man-
ner, the foul charges of Mr. Thomas Randall, and Mr! John

floHf rn 8 ^ 6 lnJUri0US insiDuati ™ "« ^ertions on tie
commit ° n S ress '^nst myself, and the officers under my

n,p U , n hn r f an f Ug ?? VeSSe,S havin ? som8 of them on board
are about saihng I beg that they may be detained, provS
it can be done without injury to the public service. P
1 have the honour to be, your obedient servant,

(Signed) r>. PORTER

Hon. Samuel L, Souti-iarp.


Captains. — Stephen Cassia, Alex. Dallas, Win. B. Finch, L.

Kearney, T. H. Stevens.
Lieutenants. — C. W. Skinner. J. T. Newton, F. A. Gregory,

Silas Duncan, J. P. Zantzinger, Bell, C.

Boarman, R. Voorhees, C. K. Stribling, D. G.

Farragut, J. G. Baughan, F. A. Thornton, Purser.


Washington, March IGth, 1824.

Sir : it is now sixteen days since I had the honour to re-
port to you my arrival here, in obedience to your order of
the 27th December, and 1 have anxiously since awaited your
further instructions.

I am aware, sir, of the interruptions the recent changes in
government and other circumstances have occasioned to the
transactions ofpublic business, and however irksome and uncer-
tain may be my present situation, and whatever anxiety I may
feel on the occasion, it is not my wish to press on the Depart-
ment my own affairs, in preference to those of greater impor-
tance. 1 cannot, however, help requesting that there may
be as little delay in the investigation of my conduct, both as
regards the affair of Foxardo, and the statements of Mr. Ran-
dall and Mr. Mountaiu, as is consistent with the public inter*

The state of ignorance and uncertainty in which I have
been kept, as to the intentions of the government, and the
desire of vindicating myself to the government and the pub-
lic, and relieving myself from a species of suspension and
supposed condemnation, must be my apology for now troub-
ling you.

Officers continue to make to me their reports, and to re-
quest of me orders. Not knowing whether the Department
still considers me in command of the West India squadron, I
have been at a loss how to act. Will you be pleased to in-
struct me on the subject.

1 have the honour to be, with great respect, your obedient

(Signed) D. PORTER.

Hon. Samuel L. Socthard.

Navy Department, 10th March, 182j.

Sir : It has become my duty to apprise you of the deter-
mination of the Executive, that a Court of Inquiry will be

formed, as soon as circumstances will permit, to examine into
the occurrence al Foxardo, which was the occasion of your
recal, and also to comply with the request contained in your
letter of the 8th inst.

It was the intention of the Department in ordering Capt.
Warrington to the West Indies, to relieve you from the com-
mand of the squadron there.

I am, respectfully, &c.


Com. David Porter, U. S. Navy, present*


Washington, April 13/ft, 1825.
Sir : I hope it will not be considered obfrusive in me, to
remind you of the extremely unpleasant situation in which
your orders of the 27th of December have placed me. You
will recollect, no doubt, that they required me to repair to
this place, without unnecessary delay, to explain my condnct in
relation to the Foxardo affair. From this positive injunction,
they deprived me of the opportunity, without taking on my-
self great responsibility, of obtaining, by personal application,
the written testimony necessary in the case ; not knowing the
cause which influenced you in urging my recal so speedily,
and not wishing to have unnecessary delay ascribed to
any wish on my part, the day of my arrival here, (the 1st of
March) I reported to you my attendance on your further or-
ders. No notice being paid to this report, after an interview
had vvith the President, I again addressed you at his sugges-
tion, on the 16th of the same month, and on the same day I
received your letter, apprizing me, that, by the determination
of the Executive, a Court of Inquiry would be formed to ex-
amine into the occurrence at Foxardo, as well as the charges
of Mr. Randall, so soon as circumstances will permit.

Since that time I have waited patiently your convenience,
regardless of the anxiety and importunity of my friends, not
wishing to press my business on you to the exclusion of mat-
ters which might now appear to you of more importance to
the public interest, than the investigation of my conduct in
the Foxardo affair, or the charges against myself and others,
as contained in Mr. Randall's statements. I must beg leave
to observe to you, however, that the manner of my recal
proves, that at the time your order of the 27th December
was issued, the investigation of the affair which caused it, was
considered of great national importance, and a note subsequent


]y received from Mr. Monroe, not only confirms this belief, bui
proves that he still thought so, after he had gone out of office.
I must also beg leave to observe, that whatever opinion may
be entertained now, the punishment to me is none the less on
account of the change, if any change has taken place. The
affair ofFoxardo was the occasion of my recal — the affair of
Foxardo was the occasion of my being displaced from my
command — it is that affair which now keeps me suspended
from the exercise of my official functions — it was that which
caused you to pronounce censure on me, to punish and de-
grade me, before any complaint against me, before trial, and
before I was called on for an explanation.

