Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 16 February 1800

To James Monroe

Philadelphia Feb. 16. 1800.

Dear Sir

A mr Robinson proposing to go to Richmond with a view to establish an academy there, I have been desired to state to you his character and qualifications, as I learn them from Doctr. Reynolds of this city, for I have never seen mr Robinson, nor is he here at present. he is a person of a regular collegiate education, of Trinity college Dublin, and has documents of his recieving double premiums every year during his scholarship there. he is of course a good latin & Greek scholar; and took his mathematical courses also but what proficiency he made in them I could not learn. does not read French. a man of the most excellent morals and excessive modesty. he is an United Irishman, and therefore was obliged to leave Ireland. he is of course a good Republican. at the request of two or three gentlemen here I promised to deposit these truths with you, that if they can be used to his advantage they may be so; in which way alone I wish you to use them, not meaning to embarras you otherwise with his pursuit. I promised to write to you by post, & that he might present himself to you in my name as if he were the bearer of the letter. I ask for him just those attentions which may give him the credit with others which his merit deserves. I do not mean pecuniary credit; for I believe he is without resources.—A bill is brought into the Senate, allowing the two houses to chuse each 6. members who with the Chief Justice, are to recieve the votes, certificates & other documents of the electors of President & V.P. to shut themselves up, and to decide who is elected President. their decision to be without appeal & Congress to have no power to dissolve them. I make neither commentary nor prophecy on this. we have no further news from the French triumvirate. I hope you will be able to circumscribe the federalism of Richmond within it natural bounds of British subjects & natives. present me affectionately to mrs Munroe. I believe we shall rise in April, as the Eastern men seem afraid to be together when a treaty comes from our envoys. friendly salutations to yourself. Adieu.

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Monroe Papers); addressed: “Governor Munroe Richmond”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by Monroe. PrC (DLC).


Thomas Robinson received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in 1798 but was expelled that year following an investigation of United Irish committees and the Historical Society, a center of radicalism at the college. In time he and several other former students of Trinity took up residence in Petersburg, Virginia, and eventually collaborated on a songbook that combined Irish melodies with lyrics adapted to the American republic. Many years after his expulsion from the college, Robinson declared that “since my arrival in Virginia, I have sustained the character of a gentleman, a scholar, and a physician, as successfully as my best friends could wish” (David A. Wilson, United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic [Ithaca, N.Y., 1998], 29, 61, 111; William H. Drummond, ed., The Autobiography of Archibald Hamilton Rowan [Shannon, Ireland, 1972], 426–8; A Catalogue of Graduates Who have Proceeded to Degrees in the University of Dublin [Dublin, 1869], 470).

On 14 Feb. James Ross brought into the senate “A Bill Prescribing the mode of deciding disputed elections of President and Vice President of the United States.” The Pennsylvania senator, recently defeated in the state’s gubernatorial election, earlier had proposed appointing a committee to ascertain whether a law was needed to decide disputed elections by determining the “legality or illegality of the Votes given” for electors in the different states. The constitutionality of the federal government assuming control over powers delegated to the states was debated, but on 24 Jan. the Senate appointed a committee to bring in a bill. The Aurora charged that the measure was designed to challenge Pennsylvania’s electoral votes and to deprive the state “of its due weight” in the coming presidential election (Speeches of Charles Pinckney, Esq. in Congress [Philadelphia], 1800, 33; Philadelphia Aurora, 27 Jan. 1800; JS, description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends 3:23, 31). On a printed copy of the Senate bill, TJ docketed the progress of the legislation from its first reading on 14 Feb. to its passage by the Senate on 28 Mch. When the bill was recommitted on 10 Mch., TJ listed the five original committee members, Ross, John Laurance, Samuel Dexter, Charles Pinckney, and Samuel Livermore, and noted the additional appointment of Wilson Cary Nicholas to the committee. TJ’s emendations to the bill also noted amendments and identified in the margin the movers of several motions, information not included in the Senate journal (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 6th Cong., 1st sess.; JS, description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends 3:31–5, 37–42, 46, 49, 55, 57–8, 61–3). TJ’s hand is present on other documents relating to the bill as well (see TJ to Madison, 4 and 25 Mch., and Appendix: Notations by Jefferson on Senate Documents). For House action on the bill, see TJ to Edward Livingston, 30 Apr. 1800.

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