Jacob Wagner’s Memorandum on State Department Clerks
Mr. Kimball keeps the accounts of the Department; and, when not so engaged, does such other current business as is assigned to him.
Mr. Thom fills up patents for Virginia Military lands and for useful discoveries and inventions, and does such other copying and recording as is assigned to him.
Mr. Miller records the foreign and domestic letters written by the Secretary of State, and does such other copying and recording as is assigned to him.
Mr. Pleasonton fills up patents for U.S. military lands, and does such other copying and recording as is assigned to him.
Mr. Brent for the present is engaged only in collating.
J. Wagner has been employed in filing away the papers, making copies of the most confidential of them, when necessary; receiving applications about the current business and having them executed; collating the laws and superintending their publication and distribution; the receipt and management of complaints for captures and impressments of American citizens, when they do not embrace such peculiar circumstances as render them worthy of the particular attention of the Secretary; drafting commissions, formal official papers and answers to such letters of inferior consequence, as the Secretary may charge him with, &c. &c. It is not easy to comprehend every particular of his duty in a concise sketch: but the above will serve to give a view of the general nature of his usual employment, the design of which is, by saving the attention of the Secretary, as much as possible, from matters of routine and small importance, to enable him to devote1 his time to objects of greater magnitude
MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 235:42188); in Jacob Wagner’s hand, except as noted below; endorsed by TJ: “State. department of. Clerks.”
TJ probably requested this information regarding clerks in the State Department shortly after he took office, when Levi Lincoln was looking after the department, and before he left, on 1 Apr., for Monticello. Timothy Pickering appointed to the clerkship Jacob Wagner, an acknowledged Federalist, whose role as chief clerk under James Madison has been described “as something of an assistant secretary of state.” Hazen Kimball resigned his post on 14 Nov. 1801. Noting their allegiance to Pickering, William Duane characterized Wagner, Kimball, and Christopher S. Thom as “Complete Picaroons.” Duane described John C. Miller as “Modest,” Stephen Pleasonton as a “Nothingarian,” William Crawford as a “Hamiltonian,” and Daniel Brent as a “Nincumpoop.” In 1807 Wagner, Thom, Pleasonton, and Brent still held their clerkships. Wagner resigned that year and became the editor of a Federalist newspaper in Baltimore (Cunningham, Process of Government description begins Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Process of Government Under Jefferson, Princeton, 1978 description ends , 94–5, 178, 328; Madison, Sec. of State Ser., 2:427n; Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 6:354).
1. Remainder in TJ’s hand, supplying Wagner’s words cut off at bottom of page.