Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Bartlett, 1 November 1802

From Joseph Bartlett

Cambridge 1. Novr. 1802.


Delicacy in most instances ought to prevent personal application—Man is too fond to appreciate his own abilities.—Letters of recommendation have become too much the custom of the Day, friends are partial, & they usually write as they feel—seldom as they beleive—There are times when a Man should do justice to himself—those are seasons when imperious, stern necessity should influence his conduct—the command of Nature, is, to love thyself & he who will not obey is little intitled to the patronage of Others.—I am not insensible that in your elevated situation, having in your power so many favors to distribute, that you are deluged with petitions, memorials and remonstrances—& that you must depend frequently on report, without having personal knowledge of the applicants—My sensibility is awakened, & I shrink from the task—when I find it necessary, to introduce the writer to your notice, “as a stranger bid him welcome”—as the question will arise, who are you? & what are your pretensions? it becomes necessary to say—that I received my early education at Cambridge university—that I was admited to the honors of that society 1782—that I read law in Boston under the direction of the Honorable Benjamin Hichborn Esquire & that I have been in the profession ever since the year 1788—I have been a member of our State Legislature, untill my republican tenets, caused the united exertions of the University & a contemptable Aristocracy in this place to prevent my reelection last May—that the tide of opposition & oppression has Come hard against me—mainly on the score of politicks my property has been reduced—my professional buissiness injured—they have not only extended it to me but to my innocent unoffending Family—I have ever been attached to a republican Government. that legacy I inherited from my Ancestors, who were some of the first Pilgrims of Plymouth, & whose posterity were early, & strenuous advocates in our revolutionay war—I have ever been a firm & decided supporter of your administration—that I have been, because I considered the measures persued were calculated to promote the happiness & Interest of our common Country—to evidence, that my naked assertions are not without good & the best support—I can refer for the truth of the above statement—to the Honorable Elbridge Gerry Esquire, with whom I have the Honor to be on Terms of friendship—Mr. Gerry in a line to me of the 19th. Octr. says, “Nothing could give me more pleasure, than to see you triumphant over your implacable Enemies &c &c”—I can obtain his Letter—also from Genl. Hull, Mr. Hichborn, Col. Varnum &c &c—if necessary—but I wish to rely on myself & to be indebted to your goodness for all I may possess—Will you forgive a private undignified Citizen, if with confidence & in confidence, he states in truth & sincerity the following facts—(vizt)—that most of the Offices within the gift of Government are in this quarter, filled with Men who are enemies to the present Administration—& are warm in opposite measures, which they falsly stile federal—these Men, have so many dependants under them, that they have a very great influence on our state elections, especially in our Capitals—& should Mr. Adams this day be elected in Boston instead of Dr. Eustiss, I verily beleive it would arise from that cause—need I mention the Collectors of the Ports of Plymouth and Marblehead—the Marshalls of Boston & Portland—the District Attorney in the District of Maine—some of the Commissioners of the Board of Bankruptcy in Boston and its vicinity—with a variety of others—pardon the sugestion—it was dictated from the best of principles—not being willing that those People who eat your Bread (if we can judge from the villianous, unjustifiable, unequalled abuse publickly & privatly in circulation) should be allowed to mix poison in your Cup—Let me now Sir, say one Word for myself—if either of the above places should be vacated—or any new appointments be Made in the Board of Commissioners—let me be remembered—or if either of the Marshalls of Boston or Portland should be vacant—I should be filld with gratitude for the designation—if it should be thought expedient, I will visit Washington on this occasion—Will you Sir, think of a Man, who has done ev’ry thing for the cause of a free elective Government—who has been in a great measure sacrificd, by the intemporate Malevolence of a disappointed expiring faction—altho you Sir, are deservedly situated at the Head, of a Brave, a great & a free People I am well assured, you will attend to the decent request of any Citizen—however humble his station in society—beleive me I do not wish to take from Men—more deserving & who have merited more than myself—may the answer I receive be consoling to my feelings—such a One as will save me from those who rise up against me—one that will gratify me & give pleasure to all real republicans in this quarter—God Almighty grant, that you may ever receive the united suffrages of an enlightned People—of this I am well assured that you will ever have the support of all those who love their God—their Country—or themselves—

I am Sir, with the most perfect respect—your most obedient & very Humble Sert.

Joseph Bartlett

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “His Excellency President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Nov. and “for emploiment” and so recorded in SJL.

Joseph Bartlett (1762–1827) was a lawyer, legislator, and writer from Massachusetts. A graduate of Harvard College, Bartlett’s acknowledged brilliance was undermined by his cantankerous and eccentric personality, which frequently left him at odds with his fellow citizens and in financial distress. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1799 to 1802 and in the state senate from 1804 to 1805. Several of his poems, orations, and essays appeared in print, including his collection of Aphorisms on Man, Manners, Principles & Things, a copy of which he sent to TJ in 1824. The following year, Bartlett sought TJ’s support for a proposed autobiography of his “Adventurous and Chequered Life,” but the former president declined the request (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Bartlett to TJ, 7 Jan. 1824, 4 Mch. 1825; TJ to Bartlett, 9 Feb. 1824, 16 Mch. 1825, all in DLC). On 21 Oct. 1802, Bartlett sent a similarly worded letter seeking an appointment to James Madison (DNA: RG 59, LAR, endorsed by TJ: “for employment”).

AS A STRANGER BID HIM WELCOME: a slight variation from Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.5.

In the 1 Nov. statewide elections for Congress in Massachusetts, Federalist candidate John Quincy ADAMS narrowly lost his bid to unseat incumbent Republican William Eustis (EUSTISS) as the representative from Suffolk District. Adams’s slight edge in Boston was offset by Eustis’s majorities in Charlestown, Malden, and Hull (Keene New-Hampshire Sentinel, 6 Nov. 1802; New York Morning Chronicle, 8 Nov. 1802).

COLLECTORS OF THE PORTS OF PLYMOUTH AND MARBLEHEAD: William Watson, an active Federalist, was removed as collector for Plymouth by TJ in March 1803. Samuel R. Gerry had been dismissed from the Marblehead collectorship for delinquency in August 1802 and was replaced by Joseph Wilson (Prince, Federalists description begins Carl E. Prince, The Federalists and the Origins of the U.S. Civil Service, New York, 1977 description ends , 25–6, 41–2; Vol. 35:223n; TJ to Elbridge Gerry, 28 Aug. 1802; Memorandum from the State Department, [on or before 18 Oct. 1802]).

MARSHALLS OF BOSTON & PORTLAND: Samuel Bradford was the U.S. marshal for Massachusetts and Isaac Parker held the same office for the district of Maine. Although both men were Federalists, each was permitted to complete his term of office. TJ replaced Bradford with Tompson J. Skinner in December 1804, while Parker was replaced with Thomas G. Thornton in December 1803 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States . . . to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:460, 476; Vol. 33:219; Vol. 34:130, 131n).

In July 1801, TJ named Silas Lee, a moderate Federalist, the U.S. ATTORNEY for the DISTRICT OF MAINE. The appointment eventually paid political dividends for TJ and his party. In February 1808, Levi Lincoln reported that Lee had become an active Republican (Paul Goodman, The Democratic-Republicans of Massachusetts: Politics in a Young Republic [Cambridge, Mass, 1964], 146–7; Vol. 33:219, 677; Vol. 35:195; Lincoln to TJ, 26 Feb. 1808).

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