David Farragut overrules Boutwell

Although the vigilantes Isaac Bluxome, known as 33 Secretary, had already informed Boutwell on Saturday that his communications to the committee would receive their due consideration, on Monday Boutwell wrote again with a request to be informed what action they would take in regard to David Terry. The urgency of his request, he said, was that he wanted to forward copies of his correspondence with both the state government and the committee to Washington with the Pacific Mail Steamer on July 5th. The exact reason for his haste in getting these papers to Washington he did not say but he must have felt some action would soon be taken in response to Governor Johnson’s attempts to gain the federal governments interference and he may have believed it important to show he had been a prominent factor in the controversy. But much to Boutwell’s surprise, and perhaps to his disgust also, 33 Secretary wrote back stating that the vigilance committee had submitted the whole of his correspondence with him to his superior, Captain David Farragut, the Commander of Mare Island Navy Yard.

Admiral David Farragut

Admiral David Farragut

The next day, Farragut’s reply came to Boutwell in the form of a rebuke, polite but severe. Farragut had received the letters plus another note from the committee requesting he step in. While he agreed with Boutwell on the constitutional points he had brought up he could not agree that Boutwell had any right to interfere with the Committee of Vigilance at all and so he had understood Boutwell to think when they last parted. The constitution required, he said, that before the Unites States government could get involved the state legislature must meet and only if this was not possible could there be any interference on the request of the governor. The legislature had not been convened on this matter nor was there any indication this would happen. The United States government had always been careful to not interfere with domestic trouble within the states and to avoid collision with states rights issues. While Farragut did not want to interfere with Boutwell’s command, as long as Boutwell was in the waters of Farragut’s command it became his duty to restrain him from doing anything to augment the situation until they received instructions from Washington. “All the facts of the case,” he concluded, “have been patiently set before the government by both parties, and we must patiently await the result.”

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