Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Cheetham, 17 January 1802

To James Cheetham


Washington Jan. 17. 1802.

Your favor of Dec. 29. was recieved in due time. although it is all important for public as well as personal considerations, that I should recieve information of every interesting occurrence, yet it is little in my power to entitle myself to it by regular correspondence on my part. in fact it is rare I can answer a private letter at all, being for the most part obliged to leave even my best friends to read their answer in what is done, or not done, in consequence of their letters. this must account for my late answer to your’s of the 29th. ult. and for my failures to answer at all on other occasions. the fact of the suppression of a work mentioned by you is curious, and pregnant with considerations. is it impossible to get a single copy of the work? a good history of the period it comprehended will doubtless be valuable. should it be undertaken as you suggest, I should suppose it indispensable in you, rather to visit this place, at your own convenience, for the information you desire as to a particular document, and for such other as the work itself will suggest to you. in the mean time I can assure you that I have compared that document with the extract from it in Callender’s history of 1796. pa. 172. to 181. and find the latter, not only substantially, but almost verbally exact. with respect to the compensation to the negociator, I think the printed public accounts shew that he recieved his salary as C.J. and his actual expences on the mission. a certain description of persons are so industrious in misconstruing & misrepresenting every word from my pen, that I must pray you, after reading this, to destroy it, that no accident happening to it may furnish matter for new slanders. accept my respects & best wishes.

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. James Cheetham.” Not recorded in SJL.

That Document: Secretary of State Edmund Randolph’s instructions to John Jay as special envoy to Great Britain, dated 6 May 1794. For TJ’s notes on the document, including his verification of the extracts from it in Callender’s history, see Vol. 29:606–10, 630n.

C.J.: chief justice. At the time of Jay’s nomination as envoy, a resolution was introduced in the Senate “That to permit Judges of the Supreme Court to hold at the same time any other office or employment, emanating from and holden at the pleasure of the Executive, is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and, as tending to expose them to the influence of the Executive, is mischievous and impolitic” (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 , 1:152).

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