James D. Richardson.

A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 2, part 1: James Monroe online

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purchased for the use of the Army during the years 1820 and 1821,
comprising a description of the articles, of whom the purchases were
made, at what prices, and what proportion thereof was of American
manufacture," I herewith transmit a report from the Secretary of War.


WASHINGTON, _March 8, 1822_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States_:

In transmitting to the House of Representatives the documents called for
by the resolution of that House of the 30th January, I consider it my
duty to invite the attention of Congress to a very important subject,
and to communicate the sentiments of the Executive on it, that, should
Congress entertain similar sentiments, there may be such cooperation
between the two departments of the Government as their respective rights
and duties may require.

The revolutionary movement in the Spanish Provinces in this hemisphere
attracted the attention and excited the sympathy of our fellow-citizens
from its commencement. This feeling was natural and honorable to
them, from causes which need not be communicated to you. It has been
gratifying to all to see the general acquiescence which has been
manifested in the policy which the constituted authorities have deemed
it proper to pursue in regard to this contest. As soon as the movement
assumed such a steady and consistent form as to make the success of the
Provinces probable, the rights to which they were entitled by the law
of nations as equal parties to a civil war were extended to them. Each
party was permitted to enter our ports with its public and private
ships, and to take from them every article which was the subject of
commerce with other nations. Our citizens, also, have carried on
commerce with both parties, and the Government has protected it with
each in articles not contraband of war. Through the whole of this
contest the United States have remained neutral, and have fulfilled with
the utmost impartiality all the obligations incident to that character.

This contest has now reached such a stage and been attended with such
decisive success on the part of the Provinces that it merits the most
profound consideration whether their right to the rank of independent
nations, with all the advantages incident to it in their intercourse
with the United States, is not complete. Buenos Ayres assumed that rank
by a formal declaration in 1816, and has enjoyed it since 1810 free from
invasion by the parent country. The Provinces composing the Republic
of Colombia, after having separately declared their independence, were
united by a fundamental law of the 17th of December, 1819. A strong
Spanish force occupied at that time certain parts of the territory
within their limits and waged a destructive war. That force has since
been repeatedly defeated, and the whole of it either made prisoners
or destroyed or expelled from the country, with the exception of an
inconsiderable portion only, which is blockaded in two fortresses.
The Provinces on the Pacific have likewise been very successful. Chili
declared independence in 1818, and has since enjoyed it undisturbed; and
of late, by the assistance of Chili and Buenos Ayres, the revolution
has extended to Peru. Of the movement in Mexico our information is less
authentic, but it is, nevertheless, distinctly understood that the new
Government has declared its independence, and that there is now no
opposition to it there nor a force to make any. For the last three years
the Government of Spain has not sent a single corps of troops to any
part of that country, nor is there any reason to believe it will send
any in future. Thus it is manifest that all those Provinces are not only
in the full enjoyment of their independence, but, considering the state
of the war and other circumstances, that there is not the most remote
prospect of their being deprived of it.

When the result of such a contest is manifestly settled, the new
governments have a claim to recognition by other powers which ought not
to be resisted. Civil wars too often excite feelings which the parties
can not control. The opinion entertained by other powers as to the
result may assuage those feelings and promote an accommodation between
them useful and honorable to both. The delay which has been observed in
making a decision on this important subject will, it is presumed, have
afforded an unequivocal proof to Spain, as it must have done to other
powers, of the high respect entertained by the United States for her
rights and of their determination not to interfere with them. The
Provinces belonging to this hemisphere are our neighbors, and have
successively, as each portion of the country acquired its independence,
pressed their recognition by an appeal to facts not to be contested, and
which they thought gave them a just title to it. To motives of interest
this Government has invariably disclaimed all pretension, being resolved
to take no part in the controversy or other measure in regard to it
which should not merit the sanction of the civilized world. To other
claims a just sensibility has been always felt and frankly acknowledged,
but they in themselves could never become an adequate cause of action.
It was incumbent on this Government to look to every important fact and
circumstance on which a sound opinion could be formed, which has been
done. When we regard, then, the great length of time which this war has
been prosecuted, the complete success which has attended it in favor
of the Provinces, the present condition of the parties, and the utter
inability of Spain to produce any change in it, we are compelled to
conclude that its fate is settled, and that the Provinces which have
declared their independence and are in the enjoyment of it ought to
be recognized.

