Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Collins, 20 February 1809

Bristol County Convention in
Bristol R.I. Feby. 20. 1809


A good administration of a republican government is allways to be estimated by a free people, a blessing doubly valuable, as it secures to them their dearest rights & bestows upon them the practical enjoyment of all their liberties. Such, we believe, has been your administration, & such has been its result to the American people;—felt & acknowledged by every true Republican & although felt by the residue, disapproved only from considerations which will never molest your reflections or repose. We express, with pleasure that your administration has more than equalled the high expectations, with which we hailed your election to the chair & we state, in contempt of adulation, our belief that the period of the American Republick from 1801 to 1809 will be memorable in the pages of history, from which may be derived consolation to the friends of a free government & conviction & mortification to its enemies. We cannot, too fervently, express our gratitude that since the waves of affliction & peril, raised from the storm of war by the rival belligerents of Europe, have undulated to our shores, your steady counsel, seconded by the sages & patriots in Congress, has safely guided the helm of Government, preserving the nation from the numerous evils which have awfully menaced & otherwise might have fallen upon us.

We have not at command that servile breath, which, in despotick goverments, wafts a Tyrant to the skies, for elated conquest atchieved in the blood of thousands, but claim this opportunity to assure you that the whole of your publick conduct forces from us our warmest approbation; & that the felicity you are allowed to derive from the reflection that this approbation is so universal & unfeigned is such as rarely falls to the lot of mortals to possess. And why this blessing might not be continued to us we have nothing to plead:—We yield to you, as fellow republicans, the enjoyment of your own sentiments of a rotation in office.

You are now about to retire from the greatest official honours your country can confer as well as from a station of the most arduous duties & the greatest responsibility. Although you early apprized us of your intentions of declining a second reelection, chusing a retreat from the toils of state, the time would not have been sufficient to reconcile us to the event, had not the publick & private virtues of a successor, who has been recognized in your own administration filled us with confident expectation that the duties of the chief Magistracy will be executed with the greatest stability & wisdom.—Go then, dear Sir, to that retirement you have chosen:—Go—& the benedictions of millions will attend you. You have all the glory as you had all the virtues of our beloved Washington. It is not enough for Americans to call you great;—we call you good. In that tranquil recess from publick labours, a review of life devoted as yours has been to the purest private virtue & the greatest good of a great nation, most bring reflictions yielding the possessor the highest bliss of man. But let not the joys of dignified retirement deprive the nation of your auxilliary counsel. The existing state of things calls for more than ordinary wisdom & firmness. Freely bestow it; it will be proudly recieved;—& may the richest blessings of heaven attend you to a protracted age & your declining sun go down with undiminished lustre.

We take the liberty, Sir, to enclose you the resolution of Bristol county which express the minds of the friends to the administration in these parts, the perusal of which, we hope, may not intrude upon your more important concerns

We tender you, Sir, Our salutations of Friendship & Respect

Signed in behalf of the Convention

Charles Collins Chairman

N. M. Wheaton Secy.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.


Whereas, we have viewed with regret & indignation the conduct of a portion of the party called federalists, eluded & instigated chiefly by a set of men, known in the U. States by the name of the Essex Junto, who, under the guise of patriotism & affectation of grievances principally from the embargo act & its supplements, have strangely renounced their former professions of love of good order, of submission to law & constituted authority & regard to national honour; & have wickedly attempted to excite discontent among the good people of N. England, by influencing them to meet together in towns & pass resolutions mantling but thinly the soul of rebellion & treason; by creating & nurturing prejudices in the publick mind against the principal measures of the admn, which they affect to impeach as unconstitutional, oppressive & not warranted by existing times; & acccusing the majority of Congress, without any authority of Truth, of acting from motives of foreign influence, of hostility to commerce & of partiality in favour of the southern & against the northern states. & whereas we have seen them taking encouragement at the little success of their machinations, & boasting in their publick papers as well as their legislative addresses of the exagerated increase of disaffection to govt; & to conceal the baseness of their designs, they have preferred in a singular instancy under the veil of hypocrisy; an appeal to heaven in the holy rite of fasting & prayer, in order to impress into their opposition to the powers that be, the religious habits of N. England & have palpably strengthened themselves in their disorganizing system, by the silent submission to your good govt, on the part of the friends to the admn. & are daily putting up their deluded followers to renewed acts of hostility to govt. & open defiance to the wholesome laws of our country;—we resolve as follows—

1. Resolved that we cordially adopt the manly & patriotick resolutions, recently passed by many of the repn towns in this & our sister states;—& we reciprocate with them our highest approbation of the wisdom, patriotism & firmness of the general govt & that we hereby encourage the hearts of all good people, who beat in harmony with the best of govts. to move toward the standard of independence to preserve those rights guaranteed them by heaven & that with defference to larger & more important sections of the Union, we call upon all well wishers to the honr. & integrity of the states, to assembly in a legal manner, in order to collect our minds & sustain the arm of govt., with those & with our rulers & with one another, we pledge our lives & our fortunes to whatever extremity the opposition may advance.

