Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Duane, 10 May 1801, 4 May 1801

From William Duane

Philadelphia, May 10. 1801.


Mr. W. P. Gardner who will present this letter carries with him a small box containing impressions of two Medals, which I have had by me some time past waiting for an opportunity safe and suitable. Mr. Gardner is a man of great worth in every civil relation and is one of those who was compelled to quit the Treasury Department thro’ the injuries done him on account of his political opinions. He is no ordinary man, and to his private virtues and political integrity I can justify. He is a native of this city.

The medals of which you will receive copies were engraved by a young man of the name of C. J. Reick, a native of Germany, but a republican, and on that account obliged to fly his native country. It appears that he engraved the Medal of Italicus in secret, and from his own account had an interview with the hero at Rastadt. It seems that in order to come to the United States, he had indented himself, and is now in this city, tho’ not in absolute indigence or villainage, is yet circumstanced so as to render his situation irksome to him, as must be supposeable from the merits of his work, and his personal manners.

Hearing of his worth, and knowing what it is to be in a strange land without a knowlege of its language, it occurred to me, that the cap of liberty had been erased from our public coins, and other innovations of a tendency correspondent with the views of certain weak men made during the last administration, and hearing on enquiry that there were public medals to be cut; I thought it a duty in various respects to rescue this man if possible from the unfitness of his condition, and to make his merits known to you.

As a connoisseur I do not pretend to judge of the Medals, but as a person conversant with analogous branches of the arts, they strike me as of superior character. If on consideration the merits of the artist should be such as to entitle him to your patronage, and there are any services in his profession upon which he could be employed, it would greatly serve the man, and afford me extreme delight to have been the means of rescuing him from his present situation. I advised him to draft a letter to you, which he did in German, of which a translation, tho’ very imperfectly done, I think proper to forward herewith. His application is confined to the knowlege of two others and myself. Should there be any commands for him, I shall with great pleasure receive and communicate them to him.

Permit me to mention, that I have found it necessary to enter into the Stationary and Bookselling business, the hostility of the Custom House, and the abuses in the Post office, rendering all ideas of profit from my newspaper hopeless. Should no engagements be made for the supply of Stationary for the public offices, I shall be obliged by the contracts for that service, which I trust I shall be able to execute as well and on as reasonable terms as any other person.

If no arrangements have been made for obtaining the books to supply the public Library, ordered by the late Congress, my acquaintance with men of letters in England, and the most eminent Booksellers, would enable me to procure them with more advantage than any other person not similarly circumstanced could.

These favors I should be grateful for, and as they are professional I trust it will not be considered as presuming that I suggest them. In the season of danger, I laid aside personal considerations, in the return of a milder season, it is incumbent upon me to make provision for my little progeny, and the little progeny of my predecessor, the descendants of Franklin who have become mine, to which another has been just added by the birth of a daughter.

I have not permitted myself to touch upon politics, because I am not to suppose that you have not other channels by which you can obtain information from hence, & particularly as I am apprehensive of intruding too much upon your leisure. If however, it should be supposed that the confidence which is reposed in me should enable me to give less partial views of the state of parties and political interests and characters in this state, than those who are the interested actors in them, I shall be at all times ready to state faithfully and if necessary frequently such information as may appear to me useful and authentic; at present I think it of the utmost importance that the true state of politics in Pennsylvania should be known, particularly as an election occurs in October, and a governmental Election not far remote, for which movements are already making.

I have the honor to be your sincere & respectful Sert

Wm. Duane

Tuesday noon, the trial on the Indictment at the instigation of the Senate, postponed this instant, to October then to be tried peremptorily!!!

Dr Franklins daughter Mrs. Bache, is now at table, and requests to be particularly remembered to you

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 May and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure printed below.

For the resignation of Treasury clerk William P. Gardner, see William Duane to TJ, 1 Mch. 1801.

The two medals Duane sent were made by John Reich, a German die-sinker and medalist who arrived in America around 1800. Released from his indenture through the intercession of Henry Voigt, the chief coiner of the Mint, Reich worked as an engraver in Philadelphia before securing a position in the Mint as assistant engraver from 1807 to 1817. Works attributed to him include a medal commemorating TJ’s 1801 inauguration and the Indian peace medals distributed by Lewis and Clark during their western expedition, both of which feature a bust of TJ on the obverse (Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Image of Thomas Jefferson in the Public Eye: Portraits for the People, 1800–1809 [Charlottesville, 1981], 71–8; Francis Paul Prucha, Indian Peace Medals in American History [Madison, 1971], 16–24, 90–5; Stewart, First United States Mint description begins Frank H. Stewart, History of the First United States Mint, Its People and Its Operations, Camden, N.J., 1924 description ends , 93–4; Georgia Stamm Chamberlain, American Medals and Medalists [Annandale, Va., 1963], 54–63; Henry Voigt to TJ, 29 Dec. 1801; Reich to TJ, 15 Feb. 1805).

