Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Duane, 1 March 1801

From William Duane

Washington, March 1. 1801


The papers accompanying were given me for communication to you, they originated in the following manner. Prior to my setting out for Lancaster in the month of October last, Mr. Lee, the person whom they concern, called on me and stated that he had been dismissed from his situation for discovering the removal of papers from the Department of State by means of a false key, and wished me to publish the facts. I objected to publish unless he would commit the matters to writing and depose to them before a magistrate, which he offered to do. Thereupon I wrote a note to Mr. Gardner, requesting him to attend to the matter while I was absent, which he did and the matters stated in the accompanying papers were given in the presence of Mr. Gardner and Mr. James Ker, of Philadelphia. I did not think the facts so strongly stated as he at first represented them to me, & therefore did not publish them.

The receipt of a letter from Mr. Gardner induces me to lay the papers now before you. The poor man appears to have been sacrificed for his fidelity, and to be reduced to the extremest wretchedness. Perhaps in any arrangements that may be hereafter made, some situation of equal value with what he held before might be found in the Custom house or elsewhere.

I have no other knowlege of the man than what arises from the occurrences in this case—and am impelled only by duty to present the papers and state what I know on the subject—submitting the case with deference to your consideration

I am with respect Your obed Sert

Wm Duane

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson. Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found.

Mr. Lee: John Lee was an officekeeper and messenger in the Department of State who claimed that he was “left behind” when the office moved from Philadelphia to Washington for being “a true & Faithfull Servant to the Goverment of the United States.” On 4 Apr., Lee wrote James Madison requesting that he be reinstated or placed in a new position. If Madison needed more information, Lee referred him to TJ, “in whose posession are full proofs of what I herein Justify” (Lee to Madison, 4 Apr. 1801, in DNA: RG 59, LAR; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 1:166–7, 483–4).

Mr. Gardner: William P. Gardner of Philadelphia was a former clerk in the Auditor’s Office of the Treasury Department. A devout Republican, around May or June 1800 Gardner and fellow clerk Anthony Campbell clandestinely forwarded Treasury records to Duane and Philadelphia innkeeper Israel Israel that documented alleged misuse of public monies by Timothy Pickering and Senator Jonathan Dayton, with the complicity of Oliver Wolcott. Duane used the information in a series of scathing articles that appeared in the Aurora in June and July 1800. Gardner resigned from the Auditor’s Office before his role in the affair became public (Jay C. Heinlein, “Albert Gallatin: A Pioneer in Public Administration,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 3d ser., 7 [1950], 92–3; Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:528–30; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 25:54–6, 423–7; Aurora, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 30 June; 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 July 1800).

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