Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Pendleton, 22 April 1799

To Edmund Pendleton

Monticello Apr. 22. 99.

My Respected Friend

Your letter of Feb. 24. which was intended to have reached me at Philadelphia, did not arrive there till I had left that place, and then had to follow me to this, which must apologize for the delay in acknoleging it. in the mean time I had seen in our papers the one with your signature, and seen it with great satisfaction. omitting one paragraph of it, I may be permitted to give to the residue unqualified praise. the simplicity & candor with which it is written will procure it a candid reading with all, and nothing more is necessary to give their full effect to it’s statements & reasonings. I lament it had not got to Philadelphia a few days sooner that we might have sent it out in handbills by the members. I observe however that it is running through all the republican papers, and with very great effect. the moment too is favourable, as the tide is evidently turning & the public mind awaking from Marshall’s X.Y.Z. romance. it is unfortunate that we have yet two years of madness to go through in the hands of1 a legislature chosen under the impressions of that romance. the dose seeming now to have been strong enough to bring the people to rational reflection, I wish it could stop there. for indeed it will be difficult to rectify the wrong already done, were the next to be two years of wisdom instead of additional folly. we are told in a Boston paper that the President has determined to raise the 24. regiments eventually provided for: at least that he will name the officers immediately. should they really raise the whole army of 40,000 men, & a great body of volunteer militia, now called the Presidential army, or Presidential militia, it will leave me without a doubt that force on the constitution is intended. it is already plain enough from the Secretary of war’s letter that Hamilton is to be the real general, the other to be used only by his name. can such an army under Hamilton be disbanded? even if a H. of Repr. can be got willing & wishing to disband them? I doubt it, and therefore rest my principal hope on their inability to raise any thing but officers. I observe in the election of governor of Massachusets that the vote for Heath (out of Boston) is much strengthened. could the people of that state emerge from the deceptions under which they are kept by their clergy, lawyers, and English presses, our salvation would be sure & easy. without that, I believe it will be effected; but it will be uphill work. nor can we expect ever their cordial co-operation, because they will not be satisfied longer than while we are sacrificing every thing to navigation and a navy. what a glorious exchange would it be could we persuade our navigating fellow citizens to embark their capital in the internal commerce of our country, exclude foreigners from that, and let them take the carrying trade in exchange: abolish the diplomatic establishments & never suffer an armed vessel of any nation to enter our ports. but these things can be thought of only in times of wisdom, not of passion & folly. may heaven still spare you to us for years to come, and render them years of health, happiness, and the full enjoiment of your faculties. affectionate salutations to yourself and mr Taylor.


Th: Jefferson

RC (MHi: Washburn Collection); addressed: “Edmund Pendleton Chief Justice of Virginia near the Bowling green”; franked; endorsed by Pendleton. PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink.

The one with your signature: for Pendleton’s “Address,” see his letter to TJ of 24 Feb. It appeared in Republican Papers, including the Aurora on 21 Mch., which reprinted it from the Richmond Examiner, and the Independent Chronicle of Boston, 1 Apr.

By 10 Apr. the secretary of war was prepared to begin organizing the 24 regiments of the so-called “eventual” army by asking U.S. senators to help name the officers. The authorizing legislation of 2 Mch. only allowed the regiments to be filled in the event of war or imminent invasion, but as McHenry told George Washington, the president considered it “highly expedient” to prepare by commissioning the officers. However, McHenry chose to delay asking for names of officer candidates until May, after the Virginia elections were over. Adams had left Philadelphia for Quincy, passing through Boston on 23 Mch., and news of the administration’s intention had evidently come from there (Washington, Papers, Ret. Ser., 4:39–40; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 22:387–8; 23:99–100, 134–5; Gazette of the United States, 1 Apr.; TJ to Madison, 30 Jan. 1799). By TJ’s reckoning, the 30,000 soldiers of the eventual army, combined with the 10,000 previously authorized for the “provisional” force, would constitute the whole army of 40,000 men. The 2 Mch. act also empowered the president to call up as many as 75,000 volunteer soldiers who could be used to enforce federal law or quell insurrection in accordance with the terms of the 1795 Militia act (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:726; Kohn, Eagle and Sword description begins Richard H. Kohn, Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America 1783–1802, New York, 1975 description ends , 229, 252; TJ to Madison, 5 Feb. 1799). The reference to the secretary of war’s letter may be to a communication that was printed in the Gazette of the United States on 6 Apr. over McHenry’s signature and was “understood” to have gone to officers of the provisional army. “Major-General Hamilton being charged with the recruiting service,” it stated, “you will hold yourself in readiness to obey such orders or instructions relative thereto as may be transmitted to you directly from him, or through your commanding officer.” The other to be used only by his name: George Washington.

In the Massachusetts election for Governor, Republicans were encouraged by the votes William Heath received in such areas as Norfolk and Middlesex counties. Heath lost to the incumbent, Increase Sumner (Independent Chronicle, 4, 8, 11 Apr.; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 18:215–16).

1Preceding four words interlined in place of “under.”

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