Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Hobby, 20 March 1801

From John Hobby

Portland District of
Maine March 20th 1801.

May it please your Excellency.

Altho to you Sir I am personally unknown, I am induc’d from a consciencious belief that I have deserved a better fate to state to you my past services, & my present distressed seituation, flattering myself that if it is in your power it will afford you pleasure to relieve the distresses of an inocent family reduced to necessity & want, and if it is not, that you will not be offended with the following lines—Seven years of the best of my life was devoted to the service of my country during the Revolutionary War with the British Nation, received as a compensation fifty Cents on the pound being compell’d to dispose of my certificates to give support to an Aged Mother, after whose Death I sat down in this place in the mercantile line, as soon as the Genl. Government was established, & District Courts form’d, I received from Genl. Dearborn an appointment of Deputy Marshal after his appointment to Congress I received from President Washington a Commission as Marshal of the district of Maine, in which office I remain’d nearly eight years, for several years the office but poorly supported my Horse expences, while other Marshals in large Capitols & Cyties were accumilating estates subjected to very little labor or fatigue. Experiencing that my public business frequently interfered with that of my private concerns, and the latter with the former, I perceived it necessary either to dismiss my private business or give up that of the public, but with a little ambition to soar above the commonnallity together with repeated assurances throug the medium of Mr. Adams’s family that my name was first on the list for a more lucretive appointment induced me to prefer that of the public, while feeding myself with pleasing expectations, some intriguing incendiary and suppos’d low Character, prevailed on a Barber, & shoemaker, who owned part of a Vessell which I was obliged to take from them to secure a public demand to prefer without my knowlege in a most secret way, a complaint against me to President adams, who threw it into the hands of the then Secretary of the Treasury, & altho the complaint was founded on suspicion only, I was without warning—without time to adjust my accounts, without liberty of stating a syllable by way of defence, as it were with the stroke of a pen dashed out of office deprived of all means of support, & in this helpless seituation I have remain’d more than two years, during which I have had the painfull experience of long expensive sickness & repeated Deaths in my family. Expensive prosesses of a public as well as local nature is the natural result of misfortune, untill I am now reduced from a small but in[…] patrimony which was attched to my Wife not only to indijent circumstances, but almost to a Morsel of Bread, and am still by a C[…] […]eferres brot in Debt to the goverment, a sum I never can discharge but by the De[t] of nature, unless I can be discharged from my present state of painfull suspence and enter into some business that may ena[ble m]e to do it some few years hence.—From a consideration of a life having been almost intirely devoted to public service with little or no compensation I have been induced to have recource to your Excellecy’s clemency praying if it is not inconsistant with the duties of the important office you sustain, that my mind & the wants of a tender family dear to me, who naturally look to a Parent for support, and who had once a right to believe themselves born to a better fate may be restor’d to quietude & peace by either a limited or entire discharge of the public demand on me that I may be an enabled to embrace the first offers of any kind of decent business. Genl. Dearborn to whom I have been long personnally known & to whom I have related some particulars of the treatment I have received & the consequent misfortunes which followed will I believe substantiate this statement so far as he has been acquainted or inform’d.—

I am Sir with great respect & Esteem for your Excellencys name & Character your most obedt. Hble Sert

John Hobby

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); torn; at foot of text: “President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Apr. and so recorded in SJL.


John Hobby (ca. 1750–1802) was an officer in the Continental Army from 1777 to 1784, holding the rank of captain in the 16th Massachusetts Regiment at the end of his service. He succeeded Henry Dearborn as federal marshal for the district of Maine in April 1793 and was reappointed to the same post in January 1798. He was replaced by Isaac Parker in March 1799. In 1801 the U.S. government obtained a judgment against Hobby to recover monies he received while marshal for use of the federal government amounting to $5,834.67. Imprisoned, he unsuccessfully petitioned Congress in December 1801 for his release, citing his past service, advanced age, and declining health. He was deceased by the following May (Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends , 40, 61, 293; Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, Accompanying His Report on the Petition of John Hobby, Late Marshal of the District of Maine [Washington, 1802], 5–7; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 3321; 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 , 1:142, 144, 258, 325, 327; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:16, 49, 73; Jenks’ Portland Gazette, 4 Jan., 10 May 1802; Vol. 25:316–17).

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