Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Jenkins, Ambrose Spencer, and Alexander Coffin, 16 October 1802

From Thomas Jenkins, Ambrose Spencer,
and Alexander Coffin

Hudson October 16th: 1802


Without any personal acquaintance we take the liberty to address you, in relation to two gentleman holding Offices in this City, under the general government, deriving their appointments thro’ the nomination, & liable to be removed by the President of the United States—

We are not insensible, that in the exercise of your constitutional prerogative, there has been a constant regret on your part, to remove Incumbents, even when justifiable, & demanded by circumstances in themselves imperious; we have however witnessed in the discharge of your functions, in relation to removals a firmness & decision, commanding our respect & admiration; & we cannot permit ourselves to doubt a continuance of a disposition which has secured to you, the approbation of all Republicans possessed of discernment & intelligence—

The Officers to whom we have reference are Henry Malcolm Collector of this port, & John C. Ten Broeck Surveyor. In our estimation (& the opinion is not lightly adopted,) their removal is justifiable and we think called for on the grounds of political expediency, & an equal participation in the Honors & Emoluments of Office; both of these Gentlemen have held their offices ever since their creation, & they are both in an eminent degree, hostile to the Administration, & the very principles, for which we are contending—

Their removal however is not sollicited on these grounds alone; Mr. Malcolm is a practising Physician & is frequently called out of the place, hence we assert it as an indisputable fact, that there has arisen & will constantly arise delays & embarrassments to Masters of Vessels & Coasters, which ought not to be tolerated—

Mr. Ten Broeck has evinced in another Office from which he has been removed on that principle solely, a want of punctuality & fidelity highly exceptionable; He has in fact used the public money to a considerable amount & at this moment retains it—We submit therefore whether he has not justly forfeited the public confidence & whether he merits any further countenance from the government—

We forbear to name to you any persons for the Offices, which we wish vacated by the present Incumbents, you will undoubtedly take measures to inform yourself of suitable Characters—

Permit us Sir, to assure you that we have no other objects in view, in this communication, than the good of the Republic & the maintenance of principles to us most sacred—

We are with sentiments of high respect and unalterable esteem Your Excellency’s Obedt. Servts—

Thos. Jenkins

Ambrose Spencer

Alexr. Coffin

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); in Spencer’s hand, signed by Jenkins, Spencer, and Coffin; at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 4 Nov. and “Henry Malcolm Collector of Hudson John C. Tenbroeck Surveyor of do. to be removd” and so recorded in SJL.

Ambrose Spencer (1765–1848), a native of Connecticut and a Harvard graduate, moved to Hudson, New York, in the mid-1780s as a law clerk preparing for the bar. In the 1790s he won election to the state assembly and the state senate, served on the New York Council of Appointments, and forged a political alliance with DeWitt Clinton. In 1804, he became a member of the state supreme court (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Gideon Granger to TJ, 14 May 1802).

Alexander Coffin (1740–1839), like Jenkins, was originally from Nantucket Island and was one of the original proprietors of Hudson. A merchant sea captain, at various times he held local and state political offices. In February 1802, he became postmaster of Hudson on the removal of Cotton Gelston, a Federalist who had held the position since 1790 (Daily National Intelligencer, 22 Jan. 1839; Hudson Balance, and Columbian Repository, 16 Feb. 1802; Stephen B. Miller, Historical Sketches of Hudson [Hudson, N.Y., 1862], 6, 18, 31, 113, 114, 115).

WITHOUT ANY PERSONAL ACQUAINTANCE: TJ and Madison passed through Hudson, and stopped there for breakfast, in May 1791. During that visit, Seth Jenkins, Thomas Jenkins’s brother, conversed with TJ about his distillery (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 , 2:819, 823; Vol. 20:559–60).

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