Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/16

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6
Ch. 1.
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

navy-yard was more than incompetent. [1] "I have long known," he claimed to have written, "the perverse disposition of the rulers of that establishment." Yet he urged Gordon to complete his outfit at Washington, because the Norfolk yard was worse.[2] "I would by no means advise your leaving the navy-yard with any unfinished work and depend on Norfolk. You will experience more difficulty and trouble than you can imagine." As Burr's trial showed that the army was honeycombed by incompetence and conspiracy, so Barron's court-martial proved that nothing in naval administration could be depended upon.

For much of this, Congress and the people were responsible, and they accepted their own feebleness as the necessary consequence of a system which acted through other agencies than force; but much was also due to the Administration and to the President's instincts, which held him aloof from direct contact with both services. Jefferson did not love the deck of a man-of-war or enjoy the sound of a boatswain's whistle. The ocean was not his element; and his appetite for knowledge never led him to criticise the management of his frigates or his regiments so long as he could shut his eyes to their shortcomings. Thus while Wilkinson was left at his own pleasure to create or to stifle a rebellion at New Orleans, the crew of the "Constitution" were in a state of mutiny

  1. Barron's Court-martial, p. 241.
  2. Barron to Gordon, May 1, 1807; Court-martial, p. 239.