2. Resolved that we want no more evidence of the designs of the Anti-federal leaders, that their grand object ever has been & still is:—to subvert the governmt, introduce anarchy & erect a confederated despotism on this side the Atlantick, in permanent alliance with that most corrupt of all institutions the British Government & that they are hurried on in these views by their inveterate hostility to repn principles their ambition of office & pride of ruling.

3. Resolved that we are persuaded that the desperation of these ill-guided men has increased with their follies, yet we assure them, by all that is dear to us, if ever they arrive to their favorite object, it must be thro’ the blood of all the repns of this meeting (however we deprecate the occasion) even to a man.

4. Resolved that multifold & cunningly devised are the deceptions of these factious partizans, practised on a virtuous & unsuspecting people by misrepresentation, pecuniary corruption & endless alarms of endangered liberty & therefore we consider the little success they may have derived, is from the very repn. habits of an honest yeomanry so Obnoxious to their designs, & that by such practices they will meet with an irresitible undertow from the waves of discord of their own raising, which must sooner or later sweep them from their sandy foundation.

5. Resolved that the partial success of such modes of corruption the result of our elections is by no means, an adequate criterion of the efficiency of the opposn; & that the majority of numbers & physical strength of our fellow citizens in N. England, is yet on the side of the admn;—that the treasonable invocations of the devotees of monarchy to the “spirit of the people” is a base libel on our political character; & that should their sorcery prevail in calling up this spirit, we believe it would come, like the unwelcome ghost to Saul at Endor, not only the herald of their fate, but the execution of these political Jugglers.

6 Resolved therefore, that we view any appeal to the people for redress of grievances, real or immaginary, in contempt of the govt or its laws, but an artifice of treason & highly insulting to the patriotism & good sense of the people, whether it comes from a domestick faction or from a minister of a foreign govt.

7. Resolved that as theanti federal editors in N. England have uniformly published Canning’s infamous letter & have omitted publishing the answer of our minister (one or two excepted, who, to save appearances printed it long out of time) we view this as an additional testimony of their disposition to decieve the people—of their malignity toward Govt & of their devotedness to the cause of Britain.

8. Resolved that we will resent & avail ourselves of every possible means to repell insult offered to the honour of our Nation by any foreign power & that to shrink from open hostilities with the piratical tyrants of the ocean, after the forbearing efforts of negociation have failed, wd be greatly unbecoming an independent people & a renunciation of the glory of the American Revolution.

9. Resolved that a commercial intercourse with all nations is greatly beneficial to our country & especially to this state & this county, we view therefore those imputations made upon us, by the Anti-unionists of N England, of being hostile to the interests of trade, as a pretext for their disorganizing measures & the grossest obloquy cast upon the repn cause & that we will support Congress in whatever they may do for the obtaining of a free sea & unrestricted commerce according to immemorial usages called the law of nations.

10. Resolved that in the opinion of this meeting, the late attempt to inflame the good people of the town of Barrington in this county & to array them in defiance to the general govt. & its laws, by calling a town meeting & passing a number of seditious & Jacobinical resolves, is deserving the execration of every good citizen—& that using the name of Washington to enforce principles in direct opposition to every maxim he inculcated, is a vile slander on the character of that departed hero & patriot.

11. Resolved that in our opinion the fraternity of Pettifoggers, Rhymespinners & renegade Englishmen, who superintend the Tory presses in this state, merit supreme contempt; that however malignant they may be toward the repn cause yet so large a portion of embecillity is joined with their malignancy, their nefarious exertions will be in vain.

12. Resolved that we lament the negligence too much indulged by repn. in general, in patronizing the faithfull vehicles of publick information; & that we will support to the extent of our ability, the Bristol County Register, using all due means to effect among our fellow citizens a liberal diffusion of political knowledge.

13. Resolved that the Moderator & secretary sign the address & foregoing resolutions & cause the latter to be published in the Independent Chronicle & Columbian Phenix & to transmit the address, enclosing a Copy of the resolns. to the President of the United States.

Signed in behalf of the Convention

Chas Collins Modr.

N. M. Wheaton Secy.

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