Of the views of the Spanish Government on this subject no particular
information has been recently received. It may be presumed that the
successful progress of the revolution through such a long series of
years, gaining strength and extending annually in every direction, and
embracing by the late important events, with little exception, all the
dominions of Spain south of the United States on this continent, placing
thereby the complete sovereignty over the whole in the hands of the
people, will reconcile the parent country to an accommodation with them
on the basis of their unqualified independence. Nor has any authentic
information been recently received of the disposition of other powers
respecting it. A sincere desire has been cherished to act in concert
with them in the proposed recognition, of which several were some time
past duly apprised; but it was understood that they were not prepared
for it. The immense space between those powers, even those which border
on the Atlantic, and these Provinces makes the movement an affair
of less interest and excitement to them than to us. It is probable,
therefore, that they have been less attentive to its progress than we
have been. It may be presumed, however, that the late events will dispel
all doubt of the result.

In proposing this measure it is not contemplated to change thereby in
the slightest manner our friendly relations with either of the parties,
but to observe in all respects, as heretofore, should the war be
continued, the most perfect neutrality between them. Of this friendly
disposition an assurance will be given to the Government of Spain,
to whom it is presumed it will be, as it ought to be, satisfactory.
The measure is proposed under a thorough conviction that it is in
strict accord with the law of nations, that it is just and right as
to the parties, and that the United States owe it to their station
and character in the world, as well as to their essential interests,
to adopt it. Should Congress concur in the view herein presented, they
will doubtless see the propriety of making the necessary appropriations
for carrying it into effect.


WASHINGTON, _March 9, 1822_.

_To the House of Representatives_:

I transmit a report from the Secretary of War, together with the annual
return of the militia of the United States, and an exhibit of the arms,
accouterments, and ammunition of the several States and Territories of
the United States, prepared in conformity with the militia laws on that


WASHINGTON, _March 12, 1822_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States_:

I lay before the Senate the copy of a supplementary report, made by
William Lambert, in relation to the longitude of the Capitol from
Greenwich, in pursuance of a joint resolution of the two Houses of
Congress of the 3d of March, 1821, and I subjoin an extract from the
letter of Mr. Lambert submitting that report.


WASHINGTON, _March 26, 1822_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States_:

Congress having suspended the appropriation, at the last session,
for the fortification at Dauphine Island, in consequence of a doubt
which was entertained of the propriety of that position, the further
prosecution of the work was suspended, and an order given, as intimated
in the message of the 3d of December, to the Board of Engineers and
Naval Commissioners to examine that part of the coast, and particularly
that position, as also the position at Mobile Point, with which it is
connected, and to report their opinion thereon, which has been done,
and which report is herewith communicated.

By this report it appears to be still the opinion of the Board that the
construction of works at both these positions is of great importance to
the defense of New Orleans and of all that portion of our Union which is
connected with and dependent on the Mississippi and on the other waters
which empty into the Gulf of Mexico between that river and Cape Florida.
That the subject may be fully before Congress, I transmit also a copy
of the former report of the Board, being that on which the work was
undertaken and has been in part executed. Approving as I do the opinion
of the Board, I consider it my duty to state the reasons on which I
adopted the first report, especially as they were in part suggested by
the occurrences of the late war.

The policy which induced Congress to decide on and provide for the
defense of the coast immediately after the war was founded on the marked
events of that interesting epoch. The vast body of men which it was
found necessary to call into the field through the whole extent of our
maritime frontier, and the number who perished by exposure, with the
immense expenditure of money and waste of property which followed, were
to be traced in an eminent degree to the defenseless condition of the
coast. It was to mitigate these evils in future wars, and even for the
higher purpose of preventing war itself, that the decision was formed to
make the coast, so far as it might be practicable, impregnable, and that
the measures necessary to that great object have been pursued with so
much zeal since.

It is known that no part of our Union is more exposed to invasion by the
numerous avenues leading to it, or more defenseless by the thinness of
the neighboring population, or offers a greater temptation to invasion,
either as a permanent acquisition or as a prize to the cupidity of
grasping invaders from the immense amount of produce deposited there,
than the city of New Orleans. It is known also that the seizure of no
part of our Union could affect so deeply and vitally the immediate
interests of so many States and of so many of our fellow-citizens,
comprising all that extensive territory and numerous population which
are connected with and dependent on the Mississippi, as the seizure of
that city. Strong works, well posted, were therefore deemed absolutely
necessary for its protection.

It is not, however, by the Mississippi only, or the waters which
communicate directly with or approach nearest to New Orleans, that the
town is assailable. It will be recollected that in the late war the
public solicitude was excited not so much by the danger which menaced it
in those directions as by the apprehension that, while a feint might be
made there, the main force, landing either in the bay of Mobile or other
waters between that bay and the Rigolets, would be thrown above the town
in the rear of the army which had been collected there for its defense.
Full confidence was entertained that that gallant army, led by the
gallant and able chief who commanded it, would repel any attack to which
it might be exposed in front. But had such a force been thrown above the
town, and a position taken on the banks of the river, the disadvantage
to which our troops would have been subjected, attacked in front and
rear as they might have been, may easily be conceived. As their supplies
would have been cut off, they could not long have remained in the city,
and, withdrawing from it, it must have fallen immediately into the hands
of the force below. In ascending the river to attack the force above,
the attack must have been made to great disadvantage, since it must have
been on such ground and at such time as the enemy preferred. These
considerations shew that defenses other than such as are immediately
connected with the city are of great importance to its safety.

