Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Tarleton Bates, [23?] February 1801

To Tarleton Bates

Washington Feb. […] 1801.


Not knowing where the persons to whom the [enclosed are?] directed, may be at this time, and believing that this knoledge may [be] acquired at Pittsburg, I have taken the liberty of putting them under cover to you, and of adding a sollicitation that you would be so good as to address and forward them by any conveyance which may occur to the persons for whom they are, wheresoever they may happen to be. the importance of their getting speedily & safely to their [destinations will] I hope plead my excuse for the liberty I take. I am with [esteem] Sir

Your most obedt. servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); faint; recorded in SJL under 28 Feb., but in his endorsement TJ may have intended a date of 23 Feb. and Bates acknowledged this as a letter of the 26th (see below); at foot of text: “Mr. Bates”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Enclosures: (1) TJ to Meriwether Lewis, 23 Feb. (2) TJ to James Wilkinson, 23 Feb.

Born in Goochland County, Virginia, Tarleton Bates (1775–1806) moved to Pittsburgh in 1793. He worked in the quartermaster’s department of the army, then in 1801 became a clerk in the office of the county prothonotary. Allying himself in business and politics with influential local attorneys, he was an energetic advocate of Republican candidates, including TJ. He knew both Wilkinson and Lewis and had further contacts in the Northwest Territory through his brother Frederick, who had established himself as a merchant at Detroit. Tarleton Bates, who was prothonotary at the time of his death, died in a duel that resulted from political disputes among Pennsylvania Republicans (Russell J. Ferguson, Early Western Pennsylvania Politics [Pittsburgh, 1938], 144, 165–6, 170, 188–9, 191; Mrs. Elvert M. Davis, ed., “The Letters of Tarleton Bates, 1795–1805,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, 12 [1929], 32–53; T. L. Rodgers, “The Last Duel in Pennsylvania,” same, 54–7; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877-Preston, Catalogue Daniel Preston, A Comprehensive Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of James Monroe, Westport, Conn., 2001, 2 vols. description ends , 13 [1889], 13, 19; 32 [1908], 254–5; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 2:49–50).

Address and forward them: on 6 Mch. Bates wrote TJ to say that on that day he had received TJ’s communication, which he identified as a letter of the 26th. Lewis had arrived in Pittsburgh from Detroit late on 5 Mch. and received TJ’s letter directly from Bates on the 6th. Wilkinson left Pittsburgh for Washington on 1 Mch., so Bates put TJ’s letter to him into the care of Campbell Smith, an army officer and friend of the general. In his brief letter Bates also congratulated TJ and the country “upon the ascendency which the principles of ’76 have regained” (RC in DLC, endorsed by TJ as received on 13 Mch. and so recorded in SJL; Heitman, Dictionary description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:894–5; Lewis to TJ, 10 Mch.).

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