Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Levi Lincoln, 16 April 1801

From Levi Lincoln

Washington April 16. 1801


I had the honor of recg. yours of the 10th, this morning. It is much to be regreted, that Mr Madison indisposition continues. The public have much to expect from his abilities, and his Patriotism. The two returned Commissions are recorded, with blanks left for the names and dates—These will be necessary to complete the record. Joseph Clay jr. declines accepting his commission, as judge of the circuit court of the fifth district. Judge Sullivan refuses to accept of the office of district attorney. His assigned reasons are, an unsuitableness from age and standing, to engage in new professional business. Jones has accepted & recd his commission. Brown, whose petition you inclosed, has already been discharged. This information I have, by a letter, from Bradford the Marshal, recd some days since. The officer having the custody of Callendar’s fine shall be instructed on the subject. Edwards has been written to, respecting the removal of Goodrich, as yet no answer has been received.

Nothing worthy of particular notice has occurred in this city, since you left it. Genl. Smith set off for Baltimore this morning, he will return in the course of the next week. By some means, a report has spread, and found its way into several newspapers, that the preparing frigates, were destined to the coast of Barbary. It is to be hoped, the rumor, will not preceed the arrival of the ships, at the place of their destination. I have caused a paragraph to be inserted, in the intelligencer, to counteract its effects—

The political intelligence from Massachusetts is rather favorable. This is the general complexion of my private letters. The inclosed is a state of the poll in Boston & Charlestown. There can be but little doubt of the three first named Senators being chosen. Tudor & Bowdoin are republicans. B. Zealous—Wendell an accomodating man, & will act with the Government—I have strong hopes in favour of Gerry. By the papers, I find both parties have been pushing, with their utmost strength.

I forward a pamphlet, on the agriculture of the U.S. The Author is said by some Gents. here, who have been acquainted with him to be a man of sense, and observation. He may be, it is probably that you are acquainted with him—Sure I am, neither his facts, his principles or his observations apply to any part of America with which, I am conversant. the policy of the publication may be, to discourage emigration. Mr. Williams, by the direction of Mr King, has sent 200 copies to the office.

Mr. Pichon is desirous you should see a copy of a circular letter, which he has addressed to the officers of his Government in the west Indies. At his particular request I forward it. Mr Kings dispatches have been received as late as the 25th of Feby He states generally that the situation of that Country is critical & full of difficulties. that the King had been attacked with a violent fever, and a delirium, and was not able to attend to business. That no overture had been made to France. That England must and would resist the claims of the northern powers. That his, Mr Kings negotiations, with the british Govt. had been deranged by the change of the ministry. That however Ld. Hawksbury, who is secretary of State for the foreign department, had assured him that an early and an impartial attention should be given to the objects of that negotiation. Mr. King hopes also that Ld. St Vincent will be inclined to attend to the reiterated remonstances against the impressment of our Seamen, and the vexations of our trade.

The dispatches from Tripoli are similar to those heretofore sent, on the subject of abuses, and a demand of presents by the Bashaw. Our Consuls want ships of war. The inclosed letter from Smith, from the variety of matter it contains I have thought proper to forward—

With sentiments of the highest esteem I have the honor to be most respectfully your obedient Sevt

Levi Lincoln

RC (DLC); at head of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Apr. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found, but see below.

A report has spread: the mission and destination of the U.S. naval squadron assembling at Hampton Roads was a subject of speculation both in the public papers and among navy officers. On 13 Apr. the National Intelligencer reported an understanding that the squadron was destined for the Mediterranean, and would not, “as has been stated in several prints, proceed with convoys to the West Indies.” Four days later, the same newspaper sought to quell rumors of a “secret expedition” by pointing out that under the Peace Establishment Act it was intended that navy vessels remaining in service would be employed in convoy duty and periodically “exercise and discipline the officers and seamen.” Gathering vessels at Norfolk was merely a convenient location for them to prepare for sea and “to await ulterior orders” regarding their appointed destination. The squadron’s mission was also unclear to its appointed commander, Thomas Truxtun. On 2 Apr., Truxtun informed the secretary of the navy that he would not accept command of the squadron “unless It should be intended to act decisively Against the Algerines.” Samuel Smith replied on the 10th that the squadron’s object was to train young officers and to carry out the terms of the Peace Establishment Act. He added, however, that “such a squadron Cruizing in view of the Barbary Powers will have a tendency to prevent them from seizing on our Commerce, whenever Passion or a Desire of Plunder might Incite them thereto.” Dissatisfied with Smith’s response, Truxtun declined the command. On 28 Apr., Smith appointed Richard Dale the squadron’s commanding officer (NDBW, description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends 1:428–9, 432, 435, 438–40).

Favorable Republican political intelligence from massachusetts of the 6 Apr. senators’ and governor’s election appeared in local newspapers, including the Boston Mercury and New-England Palladium of 7 Apr. In a letter to Madison of 16 Apr., Lincoln reported on the governor’s race indicating Elbridge Gerry’s sizable lead over Caleb Strong in Boston (2,078 to 1,851) and Charlestown (288 to 170). Although titular head of the Massachusetts Republican party and an oft-run gubernatorial candidate, Gerry ultimately lost the 1801 election (George Athan Billias, Elbridge Gerry: Founding Father and Republican Statesman [New York, 1976], 304; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 29 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 1:101).

Lincoln probably forwarded a Pamphlet by William Strickland, Observations on the Agriculture of the United States of America (London, 1801; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 819). Samuel Williams, at Rufus king’s direction, sent numerous copies of the pamphlet to the State Department. According to a handwritten note on a copy of the pamphlet from the Kress Collection at the Baker Library, Harvard University, King requested permission from Strickland and the Board of Agriculture, which first published the tract, to publish and distribute it in the U.S. For Strickland’s tour of the United States, which included a visit with TJ at Monticello in May 1795, see Vol. 28:371–3.

On 14 Apr., Louis André Pichon sent Lincoln a copy of a circular letter addressed to officials at the Île de France, Cayenne, Guadeloupe, and Saint-Domingue. In the circular, which Pichon asked Lincoln to bring to the president’s attention, the diplomat informed the colonial officials of his recognition by the United States as France’s commissary general and chargé d’affaires. Reminding the officials on the French islands that they should implement the terms of the Convention of 1800, Pichon stated that he was ready to receive claims related to government ships captured since the conclusion of hostilities or private vessels that had not yet been condemned when the convention was signed. Declaring that the Baltic Sea nations of the league of armed neutrality were on the brink of war with Great Britain, Pichon stressed the importance to France of a resumption of good relations and said that commerce under American colors (“le Pavillon americain”) would be the only neutral shipping available to France (RC and enclosure in DNA: RG 59, NL).

Mr Kings Dispatches: as Rufus King reported to the secretary of state from London on 25 Feb., George III had been incapacitated by illness (since attributed to porphyria). While the monarch’s condition delayed some of the change of the ministry, Lord Hawkesbury was the new secretary of state for foreign affairs and Lord St. Vincent was the new first lord of the admiralty (Dupl in DNA: RG 59, DD; Ehrman, Pitt description begins John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle, London, 1996 description ends , 500n, 525–8, 553; Delamotte to TJ, 27 Feb.).

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