Item #58930 Contemporary copy of a lengthy two-page autograph letter signed to His Excellency James Madison, President of the United States of America. Jaleen Seelye.

A scheme to douse British-Men-of-War with boiling water, as proposed to James Madison

Contemporary copy of a lengthy two-page autograph letter signed to His Excellency James Madison, President of the United States of America

N.p. November 8, 1812 [copied after March 11, 1814]. Folio, previous folds, near fine. With integral address leaf attached. This copy of Seelye’s letter was found among the papers of U.S. Senator Elijah Boardman of Connecticut who served in the Senate 1821-1823. Boardman may have been handling a claim from Seelye, as a matter of constituent service, relative to the invention described in the letter. (Paragraph breaks inserted for legibility.) "Sir, the state of our political affairs being such with the English Nation at this period, that I think it the indispensable duty of every American Citizen to endeavour to exert himself in every measure to the utmost of his abilities in defence of his Country. Therefore I pledge my word, & honour to your Excellency that I have not, at any period of my life had so favourable an opportunity to do it as at the present moment. Therefore I embrace this opportunity to make known to your Excellency a Scheme I have invented which appears to me might be greatly to the benefit of our Country; which Scheme of defence, and means of Capture I have long deliberated on, and I firmly believe was it put into execution, it would be found to answer the desired expectation; which at this particular Crisis deserves our more minute attention. And if this Scheme be framed on Just principals (which I firmly believe it is) sufficient for our small Vessels (and Infant Navy) to cope with the powerful English Navy, we should thereby be immediately in possession of force without building large Ships; which would require much time, attended with an immense cost. "The Scheme which I have invented, and now offer to the wise consideration of your Excellency is as follows. Viz. That every armed Vessel while riding at anchor in our ports be (secretly) furnished with sufficient Copper boilers, and also Engines such as is made use of in our Cities to throw water in case of fire, and Leaders to extend up through their quarter, and main decks, and also up their Masts to their round tops. And when coming in sight of an enemies Sail, to raise their fires and put their water in said coppers a boiling, and when coming in contact, to Grapple, Sweep the decks of the enemy, Extinguish their matches, Wet their Cartridges, and board them. By this means of throwing boiling water, I am firmly of opinion would be found successful, in so much that one of our Vessels of moderate size, might be able to disconcert, Silence, and Capture an English first rate Ship of war! "I am also of opinion, that while the Crew belonging to a Gun, could haul her back, load, and fire once, that the decks of a first rate Ship might be completely sweeped by this means of throwing boiling water. I further beg leave to remark, that the same principal, be made use of in all our Forts; to prevent the enemy from scaling their walls, &c. I would make the leaders of wool, or furs worked down to the consistency, or density of a hat, in strips. And those leaders, or Conductors covered with Sail cloth. I submit this principal to your Excellencys more wise consideration, with this request, that you lay it before our Government, for their more mature deliberation. Should this Scheme meet the approbation of Congress, and put in execution, The proprietor thereof, only asks what in the wisdom of our Government, they think he merits after a due proof of its utility. "N.B. Forwarded November 8th 1812. And for what Government has done on this Letter, look in the Universal Gazette (printed out of Washington City), dated March 11th 1814. Or in the National Intelligencer of the same date." The letter is docketed: "Copy of Mr Jaleen Seelye’s Letter to James Madison President U States, 8 Nov. 1822" [i.e. 1812]. Item #58930

Price: $950.00

See all items in Americana, Manuscripts, Maritime
See all items by