Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Jouett, Jr., 12 January 1801

From John Jouett, Jr.

Kintucky Jany. 12th. 1801


I am an old inhabitant of this Country and have been the Greater part of 17 years employd in the publick service and I flatter myself I have Dischard my Duty to the satisfaction of my Country and With Credit to myself & I niver did Ask or Except any off[ice] to which any pecuniary emolument has been annexed. I do [now] sir solicit the appointment of Marshall for the Kintucky District having good Reason to believe the presant marshall will go out of office Very shortly. sir I ask for this office with some Degree of Confidence you having Known me all my life. and Knowing you have no object in Viw but to have the office well filld. and in this Case I hope you Can have no Doubt as you have the best security this state Can give for my fidelity or ability in as much as their will accompany this, letters of recommendation from a number of the first and most respectable men [of] this state, and was promisd a similar one by our late Governor shelby but he lives to far from me to get his Letter to send on at this time. I hope you will not think it Strange if I should meet with no support from our members in Congress. in the first place I do not Know that they are any particular friends of mine in the second When they left this Country the thing was not talkd of and in all probability made up their Mindes another Way I now Conclude by saying if this meets with your Approbation independent of Every other Consideration I shall think it a great and lasting favour &c

I am Sir. Your Most Ob[t] Servant

J Jouett

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); damaged; addressed: “The Honble Thomas Jefferson City of Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. and so recorded in SJL, where TJ connected the letter and its enclosures by a bracket labeled with Jouett’s name. Enclosures: (1) Samuel Hopkins to TJ, December 1800, writing from Frankfort, Ky., to say that Jouett is “in all respects Qualified” and would perform the marshal’s duties with “reputation to himself & justice & integrity towards his Country” (RC in same; at foot of text: “T. Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by an unidentified hand). (2) Thomas Todd to TJ, 11 Jan. 1801, recorded in SJL but not found; Todd wrote to John Breckinridge on the same day urging him to use his “personal acquaintance & influence with Mr. Jefferson” in Jouett’s behalf (RC in DLC: Breckinridge Family Papers). (3) Harry Innes to TJ, 12 Jan. 1801, noting that “from your personal acquaintance” with Jouett “it will be unnecessary to add any thing relative to his personal merits”; that Jouett “will do credit to the appointment & himself” in performing the duties of the office, which “are not difficult—industry & punctuality are the essential requisites to make a good Marshal”; and that “it is but justice to the present Marshal Mr. McDowell that I should declare, as far as his own official conduct hath come within my own observation it has been unexceptionable,” Innes noting that he expects McDowell to “request a certificate relative to his official conduct” in the hope of continuing as marshal (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; written in “State of Kentucky”; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. and so recorded in SJL). (4) John Breckinridge to TJ, 13 Jan. 1801.

John Jouett, Jr. (1754–1822) of Woodford County, Kentucky, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, and moved to Kentucky, which was then still part of his native state, in 1782. He sat in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1786–88 and 1790, formed amicable relationships with prominent political families, was a leading advocate for Kentucky statehood, and served three terms in the legislature of the new state. He is best known for his actions in June 1781, when Jouett, a Virginia militia captain, learned that Banastre Tarleton’s dragoons were racing toward Albemarle County to capture TJ and members of the Virginia General Assembly. From the Cuckoo Tavern, Jouett rode 40 miles at night to give warning at Monticello and Charlottesville, a feat that helped TJ escape Tarleton and for which the legislature voted to award Jouett two pistols and a sword. Late in life Jouett promoted the importation of foreign cattle breeds to improve Kentucky stock. His son, Matthew Harris Jouett, studied with Gilbert Stuart and became a successful portrait painter. John Jouett’s father, John Jouett, Sr., continued to reside in Albemarle County after his son’s removal to Kentucky (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, Boston, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends , 1:355–7; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 161, 165,180; Vol. 4:261, 265, 277, 278n; Vol. 6:89n; Vol. 31:187).

Innes wrote to TJ again on 11 July 1801 enclosing a letter he had received from John Watkins, who, being a stranger to TJ, was directed by Jouett to address his communication to Innes. Innes had known Watkins since 1788 and vouched for Watkins’s service in public office. Innes closed: “I have nothing more to add on this subject except it be to assure you that Mr. Joüett has for 8 months past repeatedly declared to me he had ceased to gamble & never would again, and I am induced to beleive he has strictly adhered to his declarations” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; at foot of page: “Mr. Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ with Jouett’s name and the office he sought; also endorsed by him as received on 5 Aug. 1801 and so recorded in SJL). In his letter to Innes, dated 7 July, Watkins asserted that he had been Jouett’s neighbor for several years and could attest to his fitness for the office of marshal. The one element of Jouett’s character that could harm him was “his former Attachment to that Accursed practice of gambling,” but Watkins believed that Jouett had “forever quted this Abominable practice” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ).

Charles Scott of Kentucky wrote TJ a brief letter on 14 July 1801, stating that it would be handed to him by Jouett, who had renounced his former behavior, and that Scott recommended Jouett “in the highest terms” (RC in same; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ with Jouett’s name and the office sought; endorsed by TJ as received on 5 Aug. and so recorded in SJL, where TJ connected Scott’s letter and Innes’s of 11 July 1801 by a bracket and notation).

On his list of candidates for office printed at 5 Mch. 1801 TJ noted Jouett’s name, residence, the office he sought, and Innes, Todd, Breckinridge, and Hopkins as the names of those who recommended him (DLC: TJ Papers, 108:18557).

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