Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Thomas Law to Jacob Wagner, [ca. 5–22 December 1810]


Thomas Law to Jacob Wagner

[ca. 5–22 Dec. 1810]


The enclosed paragraph entitled “an authentic anecdote” implies that the communicator recieved it from the parties in Great Britain. I have therefore considered whether I ever wrote to my Brother as mentioned & though I do not remember particulars it is probable that I did so; for I have uniformly expressed what I sincerely believed that the President had not any bias in his mind hostile to my Country & that he at all times regretted that misunderstandings existed.

If he expressed sentiments to me amicable & conciliatory with the solicitude that a good man has not to be misconcieved; if with honest motives I imparted them to my Brother, a christian would have applauded the measure & exclaimed “blessed is the peacemaker.” You say Mr Jefferson turned about to trick Mr Fox trick him into what into an adjustment of differences. You say that I willingly or unknowingly became the instrument of the experiment. As an Englishman I have always wished the Government of my Country to be esteemed & beloved & rightly to appreciate the friendly disposition of this Government & as a sincere Briton I was & ever shall be solicitous to do away false jealousies & suspicions which false or mistaking friends desseminate

I cannot believe that Mr Fox would say of the late President “that he was a paltry fellow & he did not believe a word he said.” Mr Fox’s language was polished & polite & his disposition inclined him to avoid asperities. I cannot believe that Lord Ellenborough ever gave such a speech as Mr Fox’s. one fact is however evident that your informer has betrayed the confidence of private conversation even by his own account & any one capable of such forgetfulness may easily be supposed to exaggerate, when under the influence of prejudice.

The Divulger of this authentic anecdote ought to examine himself & to learn how “the spirit of party extinguishes all the affections which exist in the soul & hurries man into every species of crime. If he is capable of friendship he glories to sacrifice it if he professes sensibility he is proud to conquer his feelings”

I have to wish repentance to the publisher of family anecdotes that he may be reconciled to himself & I thank him for the pleasure I recieve as well by forgiveness, as by his exhibiting me in your paper, as a friend to my native country & to this where I reside.


Thomas Law

Tr (DLC: TJ Papers, 191:34059); in Law’s hand; undated; at foot of text: “To Jacob Wagner”; with Tr of following enclosure subjoined.

Jacob Wagner (ca. 1773–1825) was appointed chief clerk in the State Department by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering in 1795. Despite his Federalist sympathies he remained as chief clerk until 1807. With its inception early the next year Wagner became editor of the Baltimore North American and Mercantile Daily Advertiser. In 1809 the North American merged with the Federal Republican under the latter name, and he became coeditor with Alexander Contee Hanson. Wagner remained with the newspaper when it moved to Georgetown in 1812, ceasing his connection four years later (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 8:231; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:89–90, 235, 244, 2:1497; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Sec. of State Ser.; Noble Cunningham, The Process of Government under Jefferson [1978], 94–6, 178; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 20 Jan. 1825).

Law’s brother was Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough, the lord chief justice of England (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ). The biblical reference, blessed is the peacemaker, is to Matthew 5.9.

Index Entries

  • Bible; Matthew referenced search
  • Fox, Charles James; alleged remarks on TJ search
  • Hanson, Alexander Contee search
  • Law, Edward, 1st Earl of Ellenborough; and alleged remarks on TJ by C. J. Fox search
  • Law, Edward, 1st Earl of Ellenborough; family of search
  • Law, Thomas; letter from to J. Wagner search
  • newspapers; Baltimore North American and Mercantile Daily Advertiser search
  • North American and Mercantile Daily Advertiser (Baltimore newspaper) search
  • Pickering, Timothy; as secretary of state search
  • Wagner, Jacob; identified search
  • Wagner, Jacob; letter to from T. Law search
  • “Authentic Anecdote,” search