Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Guerrant, 7 February 1802

From John Guerrant

Richmond February 7th. 1802


Sensible of the honor which you have done me by my appointment of Post-Master at this place, I have as deliberately as I could weighed the advantages and disadvantages which wou’d probably result from my acceptance of it.

Being entirely unacquainted with the compensation, or the duties, annexed to this office, it became necessary that I should devote a short time to the obtaining the best possible Information on those points, and that I should, ascertain the probable amount of expences Incidental to its execution, including the charges of necessary house rents for the office and the accomodation of my family.

Upon Inquiry I find that the amount of compensation has not exceeded the sum of $1700. per annum, and that a very great proportion of that sum must necessarily be expended in rewarding a faithful assistant, and in providing an house in an eligible situation for the office, and use of my family, added to which, the steady and unremited attention with which I shou’d certainly endeavour to discharge the duties of the office wou’d exclude the possibility of my attending with any advantages to the future management and Improvement of my farm.

I have the honor at present to hold an office under the Government of this state, which enables me to render some small services to my country, and affords a moderate salary, with some leisure time to attend to my farm on which my family resides.

Thus upon a comparison of my present situation, with that in which I should be placed by accepting the office which you have been pleased to offer me, having due regard to that Oeconomy which my circumstances and the cares of a large family at my time of life impose upon me, I feel myself constrained to decline accepting the office of Post-Master at this place, but while I do so, I Beg you to be assured of the grateful remembrance with which I shall ever recollect this Instance of the friendly attention with which you have been pleased to Honor me, and of my perfect disposition at all times to render my feeble aid in support of an administration which like yours has the constitution for its guide and the real happiness and wellfare of our Country for its end.

With perfect regard and esteem I am Sir Yr. Mo. Ob. Servant

John Guerrant

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire President of the United States City of Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.

A small planter in Goochland County, John Guerrant (1760–1813), of French Huguenot descent, was a Revolutionary War veteran. At first as an Antifederalist and later a Republican, he served in the House of Delegates between 1789 and 1796 and then was elected to the state council, the position he held in 1802. As president of the council, he served as lieutenant governor of the commonwealth in 1803 and 1805 (Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends , 264; Richard R. Beeman, The Old Dominion and the New Nation, 1788–1801 [Lexington, Ky., 1972], 143, 250, 257–8, 268–9; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 175, 179, 184, 187, 191, 195, 199, 203; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 9:451; The Articles of Confederation; the Declaration of Rights; the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and the Articles of the Definitive Treaty Between Great-Britain and the United States of America [Richmond, 1784], 18; WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends , 1st ser., 9 [1901], 274–5; Virginia Argus, 18 May 1803; Alexandria Expositor, and the Columbian Advertiser, 13 June 1803).

Announcing the appointment of Guerrant as postmaster at Richmond in place of Augustine Davis on 9 Feb., the Richmond Examiner acknowledged that it was not known whether he would accept the position (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:450–1; Gazette of the United States, 19 Feb. 1802).

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