Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Solomon Froeligh, 14 November 1806

Hackensack (N.J.) November 14th 1806—


As a Committe appointed in behalf of a meeting of Republicans of the County of Bergen, in the State of New–Jersey, convened at the Township of New–Barbadoes; We take the liberty of addressing you on a subject, which we conceive momentous to ourselves,—and interesting to the Union.—

It is not the intention of the Committe. thus authorised to approach the Chief executive Magistrate of a Republican Government, clothed in the language of Courtly adulation and servile complaisance, or to sacrifice at the shrine of blind political Zeal and heedless devotion, those independant opinions of publick men and measures, which it is the boast of free–men to cherish.—This we are persuaded, would be as ungrateful to you, as it would be mean and degrading in us.

At a time however, when a multitude of Presses, opposed to the present administration of the General Government, are teeming with daily, weekly and monthly calumnies, the moving causes and final objects of which, we flatter ourselves, are truly known and justly appreciated by us;—when ideal and delusive Spectres of national degradation and anarchy, are held forth by individuals (some of whom, from their stations, others from their callings, are enabled to attract a portion of the Publick attention) in order to diminish the confidence, and put to flight the well–deserved trust reposed by the great body of the American people. in the Republican principles upon which their Government is founded, and the majority of those who have been choosen to exercise the legislative and executive duties prescribed by the Constitution; to induce them to adopt other men, of political principles materially different, and thereby to effect a revival of measures which have been marked with disaprobation, by the almost unanimous voice of the nation:—at such a time, conceiving it a duty, we come forward in sincerity to express our approbation of the leading measures of the Government our high estimate of the benefits and services, which we believe the administration conducted under your auspices, has by the favour of a kind Providence, been instrumental in conferring on this nation, and our undiminished confidence in the long–tried political wisdom, integrity and firmness of its Chief–Magistrate.—Among these measures, and particularize—the abolition of the internal taxes, and the non-importation law of the last session of Congress.—By the former we beheld the too extensive patronage of the Executive reduced within its proper limits, and the Community disburthened of a multitude of Excise-officers, whose compensations, we are induced to beleive, absorbed the far greater portion of the proceeds of that branch of revenue.

The non-importation act, prohibiting in our own defence, after a limited period, the introduction of certain articles, the products of Great–Britain, will we hope, prove a means of terminating our differences with that nation; and if necessary to be carried into complete effect, may stimulate the progress of domestick manifactures. In taking this latter step, our Government has exercised a right of Sovreignty. Great–Britain, we conceive, can have no just ground of complaint.—She herself, if we mistake not, has for more than a century, pursued like measures towards almost all the other Powers; towards us, while we were her Colonies, and since our Independance, in the instance of refusing to receive from us, linen and woolen cloths, as merchandize; and to the practice of a similar policy she is at least partially indebted for her present power.

We do not intend to assert a belief, or to hold forth an opinion so proported as that every minute measure which may have been pursued, and every step that may have been taken, has been guided by the rule of unerring wisdom. We are conscious from the limits assigned to the human understanding, the weakness incident to human stature, and the errors into which the wisest and best have fallen, that this is not to be expected.—

It was the remark of a man of extensive acquirements in general and political science, deep penetration and consummate talents; that the subjects of European Potentates could detect the prevalence of corrupt principles and mal-administration in their rulers, only by the actual pressure of national grievances, and the existance among them of those evils which are their inevitable result.—Though it is perhaps the peculiar province of Americans, “to augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff its approach in every tainted gale.”—yet we beleive the foregoing to be one of the best criterions by which a people can discern the excellencies or defects of their civil Constitution, the wisdom and integrity, or folly and depravity of their rulers.—Some measures indeed, which are in present operation, the effects of which time alone, can with certainty unfold; cannot be judged with precision by this rule. We can only speculate upon their probable consequences, and form our opinions of their wisdom from the circumstances of the times.—When we consider that the true end of Government is to secure and perpetuate to nations, the blessings of society, and the enjoyments of all those natural rights and priviledges which are consistent with its institution;—more especially, when we feel ourselves in the possession and full fruition of such priviledges; when liberty civil and religious is ours; when we find ourselves unshackled by oppressive governmental impositions; when industry is protected, and rewarded with the fruits of its labour, and the face of our Country presents the cheerful aspect of general prosperity:—we think it strongly argues the soundness of the principles on the bases of which the Majestick Pillar of our Constitution is reared, and the wisdom and fidelity of those who administer it.—

We believe that in the progress of every Government, times of difficulty will arrive. The turbulence and ambition of some nations, the unjust assumptions and commercial capacity of others, have and will frequently produce animosities and contests, carried on, to the ruin of their own substantial interests, and to the annoyance of the world.

Altho’ we are a nation, singularly happy in our local situation;—seperated by the wide Atlantic, from the neighbourhood of powerful European nations;—far remote from the threats of their intestine broils; though we had from the purity and rectitude of the conduct of our Government towards them; a claim to a reciprocal return of the like conduct on their part;—from the influence of the foregoing causes, we believe,—a period, which we esteem of serious importance as it respects our foreign relations, has arisen.—Our prospect of this subject is necessarily circumscribed by contracted bounds.—To your wisdom and ability, and to the circumspection and fidelity of those to whom it appertains with you to transact the united concerns of this nation, we look with confidence for a happy issue.—Peace upon just and equitable principles, we beleive to be our true interest.—We deprecate the calamities of war; but are firmly convinced that when it shall become absolutely necessary; for the protection of our rights; or the vindication of our national honor; those to whom the nation has committed the sacred charge of their safe-keeping, will not be found unpurposed.

We now advert to the more immediate object of this address.—It has been communicated to us through the medium of the Publick prints, that you have expressed an intention to decline a re-election to the Presidency, after the expiration of your present term of office. This intention we understand to be principly grounded on the political maxim—that in free Communities, a regular rotation in office, or a frequent change of publick agents, is productive of salutory consequences. Of the correctness of this doctrine, we are in general well assured, but beleive also, that circumstances may justify a partial deviation.

Under an impression that such circumstances do exist, that in publick concerns, it is the duty of every man to submit his individual wishes to the general will; that it would be conducive to the welfare of Republicanism throughout the Union, and consonant to the wishes of a large majority of the Citizens of the United States: We in our own, and in behalf of the members who compose this meeting, respectfully solicit your assent to be nominated and supported as a candidate for the Presidential Chair, at the ensuing general Election.—

But whether again called with your assent, by the voice of the nation, to that exaulted and arduous Station, which you now hold;—whether hereafter acting in a subordinate publick capacity, or imbosomed in the tranquility of retirement; we pray you to accept our sincere wishes for your individual happiness, and the continued prosperity of our common Country.

(Signed in behalf of the meeting)

Solomon Froeligh

Henry Van Dalsem

Lewis Moore

George Cassedy


DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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