Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Newburyport, Massachusetts, Citizens, 6 August 1802

From Newburyport, Massachusetts, Citizens

Newburyport August 6th 1802


Convinced as we are, that we have no power to control the dismissions or appointments to the subordinate offices of Government, yet we feel a right, and it becomes a duty, when measures are pursued, that tend to lessen our confidence in that Government which we have hitherto gloried in supporting, respectfully to give our Judgment and to express our opinions of their tendency.

In exercising this right, we are forcibly induced to express our astonishment, at the reported dismissal of Dudley Atkins Tyng Esqr. from the office of Collector of this port. He has conducted the business of this office more than seven years, and in that time we are authorized to say, that the United States have never met with the smallest loss in the collection by, or payment from him, of the duties payable in his department: whilst he has vigilantly secured the Interests of the Public, his capability, integrity and urbanity, have insured him the decided approbation and esteem, of every person who has had any transactions in his office, and which we, as his fellow citizens, independent of party politics, are proud to bear this public testimony of: nor can we refrain from remarking, that in retaining or appointing to the subordinate offices of his department, he has never been guided by any other consideration than that the men he appointed were honest and were capable of performing their duties.

Impressed with these sentiments, we cannot but suppose that his dismission has been occasioned by the most gross and daring misrepresentations; as we are not yet ready to believe, that the views of the administration are governed by motives as pernicious in their tendency as they are contracted in their policy: We therefore respectfully request you to reconsider the reported dismission, with that candour and impartiality that you have publicly pledged yourself to maintain: and we still shall hope that a man may be retained in office, who is so universally respected by his fellow citizens, and all who know him, as is Mr Tyng.

we are Sir with due respect Your most Obedient huml Servants

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by William Coombs and 269 others; certified and signed by Ebenezer Stocker, “President of the Newbury Port. Marine Insce. Compy” in Newburyport on 11 Aug., stating “that of seventeen thousand tons of shipping, belonging to and owned in, the District of Newburyport, the owners of four thousand tons, are absent, living in distant Towns: & That the subscribers to the Inclosed Memorial are owners of about twelve thousand tons”; also certified and signed by Newburyport assessors Samuel Cutler, Stephen Howard, and Joshua Greenleaf on 11 Aug., stating “that the subscribers, to the Memorial annexed; are possessed, agreeably to the rate of valuation, of taxable Estates in said Town; of nearly Two thirds of the Whole amount of property taxed”; at head of text: “To the President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Aug. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Newbury port. merchts against Tyng’s removal”; also endorsed by TJ: “remonstrance on removal of Ting.”

REPORTED DISMISSAL: on 30 July, the National Intelligencer carried the news of the appointment of William Lyman as collector at Newburyport in place of Dudley A. Tyng. The news arrived in Newburyport on 5 Aug. and the Newburyport Herald proclaimed it the next day, noting sarcastically that the “mild conciliating tolerant Jefferson, aided by his immaculate minions” had removed Tyng and appointed in his place “a Mr. Lyman of no one knows where, and of a character—no one knows what; except that report says, he belongs to the County of Hampshire, and was a noted ring leader of Shay’s insurrection.” The editor exclaimed that while the people of Newburyport had no control over presidential appointments, they had “the right of judging of their merit and making their judgment known.”

Never reinstated as collector, Tyng became reporter of decisions for the Massachusetts Supreme Court (John J. Currier, History of Newburyport, Mass., 1764–1909, 2 vols. [Newburyport, 1906–09], 2:267–8).

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