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Special Message

January 06, 1809

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States..

I now lay before Congress a statement of the works of defense which it has been thought necessary to provide in the first instance for the security of our seaport towns and harbors, and of the progress toward their completion. Their extent has been adapted to the scale of the appropriation and to the circumstances of the several places.

The works undertaken at New York are calculated to annoy and endanger any naval force which shall enter the harbor, and, still more, one which should attempt to lie before the city. To prevent altogether the entrance of large vessels, a line of blocks across the harbor has been contemplated, and would, as is believed, with the auxiliary means already provided, render that city safe against naval enterprise. The expense as well as the importance of the work renders it a subject proper for the special consideration of Congress.

At New Orleans two separate systems of defense are necessary--the one for the river, the other for the lake, which at present can give no aid to one another. The canal now leading from the lake, if continued into the river, would enable the armed vessels in both stations to unite, and to meet in conjunction an attack from either side. Half the aggregate force would then have the same effect as the whole, or the same force double the effect of what either can now have. It would also enable the vessels stationed in the lake when attacked by superior force to retire to a safer position in the river. The same considerations of expense and importance render this also a question for the special decision of Congress.


Thomas Jefferson, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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