Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elijah Paine, 12 December 1801

From Elijah Paine

Williamstown, Vermont, Decr. 12th. 1801


In addressing you upon the subject of this letter I am sensible I transgress the practice established in the Government of the United States; and I beg you to accept as an apology, my want of acquaintance with the Secretary of State—

I have been led to believe there will be several applications for the Office of Marshall in this State, & that those applications will originate from an opinion among the political friends of the present Marshall that he is an improper person to hold the office—

Should you think it proper to alter the appointment in consequence of the representations which may be made to you upon the subject, I know of no one who would discharge the duties of the office with better abilities & to more general acceptance than Mr. Reuben Atwater—He is about thirty five years of age, worked to the law, & is a person of strict integrity & of an amiable disposition—

I hope you will do me the justice to believe that this recommendation is not owing to a disposition on my part in the smallest degree to embarrass your Administration—Mr Atwater is a Brother-in-law of General Bradley now of the Senate, & of the same politics, & he married a Daughter of General Lamb

I am with great respect Your Obedt Servt.

Elijah Paine

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Jan. 1802 and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “Reuben Atwater to be marshal of Vermont vice Willard.”

Elijah Paine (1757–1842), a Revolutionary War veteran and jurist from Brooklyn, Connecticut, graduated from Harvard College in 1781 and practiced law in Massachusetts before settling in Willamstown and Northfield, Vermont. There he pursued agricultural and manufacturing interests, including owning a mill and textile factory. He served from 1787 to 1790 in the lower house of Vermont’s legislature and as probate judge and state supreme court justice, prior to becoming a United States senator for Vermont from 1795 until his resignation in September 1801. He subsequently returned to Williamstown and became a federal judge for the district of Vermont, serving until his death (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

TJ received the names of John Willard, Isaac Clarke, and James Witherill as possible replacements for Jabez G. Fitch, who held the office of marshal for the district of Vermont and was criticized for his behavior toward Republican printer Matthew Lyon. Willard received the nomination in early January 1802 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:403; Vol. 33:111, 113, 533, 666, 668, 673).

Reuben Atwater of Connecticut became secretary and eventually governor of the Michigan Territory. His older sister, Merab, was the first wife of Stephen Row Bradley, who was elected in Paine’s place upon his resignation from the Senate. Atwater married Sarah, the daughter of General John Lamb (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; Francis Atwater, comp., Atwater History and Genealogy [Meriden, Conn., 1901], 125, 153, 155, 156).

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