A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 4, part 2: John Tyler online

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all such persons as he may have reason to believe to be likely to give
any information touching Rhode Island affairs, and to report with the
greatest dispatch, if necessary, to the President. He will also address
a letter to General Wool conveying to him the fears entertained of a
hostile invasion contemplated to place Dorr in the chair of state of
Rhode Island by persons in the States of Connecticut and New York,
and also to General Eustis, at Boston, of a similar character, with
instructions to adopt such inquiries (to be secretly made) as they may
deem necessary, and to report with the greatest dispatch all information
which from time to time they may acquire.

(Indorsed: "President's instructions, May 28, 1842.")

WAR DEPARTMENT, _May 28, 1842_.


_Newport, R.I._

SIR: The governor of Rhode Island has represented to the President that
preparations are making by Mr. Dorr and some of his adherents to recruit
men in the neighboring States for the purpose of supporting his
usurpation of the powers of government, and that he has provided arms
and camp equipage for a large number of men. It is very important that
we should have accurate information on this subject, and particularly in
relation to the movements made in other States. I have therefore to
desire you to employ proper persons to go to the places where it may be
supposed such preparations are making to possess themselves fully of all
that is doing and in contemplation, and report frequently to you. It is
said that Mr. Dorr's principal headquarters are at the town of Thompson,
in the State of Connecticut. It may be well for you to communicate
personally with Governor King and ascertain from him the points and
places at which any preparations for embodying men are supposed to be
making, and to direct your inquiries accordingly.

It is important that you should select persons on whose integrity and
accuracy the fullest reliance can be placed. They should not be
partisans on either side, although to effect the object it will of
course be necessary that some of them should obtain (if they do not
already possess) the confidence of the friends of Mr. Dorr. You will
please communicate directly to me all the information you obtain, and
your own views of it.

It is scarcely necessary to say that this communication is of the most
private and confidential character, and is not to be made known to

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


WAR DEPARTMENT, _May 29, 1842_.

Brigadier-General EUSTIS,


SIR: The governor of Rhode Island has represented to the President that
preparations are making in other States (particularly in Massachusetts)
for an armed invasion of that State to support the usurpations of Mr.
Dorr and his friends and foment domestic insurrection. It is very
important that we should have accurate information on this subject, and
I have to desire you to take all necessary means to acquire it, and
communicate directly to me as speedily and frequently as possible. It is
said that 1,000 stand of arms have been procured in Boston, some pieces
of artillery, and a large quantity of camp equipage for the use of the
insurgents. Your attention to this is particularly desired to ascertain
its truth or falsehood. It is also said that there are 200 men enrolled
and embodied in a town upon the borders of Rhode Island, the name of
which has escaped me. Please inquire into this. If it becomes necessary
to employ confidential persons to discover what is doing, you will do
so, being careful to select those only that are entirely trustworthy;
and it will be desirable to avoid heated partisans on either side. Their
inquiries should be conducted quietly and privately.

I desire you to communicate fully and freely what you may learn and your
views concerning it for the information of the President and the

It is scarcely necessary to say that this communication is strictly
private and confidential.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


NEW YORK, _June 3, 1842_.


MY DEAR SIR: I came to this city yesterday, having taken a severe cold
on the Sound, and am now just out of my bed. I transmit herewith a
letter from - - , a friend appointed by me, as you requested, to look
into the Rhode Island business. Mr. - - has had access to authentic
sources in Governor Dorr's party, and I have no doubt his account of the
whole matter is perfectly just. I supposed I should receive the foreign
mail here, but I shall not wait for it if I should feel well enough to
travel to-morrow.

Yours, truly,


NEW YORK, _June 3, 1842_.


_Secretary of State_.

DEAR SIR: In pursuance of the arrangement made when you were in Boston,
I have visited the State of Rhode Island, and, so far as could be done,
possessed myself of a knowledge of the existing state of things there.
I had a full and free interview with Governor King and his council, as
well as with several other gentlemen upon each side of the matter in
controversy. All agree that, so far as the people of Rhode Island are
concerned, there is no danger of any further armed resistance to the
legitimate authorities of the State. It was never intended, probably, by
the majority of those called the suffrage party to proceed in any event
to violence, and when they found themselves pushed to such an extremity
by their leaders they deserted their leaders and are now every day
enrolling themselves in the volunteer companies which are being
organized in every part of the State for the suppression of any further
insurrectionary movements that may be made. A large majority of those
elected or appointed to office under the people's constitution (so
called) have resigned their places and renounced all allegiance to that
constitution and the party which supports it, so that the insurgents are
now without any such organization as would enable them to carry out
their original purposes if they otherwise had the power.