If, Sir, opinion is changed ; if, by information since re-
ceived from other quarters, you have been induced to be-
lieve that the public interest do not require so much haste in
the investigation as you at first supposed, it would seem but just
that my own anxieties, and the anxieties of those whose peace
of mind I regard, and good opinion I highly respect, should
be relieved, by some intimation of your intentions, with re-
gard to me — that there should be in fact some relaxation in
the severity of the course adopted towards me.

It is with reluctance that 1 trouble you with any complaint,
whatever, but I feel that I should neither do my duty to my-
self, to what I owe to others, and indeed to the service to
which i belong, if, by a longer silence, I gave reason to be-
lieve that I acquiesced in a course of conduct towards me,
which, when a full investigation takes place, and all the facts
are known, few, I think, will acknowledge is founded on

The Executive, it appears, has decided that a Court of
Inquiry shall be ordered to investigate my conduct. Why
then deprive me of the opportunity of making my explana-
tion, by delaying the execution of the Executive will ? Up-
wards of six weeks have elapsed since 1 reported my arrival
here, and, as yet, I only know the determination of the Exe-

The time when, the place where, and by whom the inves-
tigation is to be made, are unknown to me. No definite
period is fixed on for the holding of the Court, and I therefore
most respectfully ask, what is your determination with re-
spect to me ? that I may know what course of conduct it
would be proper for me to pursue.

I have the honour to be, your obedient servant,

(Signed) D. PORTER.

Hon. Sam'l L. Southaudi

Navy Department, dpril20th 1825,

Sir : Enclosed you will receive a copy of the precept,
which has been issued for a Court, to make the Inquiry, in-
stituted by the Executive, into your conduct at Foxardo. —
You will perceive that the .saxie Court is also directed to
make the Inquiry which has been granted at your own request.

In your letter of the 13th instant, which has been received,
it created some surprise to find the declaration, that the " pos-
itive injunction " in the letter from the Department of the
27th December, 1824, to " proceed, without unnecessary de-
lay, to this place," " deprived you of the opportunity, with-
out taking on yourself great responsibility of obtaining, by
personal application, the written testimony necessary in the
case." By referring to that letter, you will find that you are
expressly charged to " bring with you those officers whose
testimony is necessary, particularly Lt. Piatt ; and such writ-
ten evidence as you may suppose useful," for the " full in-
vestigation," which it was declared the importance of the
transaction demanded.*

No change has taken place in the views of the Executive,
either as to the necessity or character of the investigation,
and any delay which has occurred in proceeding with it, must
be attributed to other causes.

In relation to that part of your letter, in which you say,
41 the affair at Foxardo was the occasion of my recal ; the af-
fair of Foxardo was the occasion of my being displaced from
my command ; it is that affair which now keeps me su*pend-
ed from the exercise of my official functions," it is proper to
remark, that although that affair was the immediate cause
of your recal, yet you are not ignorant, that it was the pur-
pose of the Department to recal you from that command for
other reasons, as soon as it was found convenient to substi-
tute a competent officer in your place,! a purpose only pre-
vented by this transaction, which intervened previously to its

*Those acquainted with the Geography of the West Indie?, need not
be informed that it requires more time to go from Thompson's Island,
where the Secretary's orders found me, to St. Thomas's where Lieut.
Flatt was, and where the documents were to be obtained, than to come
from Thompson's Island to the United States. The public, therefore,
"will be able to judge whether I should have been justified by the Secreta-
ry's orders in obtaining, by personal application, the written testimony
necessary in the case. D. P.

|On the 19th of October, 1824, while at Washington, before going to
4he West Indies, I requested, for various reasons, among others ill


No other notice of the style and manner of your letter is
deemed necessary at this time, than to remind you of the re-
lation which subsists between you and the Department.

I am very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,


Com. David Pokter, U. S. M&byj present.

(Copy) A.
To Isaac Chacncev, Esq., Captain in the Naty of the United Stales t

It having been made to appear to the President of the Uni-
ted States that on or about the fourteenth day of November,
in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twen-
ty four, David Porter, Esquire, a Captain in the Navy of the
United States, then in command of the naval forces of the
United States in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico, did, with
a part of the military force under his command, forcibly land
upon the Island of Porto Hico, a part of the dominions of his
Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain, then and still at peace
and in amity with the government of the United States, and
did then and there commit acts of hostility within the territo-
ries, and against the subjects, of the said King of Spain.