An attempt to seize New Orleans and the lower part of the Mississippi
will be made only by a great power or a combination of several powers,
with a strong naval and land force, the latter of which must be brought
in transports which may sail in shallow water. If the defenses around
New Orleans are well posted and of sufficient strength to repel any
attack which may be made on them, the city can be assailed only by a
land force, which must pass in the direction above suggested, between
the Rigolets and the bay of Mobile. It becomes, therefore, an object of
high importance to present such an obstacle to such an attempt as would
defeat it should it be made. Fortifications are useful for the defense
of posts, to prevent the approach to cities and the passage of rivers;
but as works their effect can not be felt beyond the reach of their
cannon. They are formidable in other respects by the body of men
within them, which may be removed and applied to other purposes.

Between the Rigolets and the bay of Mobile there is a chain of islands,
at the extremity of which is Dauphine Island, which forms, with Mobile
Point, from which it is distant about 3-1/4 miles, the entrance into the
bay of Mobile, which leads through that part of the State of Alabama to
the towns of Mobile and Blakeley. The distance between Dauphine Island
and the Rigolets is 90 miles. The principal islands between them are
Massacre, Horn, Ship, and Cat islands, near to which there is anchorage
for large ships of war. The first object is to prevent the landing of
any force for the purposes above stated between the Rigolets and the bay
of Mobile; the second, to defeat that force in case it should be landed.
When the distance from one point to the other is considered, it is
believed that it would be impossible to establish works so near to each
other as to prevent the landing of such a force. Its defeat, therefore,
should be effectually provided for. If the arrangement should be such as
to make that result evident, it ought to be fairly concluded that the
attempt would not be made, and thus we should accomplish in the best
mode possible and with the least expense the complete security of this
important part of our Union, the great object of our system of defense
for the whole.

There are some other views of this subject which it is thought will
merit particular attention in deciding the point in question. Not being
able to establish a chain of posts, at least for the present, along the
whole coast from the Rigolets to Dauphine Island, or on all the islands
between them, at which point shall we begin? Should an attack on the
city be anticipated, it can not be doubted that an adequate force would
immediately be ordered there for its defense. If the enemy should
despair of making an impression on the works near the town, it may be
presumed that they would promptly decide to make the attempt in the
manner and in the line above suggested between the Rigolets and the
bay of Mobile. It will be obvious that the nearer the fortification is
erected to the Rigolets with a view to this object, should it be on Cat
or Ship Island, for example, the wider would the passage be left open
between that work and the bay of Mobile for such an enterprise. The main
army, being drawn to New Orleans, would be ready to meet such an attempt
near the Rigolets or at any other point not distant from the city. It
is probable, therefore, that the enemy, profiting of a fair wind, would
make his attempt at the greatest distance compatible with his object
from that point, and at the bay of Mobile should there not be works
there of sufficient strength to prevent it. Should, however, strong
works be erected there, such as were sufficient not only for their own
defense against any attack which might be made on them, but to hold a
force connected with that which might be drawn from the neighboring
country, capable of cooperating with the force at the city, and which
would doubtless be ordered to those works in the event of war, it
would be dangerous for the invading force to land anywhere between the
Rigolets and the bay of Mobile and to pass toward the Mississippi above
the city, lest such a body might be thrown in its rear as to cut off its
retreat. These considerations show the great advantage of establishing
at the mouth of the bay of Mobile very strong works, such as would be
adequate to all the purposes suggested.

If fortifications were necessary only to protect our country and cities
against the entry of large ships of war into our bays and rivers, they
would be of little use for the defense of New Orleans, since that city
can not be approached so near, either by the Mississippi or in any other
direction, by such vessels for them to make an attack on it. In the
Gulf, within our limits west of Florida, which had been acquired since
these works were decided on and commenced, there is no bay or river into
which large ships of war can enter. As a defense, therefore, against an
attack from such vessels extensive works would be altogether unnecessary
either at Mobile Point or at Dauphine Island, since sloops of war only
can navigate the deepest channel. But it is not for that purpose
alone that these works are intended. It is to provide also against a
formidable invasion, both by land and sea, the object of which may be to
shake the foundation of our system. Should such small works be erected,
and such an invasion take place, they would be sure to fall at once into
the hands of the invaders and to be turned against us.

