Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 15 July 1802

To James Monroe

Washington July 15. 1802.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 7th. has been duly recieved. I am really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender. it presents human nature in a hideous form: it gives me concern because I percieve that relief, which was afforded him on mere motives of charity, may be viewed under the aspect of employing him as a writer. When the Political progress of Britain first appeared in this country, it was in a periodical publication called the bee, where I saw it. I was speaking of it in terms of strong approbation to a friend in Philadelphia, when he asked me if I knew that the author was then in the city, a fugitive from prosecution on account of that work, and in want of employ for his subsistence. this was the first1 of my learning that Callendar was author of the work; I considered him as a man of science fled from persecution, & assured my friend of my readiness to do whatever could serve him. it was long after this before I saw him: probably not till 1798. he had in the mean time written a 2d. part of the Political progress much inferior to the first, and his history of the US. in 1798. I think I was applied to by mr Lieper to contribute to his relief. I did so. in 1799, I think S. T. Mason applied for him. I contributed again. he had by this time paid me two or three personal visits. when he fled in a panic from Philadelphia to Genl. Mason’s, he wrote to me that he was a fugitive, in want of employ, wished to know if he could get into a counting house, or a school in my neighborhood, or in that of Richmond; that he had materials for a volume, & if he could get as much money as would buy the paper, the profit of the sale would be all his own. I availed myself of this pretext to cover a mere charity, by desiring him to consider me a subscriber for as many copies of his book as the money inclosed (50. D.) amounted to; but to send me two copies only, as the others might lie till called for but I discouraged his coming into my neighborhood.2 his first writings here had fallen far short of his original Political progress, and the scurrilities of his subsequent ones began evidently to do mischief. as to myself no man wished more to see his pen stopped: but I considered him still as a proper object of benevolence. the succeeding year he again wanted money to buy paper for another volume. I made his letter, as before, the occasion of giving him another 50. D. he considers these as proofs of my approbation of his writings, when they were mere charities, yielded under a strong conviction that he was injuring us by his writings.3 it is known to many that the sums given to him were such and even smaller than I was in the habit of giving to others in distress, of the federal as well as republican party, without attention to political principles. soon after I was elected to the government, Callender came on here, wishing to be made postmaster at Richmond. I knew him to be totally unfit for it: and however ready I was to aid him with my own charities (and I then gave him 50. D.) I did not think the public offices confided to me to give away as charities. he took it in mortal offence, & from that moment has been hauling off to his former enemies the federalists. besides the letter I wrote him in answer to the one from Genl. Mason’s, I wrote him another containing answers to two questions he addressed to me. 1. whether mr Jay recieved salary as Chief justice & envoy at the same time; & 2. something relative to the expences of an embassy to Constantinople. I think these were the only letters I ever wrote him in answer to volumes he was perpetually writing to me.—this is the true state of what has passed between him and me. I do not know that it can be used without committing me in controversy as it were with one too little respected by the public to merit that notice. I leave to your judgment what use can be made of these facts. perhaps it will be better judged of when we see what use the tories will endeavor to make of their new friend.—I shall leave this on the 21st. & be at Monticello probably the 24th. or within 2. or 3. days of that; and shall hope ere long to see you there. accept assurances of my affectionate attachment.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NN); endorsed by Monroe. PrC (DLC); in ink at foot of first page: “Monroe Govr.”

THE POLITICAL PROGRESS OF BRITAIN by James Thomson Callender first appeared in 1792 as a series of anonymous letters published in THE BEE, a weekly periodical published in Edinburgh by James Anderson. Callender briefly worked for Anderson as an assistant editor on the publication in 1790. TJ and Anderson corresponded regarding the Bee in the early 1790s, with Anderson sending copies of the first eleven volumes to TJ (Durey, Callender description begins Michael Durey, “With the Hammer of Truth”: James Thomson Callender and America’s Early National Heroes, Charlottesville, 1990 description ends , 28–9; DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends , s.v. “James Anderson (1739–1808)”; Vol. 16:391–2; Vol. 18:111–12; Vol. 24:139–40, 564–5).

Prior to the payments of $50 described in the 5 July issue of the Recorder, TJ had demonstrated his READINESS TO DO WHATEVER COULD SERVE Callender with a series of payments to the author made in 1797 and 1798. On 20 June 1797, TJ paid Callender $15.14 for copies of his History of the United States for 1796. Several months later, on 8 Oct., TJ asked John Barnes to remit to Callender $20 for “pamphlets” for himself and “some of my neighbors.” TJ made four payments to Callender in December 1797: a payment of $16 on 12 Dec.; one of $4.33 on 14 Dec. for “pamphlets”; one of $1.25 on 17 Dec. for a copy of Callender’s History for James Hopkins, for which TJ noted that he overpaid $.75; and one of $5 on 23 Dec. for “books & pamphlets.” On 9 Feb. 1798, TJ paid Thomas Leiper (LIEPER) $5 on Callender’s behalf for five copies of his Sketches of the History of America, then gave Leiper an additional $16 for Callender on 23 Mch. A final payment to Callender of $3 for “books” was made on 23 May 1798 (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:963, 971, 975–6, 979–80, 984; Vol. 29:536–7, 544; Vol. 30:188–9).

Senator Stevens Thomson MASON of Virginia gave Callender refuge at his Loudoun County plantation, Raspberry Plain, after the writer had FLED IN A PANIC FROM PHILADELPHIA shortly before the passage of the Sedition Act in July 1798 (Vol. 30:521–3). Responding to Callender’s 22 Sep. 1798 request from Raspberry Plain for employment or financial aid, TJ wrote from Monticello on 11 Oct. that he had authorized Mason to draw on George Jefferson for $50, which TJ hoped might provide Callender with “some aid for the moment” (Vol. 30:558–61). In the letter above, TJ conflates this exchange with his letter to Callender of 6 Sep. 1799, in which he authorized Jefferson to pay Callender $50 for copies of his forthcoming work, The Prospect Before Us (Vol. 31:179–181; TJ to Monroe, 17 July 1802)

CALLENDER CAME ON HERE: Callender came to Washington in late May 1801, with TJ using the opportunity to offer a final $50 payment to the journalist through the conduit of his private secretary, Meriwether Lewis. TJ intended the money as a contribution toward repaying Callender’s sedition fine. He revoked the offer, however, following the writer’s declaration that he deemed the payment “hushmoney” rather than charity (Vol. 34:185–6, 205).

ANSWERS TO TWO QUESTIONS: in his 29 Sep. 1799 letter to TJ, Callender had asked for information on the cost of a proposed diplomatic mission to Constantinople in 1786 and on the mode for choosing presidential electors by the individual states in 1796. He also enclosed sixteen draft pages of the Prospect. TJ replied on 6 Oct., answering Callender’s queries to the best of his recollection and also thanking him for the pages. To protect his letter from “the curiosity of the post offices,” TJ sent it unsigned and under cover to George Jefferson. When Callender published this letter in its entirety in the 6 Oct. 1802 edition of the Richmond Recorder, he printed the following extract in capital letters: “I thank you for the proof sheets you enclosed me. such papers cannot fail to produce the best effect” (Vol. 31:194–5, 200–2).

1TJ here canceled “time.”

2Preceding eight words interlined.

3TJ here canceled: “[but still] I thought him [an object of charity].”.

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