The President of the United States has deemed an inquiry
into the conduct of the said David Porter on that occasion,
as well as into the causes which led to the same, to be neces-
sary and proper.

And whereas certain representations have been made to the
Government of the United States in regard to the employment
of the naval forces of the United States in the West Indies
and Gulf of Mexico, setting forth in substance that, in the
year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-four, the said
naval forces were not employed in the suppression of piracy
in the most effective manner, but were employed in the trans-
portation of specie and in other objects of inferior moment,,
to the neglect of the public interests ; and the said David Por-

health, and apprehension of a West India climate, that the Secretary
would order me to be relieved from the command of the Squadron. The
Secretary, in his reply to this application of the 21st, informs me that if
I had made ray application earlier I should have been relieved, and a.
successor appointed, but having failed to do so, and the presence of a
coinmande! on the station being indispensable, I was ordered to proceed.
" When it is convenient to the Department," (says the Secretary,) " your
wish to be relieved shall be gratified.'' It is to this intimation the Sec-
retary alludes, when he leminds me of the purpose of the Department to
recal rue. D. P'


ter considering his conduct and character as the commander of
said forces to be thereby implicated, has requested of this De-
partment that an inquiry be made into the truth of said re-

The President of the United States, in consideration of the
premises, has charged me to convene a Court of Inquiry for
the purpose of examining into the matter aforesaid. — You
are therefore hereby ordered to proceed to the Navy Yard
at the City of Washington, on or before the second day of
May next, to act as a member of the said court, and to officiate
as the President thereof.

Orders are also transmitted to Captain VVm. M. Crane and
Captain George C. Ptead to appear at the time and place
aforesaid, and Richard S. Coxe, Esquire, is also appointed
Judge Advocate, and will report himself to you in that capa-
city at the time and place aforesaid.

And the said Court is hereby required to convene and or-
ganize at the said Navy Yard at Washington on the said second
day of May, and is authorized and directed to summon before
it such persons as may be deemed necessary to give informa-
tion touching the matters aforesaid; and it is also empowered,
authorized and directed, diligently and strictly to inquire into
the said matters, to make a statement of the facts in relation
to the same as they shall appear to the Court, and particular-
ly to examine into and report the causes which led to the con-
duct of the said David Porter at the Island of Porto Rico,
before mentioned, and to ascertain and report whether the
Naval forces of the United States were employed in the most
effective manner in the suppression of piracy, or in objects of
inferior moment to the neglect of the public interests; all
which you will transmit to this Department, to be submitted
to the President of the United States for his consideration.

And for your so doing, this shall be to you and to all con-
cerned, a sufficient warrant.

Given under my hand, and the seal of the Navy De-
partment of the United States at the City of Wash-
[l. *.] ington, this nineteenth day of April, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-
five, and of the Independence of the United States
the forty-ninth.



.Minutes of the proceedings of a Court of Inquiry directed to

investigate the conduct of David Porter, Esquire, a Captain.

in. the Navy of the United States, convened at the Navy Yard.

at the City of Washington, this second day of May, in the year

one thousand eight hundred and twenty-Jive, in obedience to

the precept of the Honourable the Secretary of the Navy.

bearing date the 19th day of April, 1825 — which is hereunto

annexed and marked (A).

Captain Isaac Chauncey, appointed in and by the said pre-
cept as President of said Court, and Captains William M.
Craine, and George C. Reed, members thereof, and Richard
S. Coxe, Judge Advocate, appeared.

Captain David Porter also appeared, and being asked whe-
ther he had any objection to offer against either of the mem-
bers of the Court, replied that he had no specific objection
to individuals, but he. objected to the materials of which the
Court was composed ; and stated further, that he had some
remarks to make on the subject, as well as on the precept;
that he did not think the Court was legally formed. The oath
prescribed by law in such case was administered by the Judge
Advocate to the President and members of the Court — and
the President administered to the Judge Advocate the oath
required by law to be taken by him.

Captain Porter then submitted, and read to the Court, a pa-
per containing certain remarks upon the precept by the au-
thority of which the Court had been convened, which was an-
nexed to the record, and marked (B). The room being clear-
ed, the Court proceeded maturely to deliberate on the same :
after some time it was opened, and the Judge Advocate in-
formed Captain Porter that he had been instructed to read to
him a letter which had been addressed by the Judge Advocate,
by the directions of the Court, to the Secretary of the Navy,
by which he would be apprized of the course which the
Court had taken with regard to the paper submitted by him —
which letter was read, annexed, and marked (C).

The Court then adjourned till to-morrow morning at 11

TUESDAY, May 3d.

