Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 13 February 1804

To Henry Dearborn

Feb. 13. 1804.

Th: Jefferson with his friendly compliments to Genl Dearborne returns him Govr. Mc.kean’s letter; to whom he may say for the Govr’s satisfaction that the letter had been communicated to Th:J. who said that some vague intimation of the purport mentd in the letter had been formerly1 dropped to him, but it was so little noted that neither the person, nor manner can now be recollected: that satisfied the fallen party could never rise again but by dividing the republicans, Th:J. has been entirely on his guard against these idle tales, and considers Govr. Mc.kean’s life & principles as sufficient2 evidence of their falsehood, and that he may be perfectly assured that no such insinuations have or can make an impression on his mind to the Governor’s disadvantage.

RC (CtY); endorsed by Dearborn. PrC (DLC). Not recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Thomas McKean to Dearborn, 8 Feb., refuting a long letter he understood the secretary of war had received or read “giving an account of the origin and design of a third party” composed principally of the state officers of Pennsylvania “with the Governor at their head, to oppose the re-election of Mr. Jefferson as President, and to further the election of the Governor to that office”; McKean recalls refuting the allegation with a smile the first time he heard the charge, but now learning from another quarter that the “tale” had been circulated in Washington, he felt it “not improper,” but necessary, to assure Dearborn that it was “an insidious and wicked fabrication; that no Officer of this State ever hinted such a thing”; McKean notes that he “never had an overture respecting this affair from Whig or Tory, Republican or Federalist, or any person whomsoever”; he believes that all of his state appointees are “sincere friends to the present President” who will do their utmost to see that he is reelected; in April 1802 and October 1803, some Republican members of Congress and a friend had sought to put his name forward as a vice presidential candidate, but he firmly and convincingly refused the overtures for personal and public reasons; lastly, McKean pleads for the name of the letter writer, noting “Such base Incendiaries and Intriguers ought not to be concealed; what must the President think of a professed friend if such a story should reach his ears?”; only through exposure could the “malignant design” and “abominable Lie” be defeated (FC in PHi).

to whom he may say: in his 20 Feb. response to McKean, Dearborn noted that he had shown the governor’s letter to the president, who wanted McKean to know that “although some vague intonation of the report alluded to had been made to him it was so little noticed that neither the person or manner can now be recollected, that being satisfied that the fallen party would never rise again but by dividing the republicans, he had been on his guard against their Idle tales.” TJ considered the governor’s “life & principles as sufficient evidence of their falshood,” and McKean therefore “may be perfectly assured that no such insinuations have or can make any impressions on his mind” to the governor’s “disadvantage.” