Page:The Pathfinder of the Seas.djvu/58

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28
MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY

Navy an excuse for removing him from his position. Matters had by this time come to such a pass that several officers declined the command when it was offered them; namely, Captains Shubrick, Kearny, Perry, and Gregory. Finally, in April, 1838, a junior officer, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, though there were eighty lieutenants above his grade, was selected, and he accepted the appointment.

The sloops of war Vincennes and Peacock and two smaller vessels were chosen instead of those originally prepared, and it became necessary to reorganize the personnel of the expedition. Maury had sympathized with Captain Jones in the unjust treatment which he had received from the Secretary of the Navy, and besides he had written that Wilkes was the only officer in the navy with whom he would not cooperate provided that he was put in command of the enterprise. He therefore asked to be detached from the expedition.

Maury might possibly have had the honor of commanding the exploring expedition himself, as clearly indicated by the following letter which he wrote years afterwards: The expedition had been taken away from the Secretary of the Navy and transferred to Poinsett, Secretary of War. I was ordered to fetch the instruments to Washington and report myself to Poinsett. He received me with open arms, took me into his bosom, and asked me to give him the names of the officers without regard to rank that I thought best qualified for the expedition. I afterwards had reason to suppose that he expected me to name myself and intended to put me in command of it, as really I was the most important personage in it—Hydrographer and Astronomer. But I asked myself, what right have I to draw distinctions