Governor King and his council alone, of all the intelligent persons with
whom I consulted, fear an irruption upon them of an armed force to be
collected in other States, and this is the only difficulty of which they
now have any apprehension. This fear is excited by the boasts frequently
made by the few who still avow their determination to adhere to the
constitution that they have at their control large bodies of armed men,
as well as camp equipage, provisions, money, and munitions of war, which
have been provided for them in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.
The supposition that Rhode Island is to be invaded by a foreign force,
when that force would neither be led nor followed by any considerable
number of the people of the State, does not seem, to say the least,
to be a very reasonable one. If those who think they are suffering
injustice are not disposed to make an effort to redress their supposed
wrongs, they would hardly expect the work to be done by others.

The ostensible object of the insurgents now is not the real one. They
meditate no further forcible proceedings. They bluster and threaten for
several reasons:

First. Because they suppose they shall thus break their fall a little
and render their retreat a little less inglorious than it would be if
they should beat it at once.

Second. They believe that if they keep up a shew of opposition to the
existing government they shall be more likely to revolutionize it by
peaceable measures; and

Third. They think they can make their influence so far felt as to
operate favorably upon those who are now under arrest for treason or who
may be hereafter arrested for the same offense.

That these are the views and purposes of the insurgents I am
confidentially assured by the notorious individual from whom I told you
I could learn their plans and designs; and no one has better means of
knowing than he, having been himself one of Mr. Dorr's confidential
advisers from the beginning.

The meeting at Woonsocket on the 1st did not amount to much, being but
thinly attended. The projected fortifications at that place have been
abandoned. It is said they will be thrown up in some other spot to be
designated hereafter, but this is not believed.

Mr. Dorr is now understood to be lurking in this city. Warrants have
been issued for his arrest both by the governor of this State and the
governor of Massachusetts, but he moves so privately and shifts his
whereabouts so often that he eludes his pursuers.

Under all the circumstances I think you will come to the opinion
entertained by seven-eighths of all the people of Providence (the scene
of his operations thus far) that, deserted by his followers at home and
disgraced in the estimation of those who sympathized with him abroad;
Mr. Dorr has it not in his power to do any further serious mischief.

Yours, very truly,

- - - - .

PROVIDENCE, R.I., _June 22, 1842_.


_Secretary of War_.

SIR: When I last had the honor to write to you I felt confident that
there would be no further disturbance of the peace in this State.
Governor King was of the same opinion. But I now fear, from strong
indications, that Mr. Dorr and his party are determined to enter the
State in force, and that in a few days serious difficulties will arise.

On my arrival here this morning from Newport, on my way to New York,
I learnt from undoubted authority that several large boxes of muskets,
supposed to contain about eighty, were received the evening before last
at Woonsocket from New York; that several mounted cannon had been also
received there and forwarded on to Chepachet; that a number of men, not
citizens of the State, with arms, were in and about Woonsocket and
Chepachet; that forty-eight kegs of powder were stolen on Sunday night
last from a powder house in this neighborhood, and that Dorr, with about
twenty men, landed last evening at Norwich.

An unsuccessful attempt was made two nights ago to steal the guns of the
artillery company at Warren, and at several other places where guns had
been deposited by the State, by some of Dorr's men, one of whom has been
identified and arrested.

It has been observed for several days past that many of the suffrage
party and residents of this city have been sending off their families
and effects. The inhabitants of the city are seriously alarmed and in a
state of much excitement. An express to convey the above intelligence to
Governor King at Newport will be immediately sent down by the mayor of
the city.

I shall be in New York early to-morrow morning ready to receive any
instructions you may think proper to honor me with.

I have been compelled to write this in haste.

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,

_Colonel Second Regiment Artillery_.


_June 23,1842_.

SIR:[121] Governor King, having gone to Newport this afternoon, has
requested me to forward his letter to Your Excellency, with such
depositions as I could procure concerning the state of affairs in
the north part of the State. These documents will be taken on by the
Hon. William Sprague, our Senator, who intends leaving to-night for
Washington. Should any accident prevent Mr. Sprague from going, I shall
forward them to be put in the mail. I inclose the depositions[122] of
Messrs. Samuel W. Peckham and Charles I. Harris. Messrs. Keep and
Shelley, whom I sent out, have just returned. If I can get their
depositions in time, I shall also forward them.

[Footnote 121: Addressed to the President of the United States.]

[Footnote 122: Omitted.]

About 11 a.m. this day a body marched from Woonsocket to Chepachet
amounting to 90 men, and other small bodies are marching in that
direction, so that I suppose that about 400 will be concentrated at
Chepachet this evening.

In this city there is much excitement, but no symptoms as yet of men
gathering with arms. There are many who I fear will be ready to join
in any mischief should Dorr's forces approach us. Up to 8 o'clock this
morning Mr. Dorr was in Connecticut, but a gentleman from Chepachet
informs me his friends expect him this day.

I remain, with great respect, your obedient servant,



_Providence, June 23, 1842_.