The Court met pursuant to adjournment ofyesterday : pre-
sent as before. »

The Judge Advocate submitted and read to the Court a
communication from the Honourable the Secretary of the Na-


vy, in answer to the letter yesterday addressed to him, which
was annexed to the record and marked (D).

The Judge Advocate then submitted and read to the Court
certified copies from the Navy Department, of certain papers,
annexed to the record and marked (Nos. !, 2, 3. 4. 5 & (i).

Charles T. Piatt, a Lieutenant in the Navy of the United
States, being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says:

On the 24th October last, as I believe, about 7 o'clock in the
morning, I received a communication from Messrs. Cabot,
Baily, & Co., Commercial Agents at St. Thomas, informing
me that their store had been forcibly entered the preceding
night, and robbed of goods to the amount of not less than five
thousand dollars. I commanded the Beagle then at St. Tho-
mas. With this communication I received also a request from
Messrs. Cabot and Baily, to assist in recovering the goods.
I went on shore and called on tiiem, and there learned from
merchants who had been previously robbed at the same place,
that they had good reason for supposing that these goods had
been taken to Foxardo, or in that neighbourhood. I lost no
time in getting my vessel ready for sea ; took with me a pi-
Jot furnished from the shore, and a clerk of Messrs. Cabot
and Baily, with a description of the goods that had been stolen.
On the evening of the 26th, about 6 o'clock, I anchored with
my colours flying in the harbour of Foxardo. It was then so
late that the pilot did not think it prudent to goon shore, or
was not capable of shewing me the way. Early the next
morning, (the 27th) a boat came along side with a message
from the Captain of the port, who said he would be happy to
see me on shore. I inquired whether he was acquainted
with the character of the vessel, to which he replied yes : lest
he might be mistaken, 1 directed him to inform the Captain of
the port it was the United States' Schooner Beagle, and that
I should he on shore as soon as possible. At about half past
six I landed : I was there met by a parcel of ruffians, I could
hardly tell what they were. One of them informed me that
I could not proceed up to the village I inquired of him
who he was, whether an officer or not ; he gave me no satis-
faction whatever, but merely repeated that 1 could not proceed
up to the town. I then proceeded on without any interruption
whatever ; hiving been advised so to do by some citizens who
were there, who informed me these people had no authority
to stop me.

Having entered the village, I first went to the Captain of
the port, having been informed by a gentleman, a citizen of
the place, that this was proper. I informed the Captain of
the port of the object of my visit, and my reasons for appear-


♦ng in citizen's dress, and after producing the letter addressed
to Mr. Campos, he appeared perfectly satisfied with my cha-
racter, and directed me to call upon the Alcalde, and iniorm
him. I called on the Alcalde, and explained to him my object,
and again produced the letter to Mr. Campos. He was per-
fectly satisfied with my character, and appeared very much
pleased that 1 had taken the precaution to come on shore in
citizen's dress. He then stated that he had do doubt that he-
should be able to obtain the goods before night, or ascertain
where they were. This conversation was entirely between
ourselves, the interpreter only being present- — every one else
being out of hearing. He said the recovery of the goods
would probably be attended with some expense. I replied,
that if it was necessary to offer a reward for the recovery of
the goods, I was authorized to offer one, not to exceed one
thousand dollars. I then proposed going round to the differ-
ent stores where it was possible these goods might have been
deposited, with the police, and examine the goods and see if
they corresponded with the samples and descriptions we had.
It was supposed that the goods which had been stolen were the
only goods of that description in the country. He told me to
let that matter rest — to let him manage the affair. He observed,
that as I had very properly taken the precaution to come on
shore in citizen's clothes, he thought it advisable to let it
rest entirely with him ; that if I accompanied him, it might ex*
cite some suspicion. I accordingly went to a public house, and
took my breakfast. I received a message from the Alcalde,
requesting me to call at his office. 1 was then under the im-
pression that he had made some discoveries in respect to the
goods that I was in search of. I went over to his office di-
rectly ; Lieut. Ritchie and the pilot were with me, to see
what the result was. I inquired, on my arrival at the office
of the Alcalde, whether he had sent for me, and for what pur-
pose. To this the Captain of the port replied in the most
provoking and insulting manner, that he had sent for me for
the purpose of demanding my register. I informed them that
I had previously offered to shew my commission, my uniform,
and my clothes ; that I had no register ; that a man-of-war
carried none. He then told me, that if I did not produce my
register at once, he would imprison me. I then requested
permission to go on board my vessel with any officer they
might choose to send with me, and that I would satisfy them of

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Online LibraryDavid PorterAn exposition of the facts and circumstances which justified the expedition to Foxardo (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 10)