Stoddert, Benjamin


The former (1st) Navy Secretary regarding his own tangled finances & investments


Autograph ID: 4593
Condition: Very good, a few old well-repaired tears in body
Description: “(1751-1813) Pennsylvania cavalry captain, secretary to the Continental Board of War during the War of Independence. In 1781, he married the daughter of a Maryland merchant and went into business in George Town, Maryland (later, Georgetown, part of the District of Columbia). President Washington asked Stoddert to purchase key parcels of land in the area for the nation’s capital, before a formal decision to establish the federal city drove up prices, and Stoddert transferred parcels to the government. During the 1790s, he helped found the Bank of Columbia to handle purchases of land in the District of Columbia for the federal government. In May 1798, President Adams appointed Stoddert, a loyal Federalist, to oversee the newly established Navy Department. As the 1st Secretary of the Navy 1798-March 31, 1801, he dealt with an undeclared naval war with France (“the Quasi-War). He realized the infant Navy possessed too few warships to protect a far-flung merchant marine and that the best way to defeat the French campaign against US shipping was by offensive operations in the Caribbean, where most French cruisers were based. Under his leadership, the Navy acquitted itself well and stopped depredations by French ships against American commerce. He established the first 6 navy yards and advocated building 12 ships of the line. Congress initially approved construction of 6 ships of the line, but following the peace accord with France, eliminated ships of the line and reduced the officer corps. His last years saw a decline in his fortunes: Stoddert lost heavily in land speculation, Georgetown declined as a commercial center, and the Embargo and War of 1812 halted US overseas trade.

9 x 7 ¼ ALS from the former Secretary of the Navy, 3pp (folded sheet, addressee and dockets on 4th page), George Town, October 15 1801, to John Templeman, Esq., a business associate. Stoddert asks Temepleman to sell certain properties and rescind certain deals, proposing sales for cash or for “a good bond.” He hopes to be in Baltimore, and asks Templeman to examine his lime kiln and coal mine and make Stoddert an offer, expects to sell his other Allegheny properties.”

Type: Letter

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