Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Timothy Matlack, 28 August 1801

From Timothy Matlack

Lancaster August 28. 1801.


The knowledge of political characters is at all times of importance to the Chief Magistrate of the Union, and at no time was it more so than at the present moment. In Pennsylvania it is peculiarly so from the extreme Violence of those who have taken a lead among the Federalists; and [in] no part of the state has this violence been so outragious & insulting as in this borough and county. The Address of their last years committee with the additions by General Hand and Secretary Charles Smithø having fallen into my hands, I have had it transcribed, and herewith enclose it, as a specimen of the Sentiments language & measures of the party, and a list of its leading men.

The respect which is due to your high Station, may require an apology for encroaching on your time, and it is an honest one to say, that I feel it to be my duty to express to you the Sentiments I entertain respecting the appointing of over zealous Federal men to offices which give them weight and influence in the county. It is by this means that they have for several years back, obtained a majority at our Elections, and if such appointments are continued, there is much reason to fear that they will continue to carry their men into our legislature, and keep us involved in many and great difficulties.

There is in this county, more wealth & less knowledge than many other within the state; and perhaps it is equally true that there is more of the old leaven of Toryism working among us here, than there is even in our great cities. This affords the fatal opportunity to those who these [ill]-informed men consider as their old friends, not only to impress on their min[ions] whatever sentiments they find convenient to their purposes, but effectually to exclude every communication which might tend to open the eyes of those men to their real situation.

It is said that eight thousand copies of the inclosed address were printed, and yet it was with great difficulty that a compleat copy could be obtained by any democratic republican.

I have the honor to be with the highest respect Sir, Your most obedient servant

T Matlack

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); torn at right margin; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Sep. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found, but see below.

As a clerk for the Continental Congress, Timothy Matlack (ca. 1736–1829) is believed to have penned the parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a member and former secretary of the American Philosophical Society and held a variety of government posts during his public career, including clerk of the Pennsylvania senate from 1790 to 1800. He relocated from Philadelphia to Lancaster in 1799 and was appointed state master of the rolls the following year (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Vol. 1:433n; Vol. 4:544, 545n).

Address of their last years committee: a broadside circulated by the “Committee for promoting the Election of Federal Republicans in the County of Lancaster” presented a list of Federalist candidates for federal, state, and local office, headed by congressional candidate Thomas Boude and state senate candidate Matthias Barton. The broadside urged Federal electors not to “strike out or change the name of any Federal candidates,” warning that, “at a time when all our dearest rights are deeply concerned,” any division among Federalists could lead to the election of persons who “ought not to be trusted in the public councils” (“To the Federal Electors of Lancaster County” [Lancaster?, 1800]; Evans description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends , No. 38650).

Edward Hand was an inspector of the revenue for Pennsylvania, a former major general in the provisional army, and a well-known Federalist partisan (Vol. 32:308, 309n; William Findley to TJ, 12 May). The son of educator and clergyman William Smith, Charles Smith was a rising Lancaster attorney and ardent Federalist, who subsequently enjoyed a distinguished career as a state legislator, jurist, and legal scholar (David Hackett Fischer, The Revolution of American Conservatism, The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy [New York, 1965], 351–2; Alexander Harris, A Biographical History of Lancaster County [Lancaster, 1872], 544; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 4 [1880], 380–1).

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

Ø Son of the reverend Dr. W Smith of Philada.

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