His Excellency JOHN TYLER,

_President of the United States_.

SIR: After my last communication the excitement and military operations
of the insurgents against the government of this State appeared to
subside, and I indulged hopes that no open violence would be attempted,
but that they were disposed to await the action of the general assembly,
now in session at Newport. I regret that I am obliged to inform Your
Excellency that within a few days past appearances have become more
alarming. Several iron cannon have been stolen from citizens of
Providence, and during the night of the 19th a powder house, owned by a
merchant of Providence, was broken open and about 1,200 pounds of powder
stolen therefrom. Yesterday the military operations of the insurgents
became more decided in their character. At Woonsocket and Chepachet
there were gatherings of men in military array, pretending to act under
the authority of Thomas W. Dorr. They established a kind of martial law
in those villages, stopped peaceable citizens in the highways, and at
Chepachet four citizens of Providence were seized by an armed force,
pinioned, and compelled to march about 10 miles under a guard of about
forty men to Woonsocket, where they were cruelly treated under pretense
of being spies. The insurgents are provided with cannon, tents,
ammunition, and stores.

It is ascertained that Thomas W. Dorr has returned from the city of New
York to the State of Connecticut, and I have reason to believe he will
be at Chepachet this day, where he will concentrate what forces he has
already under arms with such others as he can collect. Those already
assembled are composed of citizens of other States as well as of our
own, and are variously estimated at 500 to 1,000 men.

I have this morning had an interview with Colonel Bankhead, who will
communicate to the War Department such facts as have come to his
knowledge. I would further state to Your Excellency that in those
villages and their vicinity the civil authority is disregarded and

Under these circumstances I respectfully submit to Your Excellency that
the crisis has arrived when the aid demanded by the legislature of the
State from the Federal Government is imperatively required to furnish
that protection to our citizens from domestic violence which is
guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

I confidently trust that Your Excellency will adopt such measures as
will afford us prompt and efficient relief.

I remain, with great consideration, your obedient servant,


WASHINGTON, _June 25, 1842_.

Governor KING.

SIR: Your letter of the 23d instant was this day received by the hands
of Governor Sprague, together with the documents accompanying the same.
Your excellency has unintentionally overlooked the fact that the
legislature of Rhode Island is now in session. The act of Congress gives
to the Executive of the United States no power to summon to the aid of
the State the military force of the United States unless an application
shall be made by the legislature if in session; and that the State
executive can not make such application except when the legislature can
not be convened. (See act of Congress, February 28, 1795.)

I presume that your excellency has been led into the error of making
this application (the legislature of the State being in session at the
date of your dispatch) from a misapprehension of the true import of my
letter of 7th May last. I lose no time in correcting such
misapprehension if it exist.

Should the legislature of Rhode Island deem it proper to make a
similar application to that addressed to me by your excellency, their
communication shall receive all the attention which will be justly due
to the high source from which such application shall emanate.

I renew to your excellency assurances of high consideration.


PROVIDENCE, R.I., _June 23, 1842_.


_Secretary of War_.

SIR: I addressed you yesterday afternoon in great haste, that my letter
might go by the mail (then about being closed), to inform you of the
sudden change in the aspect of affairs in this State, and also to inform
you that I should be this morning at Governors Island, New York.

At the urgent solicitation of Governor King, who crossed over from
Newport to Stonington to intercept me on the route, I returned last
night to this place from Stonington, having proceeded so far on my way
to New York.

In addition to what I stated in my letter yesterday, I learn from
Governor King (who has just called on me) that four citizens of this
city who had gone to Chepachet to ascertain what was going on there were
arrested as spies by the insurgents, bound, and sent last night to
Woonsocket, where they were confined when his informer left there at
8 o'clock this morning; also that martial law had been proclaimed by the
insurgents at Woonsocket and Chepachet, and no one was allowed to enter
or depart from either place without permission.

The citizens of this city are in a state of intense excitement.

I shall return to-morrow to Newport to await any instructions you may be
pleased to favor me with.

I have the honor to be, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,

_Colonel Second Regiment Artillery_.

PROVIDENCE, R.I., _June 23, 1842_.

Brigadier-General R. JONES,

_Adjutant-General United States Army_.

