Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Tobias Lear, 9 March 1801

From Tobias Lear

Washington March 9th: 1801—


Permit me to offer you my services in the Naval Department.—It would be presumption in me to say that I am fully qualified to conduct the business of this Department; but, having passed a few years, on my first entrance into life, in maratime affairs, which included the building and fitting out Vessels, and having been latterly engaged, for some years, in commerce, I cannot say that I am wholly inexperienced in Naval Affairs: and with the aid of the judgment of others in the great arrangements, joined to an indefatigable industry, I should hope to discharge the duties with Credit.—Whether this should be a permanent or temporary appointment I would submit to your determination.—In either event; or in the event of this application being altogether rejected, you may depend, Sir, upon my full support of your Administration, so far as my abilities will permit, beleiving as I do, that it will be conducted with purity, and upon the genuine principles of Republicanism.—

With the highest respect & Sincere regard, I have the honor to be Sir, Your most Obedient Servant

Tobias Lear

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.


Lear probably sought an appointment because of the financial troubles he was facing as a result of the collapse of T. Lear & Co. in 1798. As private secretary to George Washington he was the caretaker of the former president’s papers in the 1790 s and the months immediately following Washington’s death. Rumors circulated that in exchange for political preferments Lear turned over to TJ sections of Washington’s diary and correspondence relating to TJ’s controversial letter to Philip Mazzei (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Ray Brighton, The Checkered Career of Tobias Lear [Portsmouth, N.H., 1985], 147–59, 169–81; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 6:34–40,192–4; Lear to TJ, 26 Mch.; Vol. 29:80n).

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