Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Archibald Hamilton Rowan, [before 19] July 1798

From Archibald Hamilton Rowan

Wilmington Delawar [before 19] July 1798


If I have not too much sense, I hope I have not enough of vanity to attribute the very kind & flattering message delivered to me by Dr: Reynolds in your name, to any but the true cause; the exagerated encomia of a most eloquent pleader.

I came here as I thought to a country of Liberty and equality, phrases that may, & have been much distorted but can not be dishonoured, I do not find it such & my sense of duty bids me withdraw rather than remonstrate. But whither to go I know not. By no means satisfied with French Political morality & certain that my going to that country would irritate the Brittish Government, which as my wife informs me is about to make over to her and to our children my late property I will not remove thither. My present intention is to remove to New Orleans as soon as I can wind up a business which I had hopes would have rendered me independent of Brittish clemency for support, even thro the medium of Mrs H. R. And that it might not be said hereafter if ever I should return to my own country that I had been abject enough to receive favours & base enough to forget them

With the most sincere good wishes for your personal happiness and without the most minute doubt of the ultimate success of the friends of universal freedom, I beg leave to subscribe myself your attached friend

& obedient servant

Archd: Hamilton Rowan

RC (ViW); day of month lacking in dateline; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 July 1798 and so recorded in SJL.

After escaping from imprisonment in Dublin, where he was confined for distributing seditious literature and feared that he might eventually be executed, Archibald Hamilton Rowan (1751–1834) had gone first to France, then to the United States in 1795. He had been secretary of the Dublin branch of the Society of United Irishmen, and in America he reunited for a time with other fugitive or exiled leaders of that movement, including Theobald Wolfe Tone, James Napper Tandy, and Dr. James Reynolds. Seeing the effects of the Terror in France and of factionalism there and in America, Rowan abated his earlier radicalism and tried unsuccessfully to become a calico printer in Delaware. The inheritor of landed estates in Ireland, he had pledged security for good conduct as part of his sentence in Dublin, but the Earl of Clare protected his property from sequestration. Rowan left the United States for Europe in 1800 and six years later, after the reversal of his sentence, returned to Ireland (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 2d ed., New York, 1908–09, 22 vols. description ends ; David A. Wilson, United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic [Ithaca, New York, 1998], 18–22, 37–8, 154–5; William H. Drummond, ed., The Autobiography of Archibald Hamilton Rowan [Dublin, 1840; repr. Shannon, Ireland, 1972], 380).

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