Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Hichborn, 25 January 1802

From Benjamin Hichborn

Boston 25th Januy. 1802—


I intended to have written you a line the moment after my arrival, but find the State of the public mind here, very much in unison with that manifested on the Road & in all the great towns between Washington & Boston, I have waited a few days, in hopes that some occurrence might happen to indicate more precisely what we have to expect—hitherto the general Opinion seems to have rested with inactive Complacency on the state of public affairs, & is rather disposed to receive impressions & follow the impulse which may be given to it, than to lead in any thing—our Friends have been divided for some time, upon the Expediency of moving an Address, but it is now agreed that the attempt ought to be made, let the Issue be as it may—I presume the Motion will be made tomorrow in the house of Representatives, & we have great Confidence in it’s Success—we shall in a few days make a similar one in the Senate & are not without hopes of a favorable termination; some benefits we are sure must result from it—the Subject will be bro’t into public discussion & our Enemies compelled to unmask—I cannot add a word more by this Eveng Mail, but shall trouble you again in a few days—

I am with esteem yours

Benjn Hichborn

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 3 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.

Attempt Ought to be Made: according to the Boston Independent Chronicle, on 26 Jan., Perez Morton, a Republican in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, sought leave to lay the following motion on the table: “That a committee be raised to prepare and report, an ADDRESS to the President of the United States, expressive of the confidence which this House entertain in his Integrity and Patriotism, and in the Wisdom of the measures of his administration.” After debate on the question, leave to bring in the motion was defeated. When Morton asked for a reconsideration of the question, the House voted to consider the motion in a week. Noting that opposition to the motion arose “from the general terms in which it was expressed,” on 2 Feb., Morton introduced and read a revised motion: “That a Committee be raised to prepare an Address to the President of the United States,—To announce to him the high-sense this House entertain of his important services in the course of the American revolution, and of the ability and fidelity, with which he sustained the various subordinate duties committed to his trust, under the government of the United States;—To express to him our cordial approbation of those republican principles, which he has avowed to the world shall be made the basis of his Presidential administration;—To thank him for the prompt and seasonable protection he has given to our commerce against the Barbary Powers—and for those measures of retrenchment and oeconomy, which he has begun and recommended, as the best means of supporting the public faith, and lessening the burthens of the people;—To assure him of the confidence, which the House possess, of the disposition of their constituents, to support him in all the measures of his administration which shall tend to cherish the interests of agriculture, commerce, the liberal arts, and our infant manufactures, to secure internal peace and social order, to diffuse equal justice and general information among the citizens, to maintain the public faith, to promote oeconomy in the public expense, to preserve sacred and entire the constitution of the Federal government in the purity of its principles, the rights of the respective State governments, and the union of the whole, as the ark of their safety;—and to congratulate him on the restoration of peace in Europe.” During the ensuing debate, the Federalists noted they were induced to oppose the address and to withhold their “confidence from the President” for several reasons. They disagreed with TJ’s decision to withhold Ray Greene’s commission as district judge for Rhode Island, with the appointment of Gallatin as Treasury secretary instead of “a native American,” with the repair of the Berceau “upon which a large sum of money had been expended by his order without legislative authority,” and with TJ’s recommendations calling for the abolition of internal taxes, which they believed would operate “unequally upon the northern state,” and for the revision of the judiciary and naturalization laws. The opposition also expressed a “general repugnance to the principle of addresses.” The Republicans answered the charges point by point. On the stand against addresses, the Republicans charged: “having heretofore been in the habit of addressing the Chief Magistrate, as the father of the nation and object of our respect & veneration, it would betray a spirit unworthy of the Legislature of Massachusetts to refuse this customary tribute of respect to Mr. Jefferson, merely because he was not elected by our votes, and that such a conduct would betray a total desertion of those principles of Federalism, of which they had heretofore boasted, and would convince the world that it was not the principle, but the name by which we were governed.” At the close of the debate, the House approved a motion, 142 to 92, to postpone consideration of the address until the next session of the legislature (Boston Independent Chronicle, 28 Jan., 4 Feb. 1802; Vol. 31:454–5).

Hichborn brought a similar resolution before the state Senate on Friday, 5 Feb., calling for the appointment of a committee to prepare an address to the president “congratulating him on his accession to the Chief Magistracy of the Union; declaring our unequivocal approbation of the true system of republican principles, which he has assumed as the basis of his administration; and assuring him of our cordial support in effectuating the great objects of national economy, without which, no people can long retain their morality or freedom.” The Senate debated the resolution for two days, before voting 14 to 19 against the address. The editors of the Independent Chronicle noted that they had “seldom witnessed in a deliberative assembly, a debate conducted with more candor, intelligence and manly reasoning than was displayed on this occasion by those in favor of the motion.” On 11 Feb., the newspaper published the substance of the debate in the Senate, as they had earlier that of the House (Boston Independent Chronicle, 4, 8, 11 Feb. 1802).

Index Entries