James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Henry Clay, 11 December 1813

From Henry Clay

Washington 11th. Decr. 1813.


I should not venture to take the liberty of addressing this letter to you, if you had not have done me the honor of mentioning the subject of the appointment of a P. Master in Lexington, nor if I were quite sure that you would yourself exercise the right of selecting, from among the applicants, the individual to be appointed. But as I have perceived in the P. Office Department a most unaccountable reluctance to appoint the person who I think is entitled to the office, and as at all events a delay has arisen injurious to the public, you will I am persuaded excuse the trouble the perusal of this letter may give you. John Fowler appears to me to have claims to the office, in his early migration to Kentucky, in his integrity, in his capacity, and in his invariable adherence to republican principles, which I had supposed would have been at once recognized by Mr. Granger.1 The truth is I cannot help suspecting a bias towards another gentleman, Mr. Pope, to whom I have no personal objection, but whose appointment, under existing circumstances, would give I am persu⟨ad⟩ed much and just umbrage. It would indeed imply th⟨at⟩ the forfeiture of the confidence of the people was […] passport to Executive favor; and that the preserva⟨tion⟩ ⟨of⟩ that confidence was an insuperable obstacle to th⟨e⟩ […] of an Executive appointment.2 Nor Sir would you escape the obloquy of such a proceeding, altho’ you had not, as I am sure you wd. not have, any participation in it.

I do not believe that Mr. Fowler ever before asked or received any mark of the confidence of the General Govt. In such estimate were his pretensions held in Lexington that I know that gentlemen, well qualified for the office, were prevented from applying for it, because they believed he ought to obtain it. Yr. ob. Servt.

H. Clay

RC (ViU: Special Collections). Docketed by JM. Torn at lower right corner.

1John Fowler (1756–1840), a native of Chesterfield County, Virginia, and a Revolutionary War veteran, moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1783. He was a member of the Virginia General Assembly and the third Kentucky statehood convention, and served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1797–1807. Appointed postmaster of Lexington in 1814, he was dismissed in 1822, owing the government $9,000 (Hopkins et al., Papers of Henry Clay, 11:78; Kleber et al., Kentucky Encyclopedia, 350).

2John Pope (1770–1845) served as a U.S. senator from Kentucky, 1807–13. Despite having been elected as a Democratic Republican and having advocated firm measures against Great Britain in 1811, Pope voted against the declaration of war in 1812, a course of action which was not well received in Kentucky. He did not run for reelection in 1813, but in 1816 he unsuccessfully contested Clay’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His subsequent career included stints as Kentucky’s secretary of state, 1816–19, Kentucky state senator, 1825–29, Arkansas Territory governor, 1829–35, and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1837–43. Clay not only differed with Pope politically but disliked him because of his friendship with vehement Federalist Humphrey Marshall, U.S. senator from Kentucky, 1795–1801. Pope was, furthermore, the brother-in-law of John Quincy Adams and supported Adams over Clay for the presidency in 1824 (Kleber et al., Kentucky Encyclopedia, 609–10, 728; Hopkins et al., Papers of Henry Clay, 11:54, 55 n. 6; Thomas Marshall Green, Historic Families of Kentucky [Cincinnati, 1889], 146).

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