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Thompson, Thomas W. (1766-1821) to John Langdon

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06545 Author/Creator: Thompson, Thomas W. (1766-1821) Place Written: Washington. D.C. Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 29 December 1806 Pagination: 6 p. : docket ; 22.9 x 18.5 cm.

Written by New Hampshire Congressman Thompson to Langdon as Governor of New Hampshire. Says nothing of interest has occurred since the suspension of the non-importation law. Claims domestic issues take up most of their time. Has hope that negotiations with Britain and France are going well. Says that Aaron Burr's presence in Louisiana gave the Jefferson Administration great anxiety. But the capture of part of his flotilla and the probable capture of the rest, has relieved Jefferson. Jefferson considers Burr's insurrection suppressed. That being said, he reports that General James Wilkinson is in New Orleans and his dispatches to the Secretary of War as late as 30 November say the city will fall to Burr immediately unless government assistance is proferred. Claims "This enterprise of Burrs is certainly one of the most mysterious & extraordinary I ever heard of. Says that Jefferson thought Burr wanted to capture Mexico first and then New Orleans and Louisiana. Also says they are framing a bill "to prevent the importation of slaves after the commencement of the year 1808, but find it difficult to dispose of the poor fellows who may be imported contrary to law." Says the southerners "revolt" at the idea of having them set free because insurrection will inevitably take place. But says that "Eastern gentleman are very unwilling to restrain the unalienable right to personal liberty common to all men." Goes on to discuss European affairs and his concerns about Napoleon's ambitions. Is nervous that Great Britain will fall to Napoleon which he feels will have a negative effect on the United States. Will find Langdon a copy of the National Intelligencer so he can read the latest news.

The Non-Importation Act was passed by Congress on April 18, 1806. It forbade the importation of certain British goods in an attempt to coerce Great Britain to suspend its impressment of American sailors and to respect American sovereignty and neutrality on the high seas.

Jefferson approved an act to ban the importation of slaves into the United States in March 1807 to go into effect January 1, 1808.

Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, effectively ending Burr's political career in the east. Burr saw the Louisiana Territory (purchased from France in 1803) as a place where his political hopes could be revived. Conspiring with James Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army and Governor of Northern Louisiana Territory, Burr hatched a plot to conquer some of Louisiana and maybe even Mexico and crown himself emperor. He sought help from Britain, who considered his proposals but turned him down. With private backing, Burr trained and outfitted a small invasion force. But Wilkinson betrayed him, and Burr was captured in Louisiana in the spring of 1807 and taken to Richmond, Virginia, to stand trial for treason. Acquitted on a technicality, he faced resounding public condemnation and fled to Europe.

City of Washington Dec 29th 1806
Since the suspension of the Non. Importation law, nothing peculiarly interesting has been before Congress. Domestic regulations occupy our time principally. No dispatches of late have arrived from our Ministers in Europe: It is believed by Government that our negotiations with Great Britain are progressing towards a favourable conclusion, & that when Napoleon can find time to return to Navis our Spanish differences will be amiably adjusted. It is said Col Burns movements have given administration considerable uneasiness, but since the capture of a part of his flotilla by Gov Mifflins orders & the probable capture of the rest, the President appears to be much relieved from his anxiety, & to consider the enterprise effectually suppressed. Gen Wilkinson is at New Orleans, & by his dispatches to the Secy [2] of War believes or affects to believe that the city must fall unless immediate assistance be afforded him by government. His dispatches are as late as the 30th Nov. This enterprise of Burr's is certainly one of the most mysterious & extraordinary I ever heard of. The President gave it to me as his opinion that Burr's object was first the capture of Mexico, then of New Orleans & Louisiana: after which he designed to force the Western States to accede to his dominion.

We are endeavoring to frame a bill to prevent the importation of slaves after the commencement of the year 1808, but find it difficult to dispose of the poor fellows who may be imported contrary to law. Southern gentlemen revolt at the idea of having them set at liberty, for they consider the insurrection of their slaves the inevitable consequence; & Eastern gentlemen are very unwilling to restrain the [3] unalienable right to personal liberty common to all men.

At present no legislative objects present themselves to government sufficiently important to excite much interest. I hope I am deceived, & that the clouds that appear to my view are the mere creatures of imagination. I hope that Napoleons ambition is limited, & is not like that of other great conquerors - unbounded: - that Europe will satisfy him, & that he will from necessity or choice permit us to live unmolested either by his intrigues, his warfare of corruption or of arms. But if the fleets of Great Britain should become the fleets of France, I tremble for my country. Providence, which [inserted: has] in a wonderful manner repeatedly interposed in our behalf & shielded our country when in immenent danger, may in its sovereign [4] goodness appear for us once more, & enable Great Britain to contend, single handed, with France. Supported by the resources of almost all Europe, & unintentionally to defend us whilst she is defending herself. This unequal contest cannot last always. It may however continue till the death of Napoleon; an event that would probably produce astonishing changes in the world, and [inserted: in my opinion] relieve us from immediate danger. Whilst piety dictated a reliance on Providence, duty I think, requires us to appropriate at least the surplus of our revenue to military & naval preparation for national defence. Peace is highly desirable, War is to depreciates. But war with all its consequences - its horrible calamities is preferable to submission to the capricious will of a tyrant. To this every gentleman will assent, and the parting point of difference is as to the ne- [5] cessity of preparation for national defence. A great majority of your political friends apprehend no danger even if Great Britain falls. God grant that my apprehensions in that case are groundless. I should felicitate myself & country, if government would so far yield to the fears entertained by me & my political friends as to consent to [inserted: the] appropriation of the surplus revenues, beyond the ordinary appropriations, to preparations for national defence.

I shall take the liberty to send you the National Intelligencer of this day which not only details the news of the day but I presume, under the editorial remarks, gives us the feelings sentiments & views of administration.

Please to do me the honor Sir to make my very respectful compliments acceptable to your lady.
I am with great respect
Your Excellency
obt humb servt
Tho W Thompson
Gov Langdon

Thos. W. Thompson

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