Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Philip Norborne Nicholas, 2 February 1800

From Philip Norborne Nicholas

Richmond Feby 2d 1800.

Dear Sir,

Colo. Monroe informed me that he had inclosed you a copy of the republican ticket. This of course communicated to you the change which has taken place in the law of this state upon the subject of choosing electors. The members of the legislature before they dispersed adopted a general system of correspondence through the state for the purpose of giving effectual support to our ticket. A committee of five is established in each county and a central committee of the same number in Richmond. The objects of their establishment are to communicate useful information to the people relative to the election; and to repel every effort which may be made to injure either the ticket in genl. or to remove any prejudice which may be attempted to be raized against any person on that ticket. I was appointed by the meeting who organized the system which I have described as chairman of the genl. comtee in Richmond. We have begun our correspondence with the subcommittees, and mean to keiep up a regular intercource upon the subjects which may seem to require it. Among the duties enjoined upon the genl. Comtee, that of writing to the different persons who compose the republican ticket, and informing them that, the are selected on account of their attachment to republican principles is a primary and most important one. We have received an answer as yet from no gentleman but Mr. Wythe, who consents to occupy a place upon our ticket. This I rejoice at as it will give it great weight & dignity. And I cannot but augur well of a cause which calls out from their retirement such venerable patriots as Wythe & Pendleton. I see that the effort to repeal the most obnoxious part of the sedition law has failed; and that an attempt was made to induce congress indirectly1 to declare the common law in force. I should deem it a very wise and necessary measure, if the republicans would endeavor to obtain the adoption of a declaratory act denying the existince of the common law as a part of our federal municipal code. I belive that a part of the instructions to our senators adopted at the last session is directed to this point. Indeed it appears to me there cannot be a better question2 upon which the republicans can rally than this; nor a question on which the would obtain more completely the sympathy of the people. The advantages, which will be derived from Colo. Monroes being at the head of our state government, will be considerable he, will form a center around which our interest can rally; and the conciliation of his manners is calculated to advance the principles for which he is an advocate. We have not been able distinctly to understand from the public prints what the situation of Pennsylvania is likely to be as the choice of electors. Will the legislature meet time enough to revive the old law or to appoint the electors themselves. We entertain great hopes here of Jersey and New York; but these hopes are founded upon letters from Philadelphia. Colo. Harvie yesterday communicated to me the contents of letter on the subject of his son; I expect he will remove him to Philadelphia. I must make an apology for so long a trespass on your time; and the best I can offer is my being with sentiments

of real regard & friendship

Ph: Nor: Nicholas

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 11 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.


Ninety-three members of the legislature “and a number of other respectable persons” met at the Capitol in Richmond on 21 Jan. to propose a republican ticket of 21 presidential electors. On the 23d and 24th the meeting reconvened to adopt a general system of correspondence consisting of a general standing committee in Richmond with Nicholas as chairman and some 92 local committees representing Virginia’s counties and some towns, although a few of those subcommittees had no members at first. On 30 Jan. Nicholas and John H. Foushee, the secretary of the general committee, addressed a letter to the proposed members of the ticket of electors, which included George Wythe, Edmund Pendleton, Madison, Giles, Archibald Stuart, Thomas Newton of Norfolk, and Carter Bassett Harrison. That letter was printed to facilitate distribution (Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from …1639 …to …1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59,14 vols. description ends No. 38962). The Republican ticket presented to voters in August 1800 was identical to that proposed in January (CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers …Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 9:74–87; Cunningham, Jeffersonian Republicans description begins Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans: The Formation of Party Organization, 1789–1801, Chapel Hill, 1957 description ends , 196).

Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina had on 23 Jan. submitted a resolution to the U.S. House of Representatives for the repeal of the section of the sedition law that outlawed criticism of the government or its officers. Nicholas’s brother John vigorously opposed an amendment offered by James A. Bayard that said sedition would “remain punishable” under common law. Unable to secure passage of the resolution without the amendment, Macon, Nicholas, Gallatin, and other Republicans finally had to join in an overwhelming vote against Macon’s resolution (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 10:404–25; 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 , 1:596–7).

1Word interlined.

2Word interlined in place of “standard.”

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