Thomas Jefferson Papers

Tunis Wortman to Thomas Jefferson, 30 July 1813

From Tunis Wortman

New York July 30. 1813.


With diffidence I have undertaken the task to establish and conduct a new press in this city, under the title of Standard of Union.

A copy of its prospectus is inclosed for your perusal.

Not venturing to make any promise in regard to the talent of the paper, I shall only answer for the integrity of its principles, and its unshaken devotion to that great cause, which from my youth upwards, I have always believed inseparable from the happiness of our country.

Personally a stranger to you, nothing but a firm conviction that you continue to approve and wish success to those sentiments which have governed the tenor of your life, could justify my writing.

I disdain flattery, but why should I withhold the expression of honest and sincere esteem? For years I have been in the habit of revering your virtues. I wish you much felicity in the shade of retirement and in the evening of your days.

I venture to request your name as a subscriber to the paper; and, should you approve the undertaking, a line expressive of your good opinion would be doubly gratifying and encouraging.

With every sentiment of sincere respect. Yours.
T wortman
5 Frankfort Street

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Aug. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Wortman, Prospectus Of a New Paper, to be entitled The Standard of Union (New York, July 1813), lamenting that, although the present war is just and necessary, the government and Constitution are under threat from a domestic faction; calling on faithful citizens to “rally around the ark of our liberties—the Standard of our Constitution”; lauding a free and independent press; asserting that the proposed newspaper is experimental and will be devoted to the rights and best interest of the people, the public good, and truth; promising not to defame private characters; seeking the patronage of the Republican party; and indicating that the paper will be similar in size and organization to the WashingtonNational Intelligencer, be published twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and cost five dollars annually. The other enclosure, a subscription list, has not been found.

Tunis Wortman (d. 1822), attorney, author, and politician, enlisted in the New York militia in 1794 and served as a lieutenant until 1797. He was the first secretary of the New York Democratic Society and a member of the Tammany Society of New York. Wortman wrote A Treatise Concerning Political Enquiry, and the Liberty of the Press (New York, 1800), a classic libertarian response to the Sedition Act, and on the occasion of TJ’s presidential inauguration in 1801, he delivered An Address to the Republican Citizens of New-York (New York, 1801). He worked as a New York City clerk from 1801 until he was replaced in 1807 following a political upheaval. He regained this position in 1808 but was briefly jailed the following year. The official charge was debt, but Wortman’s incarceration probably grew out of further internal political machinations. He also operated a law practice, acted as a notary, became a master in chancery in 1817, and was appointed a ward justice in 1818 (Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York, 1783–1821 [1901–02], 1:278, 295, 368; Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784–1831 [1917–30], esp. 1:22, 4:375; New York American Citizen and General Advertiser, 17 July 1801; New York Public Advertiser, 6 May 1807; Washington Monitor, 11 May 1809; New York National Advocate, 1 Sept. 1817; New-York Daily Advertiser, 27 Apr. 1818; Robert W. T. Martin, The Free and Open Press: The Founding of American Democratic Press Liberty, 1640–1800 [2001], 157–9, 161–2; New York Evening Post, 30 Sept. 1822).

The New York Standard of Union was published from 5 Oct. 1813 until May of the following year (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:694).

Index Entries

  • Constitution, U.S.; threats to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; subscriptions search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); compared to other newspapers search
  • newspapers; New York Standard of Union search
  • Standard of Union (New York newspaper) search
  • subscriptions, for publications; newspapers search
  • War of1812; support for search
  • Wortman, Tunis; identified search
  • Wortman, Tunis; letters from search
  • Wortman, Tunis; Standard of Union search