SIR: I left Newport yesterday morning to return to Fort Columbus, with
the belief that my presence could no longer be necessary for the purpose
I had been ordered there for. The legislature was in session, and, as I
was well assured, determined honestly and faithfully to adopt measures
to meet the wishes of the citizens of this State to form a constitution
on such liberal principles as to insure full satisfaction to all
patriotic and intelligent men who had any interest in the welfare of
the State. The well-known intention of the legislature in this respect
would, I hoped and believed, reconcile the factious and produce
tranquillity. But the aspect of affairs has suddenly become more
threatening and alarming. There is an assemblage of men at Woonsocket
and Chepachet, two small villages (say 15 miles distant hence) on the
borders of Connecticut, composed principally of strangers or persons
from other States. They have recently received 75 muskets from Boston
and 80 from New York, in addition to former supplies. They have also
several mounted cannon and a large quantity of ammunition, 48 kegs of
which they stole from a powder house not far distant from this, the
property of a manufacturer of powder. Dorr, it is supposed, joined his
party at one of the above-named places the night before last; he has
certainly returned from New York and passed through Norwich. His
_concentrated_ forces are variously estimated at from 500 to 1,000 men.

I had proceeded thus far yesterday afternoon on my return to New York,
and had taken my seat in the cars for Stonington, when an express from
Governor King, who was at Newport, overtook me, to request that I would
not leave the State; too late, however, for me then to stop here, as
the cars were just moving off. On getting to Stonington I there found
Governor King, who had crossed over from Newport to intercept me, and
at his solicitation I at once returned with him last night in an extra
car to this place. Not then having a moment's time to write you, as the
steamboat left immediately on the arrival of the cars at Stonington,
I sent my adjutant on in the boat with directions to report to you the
fact and the cause of my return.

I had written thus far when the governor called on me, and has informed
me that four citizens of this State, who had gone to Chepachet to
ascertain the exact state of affairs there, were arrested as spies,
bound, and sent last night to Woonsocket, where two hours ago they were
still in confinement. Martial law has been declared in Chepachet and
Woonsocket, and no one allowed to enter or depart without permission.
I yesterday afternoon wrote to the Secretary of War (as I had been
directed), in great haste, however, to send by the mail, to inform him
of the sudden change in the aspect of affairs here; in which letter
I stated that I should be at Governors Island this morning. As I, of
course, then did not contemplate to the contrary, I beg you will do me
the favor to acquaint him with the cause of my return.

I can only add that the citizens of this place are in a state of intense
anxiety and excitement. I remain here to-day at the special request of
several who have just left me. To-morrow I shall return to Newport to
await any communication from you.

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

_Colonel Second Regiment Artillery_.

PROVIDENCE, R.I., _June 27, 1842_.

SIR:[123] As there was no mail yesterday from this, I could make no
report to the Major-General Commanding of the military movements in
this quarter up to that time. Since my last letter to you most of the
volunteers and other military companies called out by the governor
have assembled here to the amount of about 2,000 men. The force of the
insurgents under the immediate direction of Mr. Dorr, and concentrated
at Chepachet, is estimated at from 800 to 1,000 men armed with muskets,
about 1,500 without arms, and 10 or 12 cannon mounted.

[Footnote 123: Addressed to Brigadier-General R. Jones, Adjutant-General
United States Army.]

It seems to be impossible to avoid a conflict between the contending
parties without the interposition of a strong regular force.

The State force here can defend this city, and it might successfully
attack the insurgent force at Chepachet; but there would be danger in
leaving the city without adequate means of protection to it, as there is
doubtless a large number within the city with concealed arms ready to
commence hostilities.

The position taken by Dorr's troops at Chepachet is naturally strong,
and has been much strengthened by intrenchments, etc. It would therefore
be highly imprudent to make the attack, even if no secret foes were left
behind within the city, without a positive certainty of success; and
with the aid of a few disciplined troops a defeat there would be ruinous
and irreparable.

A force of 300 regular troops would insure success, and probably without

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

_Colonel Second Regiment Artillery_.

WASHINGTON, _June 27, 1842_.


SIR: The intelligence from Rhode Island since the call was made on you
by the Senators from that State is of a character still more serious
and urgent than that then communicated to you by Mr. Sprague, who was
charged with communications to Your Excellency from Governor King. We
are informed that a requisition was made upon the Government of the
United States by the governor of Rhode Island, pursuant to resolutions
passed by the general assembly of that State when in session in May
last, calling for a proclamation against those engaged in an armed
rebellion against the government of Rhode Island and for military aid in
suppressing the same; that Your Excellency replied to Governor King that
in the opinion of the Executive the force arrayed against the government
of the State was not then such as to warrant immediate action on his
part, but that Your Excellency in your reply proceeded to say: "If an
exigency of lawless violence shall actually arise, the executive
government of the United States, on the application of your excellency
under the authority of the resolutions of the legislature already
submitted, will stand ready to succor the authorities of the State in
their efforts to maintain a due respect for the laws." Whereby it was
understood that in the event of the assembling of such an armed force as
would require the interference contemplated by the Constitution and laws
of the United States the Executive of the United States, upon being duly
notified of the fact by the governor of the State, would act upon the
requisition already made by the legislature without further action on
the part of that body.

We understand that upon this notice being given through the

Online LibraryUnknownA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 4, part 2: John Tyler → online text (page 37 of 45)