The medals Duane sent were made of block tin. One depicted Frederick William III, king of Prussia, and the other Napoleon Bonaparte. The latter may have been a medal struck in 1798 to commemorate the Treaty of Rastatt (Rastadt), which included a bust of Napoleon on the obverse under the word “Italicus.” It was created for Strasbourg tobacco merchant Étienne-Bernard Mainoni, who had previously commissioned similar tin medals to commemorate the Treaty of Campoformio (Henry Voigt to TJ, 29 Dec. 1801; Michel Hennin, Histoire Numismatique de la Révolution Française, 2 vols. [Paris, 1826; repr., Pays-Bas, 1970], 1:569–70, 615; 2: Plate 81, Nos. 812–814, Plate 89, No. 880).

The cap of liberty was symbolic of the Roman Phrygian cap, which was presented to emancipated slaves. A popular republican emblem, the cap (impaled on a pole projecting behind the head) appeared on one-cent coins from 1793 to 1796 and half cents from 1793 to 1797. New one-cent and half-cent coins appearing in 1796 and 1800, respectively, omitted the liberty cap. After joining the Mint in 1807, Reich created a new design, which initially appeared on half-dollar and half-eagle ($5) coins. This design depicted liberty wearing a mobcap with “Liberty” appearing on the band. While critics denounced it as reviving the liberty cap motif, Mint officials insisted that the new headdress was merely “a model in good taste of the fashion of the time” (Walter Breen, Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins [New York, 1988], 161–6, 181–9, 340–1, 380–1, 485, 488, 518–19, 544–5, 703, 706; Samuel Moore to TJ, 14 Feb. 1825).

Public medals to be cut: in March 1800, Congress authorized a gold medal for Thomas Truxtun for his gallantry against the French frigate La Vengeance (Vol. 31:456n).

In anticipation of the patronage he expected from the new administration, in 1801 Duane borrowed $22,000 and established a stationery and bookselling business and a printing office on Pennsylvania Avenue. He also wrote James Madison with an offer to supply the Department of State with “Stationary of every description.” Duane would be disappointed in his efforts to secure patronage. The majority of government printing contracts were awarded to Samuel Harrison Smith, while financial and supply difficulties prevented Duane from fulfilling the stationery contract he received from the Treasury Department (Phillips, “William Duane,” description begins Kim Tousley Phillips, “William Duane, Revolutionary Editor,” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1968 description ends 130–9; Cunningham, Jeffersonian Republicans in Power description begins Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power, Party Operations, 1801–1809, Chapel Hill, 1963 description ends , 268–71; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:152–4).

Books to supply the public library: in July 1802, TJ authorized Duane to procure books from his bookselling contacts in Europe for the Library of Congress. TJ left “superintendence and controul” of the final purchase, however, with George W. Erving in London and William Short in Paris, who were instructed to employ a “rigorous economy” when paying for the books and to obtain cheaper copies if they could be found elsewhere (TJ to William Duane, 16 July 1802; “List of Books to be Purchased for the Library of Congress,” 19 July 1802).

Descendants of Franklin who have become mine: Duane married Margaret Bache, the widow of Benjamin Franklin Bache, on 28 June 1800, and became stepfather to Bache’s four sons. Elizabeth, the first of William and Margaret Duane’s six children, was born 21 Apr. (Aurora, 30 June 1800; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , s.v. “Duane, Margaret Hartman Markoe Bache”; Philadelphia North American, 8 Dec. 1907).

On 12 May, the U.S. circuit court at Philadelphia agreed to postpone Duane’s sedition trial until its October term. Duane’s attorneys, Thomas Cooper and Mahlon Dickerson, argued that they had been unable to secure the testimony of Senate witnesses because the court in Philadelphia had no authority to compel senators in Washington to testify. In addition, the prosecution’s member of the joint commission to interview witnesses, Harrison Gray Otis, had left the city before any testimony was collected. Speaking on behalf of a 2–1 court majority, Chief Judge William Tilghman criticized Duane for not showing proper “diligence” in collecting evidence, but granted the postponement “under the positive agreement of taking a peremptory trial at the next session” (Smith, Freedom’s Fetters description begins James Morton Smith, Freedom’s Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, Ithaca, N.Y., 1956 description ends , 301–4; Aurora, 14 May 1801).

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