Whether the acquisition of Florida may be considered as affording an
inducement to make any change in the position or strength of these works
is a circumstance which also merits attention. From the view which
I have taken of the subject I am of opinion that it should not. The
defense of New Orleans and of the river Mississippi against a powerful
invasion being one of the great objects of such extensive works, that
object would be essentially abandoned if they should be established
eastward of the bay of Mobile, since the force to be collected in
them would be placed at too great a distance to allow the cooperation
necessary for those purposes between it and that at the city; in
addition to which, it may be observed that by carrying them to Pensacola
or farther to the east that bay would fall immediately, in case of such
invasion, into the hands of the enemy, whereby such cooperation would be
rendered utterly impossible, and the State of Alabama would also be left
wholly unprotected.

With a view to such formidable invasion, of which we should never lose
sight, and of the great objects to which it would be directed, I think
that very strong works at some point within the Gulf of Mexico will
be found indispensable. I think also that those works ought to be
established at the bay of Mobile - one at Mobile Point and the other on
Dauphine Island - whereby the enemy would be excluded and the complete
command of that bay, with all the advantages attending it, be secured
to ourselves. In the case of such invasion, it will, it is presumed,
be deemed necessary to collect at some point other than at New Orleans
a strong force, capable of moving in any direction and affording aid
to any part which may be attacked; and, in my judgment, no position
presents so many advantages as a point of rendezvous for such force as
the mouth of that bay. The fortification at the Rigolets will defend the
entrance by one passage into Lake Pontchartrain, and also into Pearl
River, which empties into the Gulf at that point. Between the Rigolets
and Mobile Bay there are but two inlets which deserve the name, those of
St. Louis and Pascagola, the entrance into which is too shallow even
for the smallest vessels; and from the Rigolets to Mobile Bay the whole
coast is equally shallow, affording the depth of a few feet of water
only. Cat Island, which is nearest the Rigolets, is about 7-1/2 miles
distant from the coast and 30 from the Rigolets. Ship Island is distant
about 10 miles from Cat Island and 12 from the coast. Between these
islands and the coast the water is very shallow.

As to the precise depth of water in approaching those islands from the
Gulf, the report of the topographical engineers not having yet been
received, it is impossible to speak with precision; but admitting it
to be such as for frigates and even ships of the line to enter, the
anchorage at both is unsafe, being much exposed to northwest winds.
Along the coast, therefore, there is no motive for such strong works on
our part - no town to guard, no inlet into the country to defend - and if
placed on the islands and the entrance to them is such as to admit large
ships of war, distant as they are from the coast, it would be more easy
for the enemy to assail them with effect.

The position, however, at Mobile Bay is essentially different. That bay
takes its name from the Mobile River, which is formed by the junction of
the Alabama and Tombigbee, which extend each about 300 miles into the
interior, approaching at their head waters near the Tennessee River.
If the enemy possessed its mouth, and fortified Mobile Point and
Dauphine Island, being superior at sea it would be very difficult for
us to dispossess him of either, even of Mobile Point; and holding that
position, Pensacola would soon fall, as without incurring great expense
in the construction of works there it would present but a feeble
resistance to a strong force in its rear. If we had a work at Mobile
Point only, the enemy might take Dauphine Island, which would afford
him great aid in attacking the point, and enable him, even should we
succeed in repelling the attack, to render us great mischief there and
throughout the whole Gulf. In every view which can be taken of the
subject it appears indispensable for us to command the entrance into
Mobile Bay, and that decision being taken, I think the considerations
which favor the occupation of Dauphine Island by a strong work are
conclusive. It is proper to observe that after the repulse before New
Orleans in the late war the British forces took possession of Dauphine
Island and held it till the peace. Under neither of the reports of the
Board of Engineers and Naval Commissioners could any but sloops of war
enter the bay or the anchorage between Dauphine and Pelican islands.
Both reports give to that anchorage 18 feet at low water and 20-1/2 at
high. The only difference between them consists in this, that in the
first a bar leading to the anchorage, reducing the depth of water to
12 feet at low tide, was omitted. In neither case could frigates enter,
though sloops of war of larger size might. The whole scope, however, of
this reasoning turns on a different principle - on the works necessary to
defend that bay and, by means thereof, New Orleans, the Mississippi, and
all the surrounding country against a powerful invasion both by land and
sea, and not on the precise depth of water in any of the approaches to
the bay or to the island.

The reasoning which is applicable to the works near New Orleans and at
the bay of Mobile is equally so in certain respects to those which are
to be erected for the defense of all the bays and rivers along the other
parts of the coast. All those works are also erected on a greater scale
than would be necessary for the sole purpose of preventing the passage

Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 2, part 1: James Monroe → online text (page 14 of 36)