From Albert Gallatin
Jany. 9th 1802
Will you look at the enclosed letters & remarks of the Comptroller in E. Randolph’s case. I think it is best to take no steps in relation to the commissions for testimony abroad. But the conduct of the Court, through the whole of this business has been very extraordinary.
Respectfully Your obt. Servt.
RC (DLC); address clipped: “President [of] the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 9 Jan. and “E. Randolph’s case” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found, but see below.
John Steele, the comptroller, was in charge of pressing the U.S. suit against Edmund Randolph to recover about $50,000 in expenditures unaccounted for while he was secretary of state. The suit began in U.S. circuit court at Richmond in 1797. Attorneys argued the case in December of the following year, but the court’s two judges were divided on some issues and could not render a judgment. A series of continuances then prolonged the suit. After each term of court the U.S. attorney for the district, Thomas Nelson, reported on the case to the secretary of the Treasury or the comptroller. Those letters, or an abridged compilation of them, were probably part of what Gallatin enclosed with the letter above. TJ learned from Nelson’s reports that the circuit court’s judges had split in 1798 over whether the government was responsible for William Short’s claim of back diplomatic salary (see TJ to John Wickham, 29 Jan., and TJ to Short, 19 Apr. 1802). Later in 1802, Gallatin transmitted extracts of Nelson’s correspondence to a committee of the House of Representatives that was investigating expenditures (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Finance, 1:757, 760–2; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:240; Henry M. Wagstaff, ed., The Papers of John Steele, 2 vols. [Raleigh, N.C., 1924], 1:246–7; Vol. 31:62–3).
In 1800, Justice Samuel Chase, whose circuit included Virginia, had changed the means by which the case could be resolved when he ruled that the 1797 law under which the suit had been filed could not prevent Randolph from having the case decided by a jury. In November 1801, Gallatin passed along to Madison a request from Randolph for copies of some correspondence relating to expenditures during his tenure as secretary of state. In December the suit was argued before a jury for four days, but the jury, after a long deliberation, was unable to reach a verdict. In his most recent communication, dated 28 Dec. 1801, Nelson reported that the court had granted commissions for Randolph to obtain depositions in Europe, which the district attorney feared could mean further delay. On 9 Jan. 1802, Gallatin informed Steele that he did not “see that any thing can or ought to be done in relation to the dedimus in E. Randolph’s case” (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 6:437; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Finance, 1:761–2; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:240).