Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Smith, 11 March 1801

From John Smith

Philadelphia March 11. 1801


So far as the enclosed Certificates may justify I presume to place myself before you as a Candidate for office, whenever it may be your pleasure, or occation may occur, to turn your attention to our state. In the Middle age of life, heretofore used to commercial pursuits, with a wife and family now distressed by the effect of political persecution, a Mind unambitious and Moderate Views, I should be thankful for Such employment in the service of the United States, as future Arrangements and your wisdom may direct—It might however be an injustice to myself, Sir, not to state that a Cruel report by some ill disposed person, that I have circulated a letter which proprosed to produce an opposition to Governor Mc:Kean and to favour the election of Genl. Muhlenberg, as Governor of this State, is totally destitute of truth.—

I have the honor to be with the highest respect your Obedient Servant

Jno Smith

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 16 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Commissioned officers of the Militia Legion of Philadelphia to TJ, 5 Mch. 1801, offering congratulations on the “revival of the republican conduct opinions and feelings which have procured to us the gratification and to our Country the benefit of your recent election” and recommending John Smith, a “uniform and active republican Character” who served “in advancing the cause of democracy” to the detriment of his business affairs, noting that it would therefore give “great Satisfaction if it should happen that Some appointment in the Service of his country were to be confided to him” (same; in Smith’s hand, signed by Thomas Willis, William Duane, James McKean, John Shee, Thomas Leiper, James Stuart, William Jones, and 22 others, with signatures certified by Peter Christian, adjutant; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ: “Pennsylva. Marshal”). (2) Members of the Philadelphia Committee of Arrangements and Correspondence to TJ, 5 Mch. 1801, offering congratulations and seeking an appointment for Smith with language almost identical to that of Enclosure No. 1 (same; in Smith’s hand, signed by Hugh Ferguson, John Barker, William Rush, Frederick Wolbert, William Coats, James Kerr, and 12 others, with signatures certified by John Barker as chairman of the “General town Meeting”; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 18 Mch. and so recorded in SJL). (3) Certificate from John Beckley, 10 Mch. 1801, printed below.


John Smith, a Philadelphia merchant, served for many years in the militia and in June 1794 became a major in the Second Philadelphia Regiment led by Colonel John Barker. He resigned his commission a few months later in opposition to the excise law. In July 1798 he helped organize Philadelphia’s Fourth Troop of Light Horse and was elected first lieutenant of the troop under Captain Thomas Leiper. Smith played a key role in getting out the vote for Republican electors in Pennsylvania in 1796. He strongly supported Thomas McKean in the 1799 gubernatorial campaign and was disappointed when he failed to receive an appointment in the new administration. Described as Tench Coxe’s political lieutenant, Smith was again active in the Republican cause in 1800 and served as secretary of the committee of arrangements that planned the 4 Mch. inaugural celebration in Philadelphia. TJ offered Smith the position of marshal of the eastern district of Pennsylvania in late March after John Shee declined to serve (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 , 52 [1928], 378–9; Cooke, Coxe, 285, 346–7, 371n, Smith to Tench Coxe, 30 Oct. and 15 Dec. 1800, in PHi: Coxe Family Papers; Appendix I, List 4; Leiper to TJ, 8 Mch. 1801).

Cruel report by some ill disposed person: perhaps Israel Israel, the sheriff of Philadelphia, who Smith noted had become his “Enemy and the Enemy of many other Republicans.” Israel boasted that he had kept Smith from obtaining a position under the McKean administration and that he also had “influence over Mr Jefferson,” which he intended to use to prevent Smith’s appointment “to any Office” (Smith to Coxe, 15 Dec. 1800, in PHi: Coxe Family Papers).

TJ received communications from two counties in Pennsylvania proposing Smith for an appointment. On 14 Mch. the citizens of Reading, in Berks County, sent congratulations, noting the election demonstrated the confidence the “warm Supporters of Democracy” had in TJ. They believed the newly elected president would advance the prosperity of the country through the encouragement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures and perpetuate “those Principles of Liberty upon which American Independance was founded.” TJ could accomplish the goals if he carefully selected “suitable Characters to fill the Various departments of Public Office.” With this in mind the signers wished to introduce Smith, a gentleman who “would fill any Appointment given him with Advantage to the Public and Credit to himself” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; in unidentified hand, signed by Jacob Bright, Joseph Hiester, Jacob Schneider, and 12 others; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Mch. and so recorded in SJL). In an undated letter, the citizens of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, congratulated TJ and recommended Smith, introducing the same ideas in similar language as in the memorial from Berks County. The communication was signed by Daniel Montgomery and 14 others (same; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson, Esquire President of the United States”).

In an undated note TJ wrote: “John Smith, Majr. of Phila. a 1st Lieut. in Leiper’s corps of dragoons recommd by Dr. Leib as Marshall E. distr. Pensva” (MS in DNA: RG 59, LAR, 10:0408; entirely in TJ’s hand).

Those supporting Smith did not specifically recommend him for the office of marshal. In fact, several who supported Smith recommended Andrew Geyer, Jr., of Philadelphia, as a candidate for the marshalship of the district. On 7 Mch., Philadelphians William Coats, Frederick Wolbert, Samuel Wetherill, and George A. Baker signed a recommendation for Geyer “as a Man of Good Character, a firm Republican” who was “well qualified” to fill the office (same; in unidentified hand; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson, Esquire, President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 13 Mch. and so recorded in SJL; TJ later added “Geyer Andrew” to the endorsement and canceled “Coats & others”).

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