Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Nathaniel Niles, 12 February 1801

From Nathaniel Niles

West Fairlee (Vermont) Feb. 12th. 1801—


Permit me to indulge a very sensible pleasure in congratulating my Country on the prospect, which I hope is this moment realized at the seat of Government, that you are elected President of the United States. In times so strongly marked as the present are, by the virulence of faction at home, & by the rage of nations abroad, a friendly heart can hardly congratulate its respected object upon his elevation to any place distinguished by its eminence, not even though it be to the supreme magistracy of a great nation; since it will be no less distinguished, if nature shall still pursue her usual course, by its attending care, solicitude, and vexation. We have had different accounts, and formed different conjectures concerning the probable object of the house of Representatives in the election. But whether they have adopted measures, to tranquilize the public mind, or to produce still further, and greater agitations, I firmly beleive all must result in the increased felicity of the Nation, and the disapointment of those who would prepare means for the Erection of A monarchy upon the ruins of the Republic.

Altho a state of war necessarily lets loose incalculable evils upon multitudes of Individuals, yet benevolence itself cannot regret, that Russia is at war with Great Brittain, when she considers the intolerable and still growing tyranny of the naval system the latter. When will mankind submit to the maxims of moderations and justice!

I duly received, and am much obliged by the apendix to the Notes on Virginea, altho the strictures of Mr. Martin, had not, so far as I know, reached this part of the country. I have not learned how he received, nor how he treated the apendix, but presume he must have been silent.

The current of political opinion among us, has ceased its unnatural flow, and is full rapidly enough returning in its natural channel, for sudden revolutions, are liable to as sudden reversions. I cannot but hope that two years hence the party, which fondly and proudly, but falsly denominates itself federal, will have shrunk to a mere skelleton, forsaken of its flesh and its sinews.

I am told, sir, that the Marshal of this district has often declared that, if there should be a change of the administration he would resign his office, and if he should not I presume he will not long hold it, as I expect such complaints will be exhibited & supported against him as will cause him to be displaced. Should this be the case, will you permit me to recommend for that office, Dr. John Willard. I have not an intimate acquaintance with him, personally, but from what I have, and from his character among the republicans in the State, and especially those in the western district where he resides, I beleve he will discharge the duties of that office with wisdom and fidelity.

I should ask for some moderate, but decent appointment for myself, did any such occur to my mind which I beleve you could consistently give me, but I think of none. But, Sir, the little all I can do to support, that administration which I believe will be yours, may be unequivocally expected, from me whether in or out of office. It is not therefore in mere formality, I assure you that

I am with great esteem, your much obliged & Hml Sevt.

Nathl: Niles

RC (MoSHi: Jefferson Papers); addressed: “Thos. Jefferson Vice President of the United States Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.

Nathaniel Niles (1741–1828) received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the College of New Jersey at Princeton, where he was noted for his theological debates. After graduation he studied medicine and law. In 1774 he married Elizabeth Lothrop of Norwich, Connecticut. During the Revolution he worked in the Lothrop mills, inventing a method for making wire—needed for wool cards—from iron bar to avoid having to import from Great Britain. In 1782 Niles purchased land and settled in West Fairlee, Vermont. He served as a lawyer and physician in the frontier community and although he was never ordained, he was a prominent leader among the local clergy. He served as speaker of Vermont’s House of Representatives in 1784, as a judge in the supreme court from 1784 to 1788, and as a member of the Vermont council and the council of censors. A supporter of the Federal Constitution, Niles became one of the state’s first congressmen in 1791. He was defeated for reelection in 1794 by Federalist Daniel Buck, but remained active in state politics as a Jeffersonian Republican, serving again in the House of Representatives and the governor’s council. He spoke out against banks, slavery, and the Hartford Convention of 1814. He was a trustee of Dartmouth College from 1794 to 1820. In 1787, a few years after the death of his first wife, Niles married Elizabeth Marston Watson, who was noted for her literary and theological attainments (James McLachlan, Princetonians, 1748–1768: A Biographical Dictionary [Princeton, 1976], 585–7; Biog. Dir. Cong.; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ).

In a list of appointments and removals compiled in 1803, TJ recorded that on 5 Mch. 1801 he decided to remove Jabez G. Fitch “for cruel conduct” and appointed Dr. John Willard as U.S. marshal for the district of Vermont in his place (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 119:20546; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:403). See also Matthew Lyon to TJ, 1 Mch. 1801.

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