Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Wade Hampton, 26 June 1801

From Wade Hampton

Columbia. 26th. June 1801.


The letter you did me the honor to write me on the 30th. May, desiring to know if it would be agreeable to me, in the event of it’s being vacant, to accept of the situation of Post master General of the united States, I have had the pleasure of recieving, but not until a few days ago, owing to my being absent when it arrived.   My sincere wish for the success of your administration would have dictated a prompt offer of my best services, & most active exertions in support of it, did not the state of my affairs render it impossible for me to relinquish my private pursuits without subjecting my self, and my family, to unwarrantable sacrifices.   In declining a task that I can but view as far above the reach of my feeble capacity, I beg you will be assured, Sir, of the grateful sense I must ever have of this distinguished mark of your notice, and of the high consideration and respect,

With which I am, Sir, Your most obedt. Servant.

W. Hampton

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 7 July and so recorded in SJL.

Wade Hampton (1754?-1835), a wealthy South Carolina planter, was a Revolutionary War veteran who had also provided supplies for the American forces. As a member of the state’s ratifying convention in 1788, he voted against ratification of the Constitution. He served two terms as a congressman from South Carolina, the first beginning in 1795, when he sought federal compensation for himself and other Yazoo Company land speculators, the second in 1803. In 1808 Hampton accepted a commission in the army and the next year replaced General James Wilkinson as commander at New Orleans. He resigned his commission after taking part in the ill-fated invasion of Canada during the War of 1812 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

On 30 May, TJ wrote Hampton noting that it had been suggested he would be willing to undertake the duties of postmaster general with the view of “improving the system of our post offices.” TJ assured Hampton that there was no person he would rather have fill the position, if a vacancy occurred, and that it would give him a “better hope of a successful attempt” to introduce improvements to the postal system if the South Carolinian agreed to accept the appointment (PrC in DLC; faint; at foot of text in ink: “Colo. Wade Hampton”).

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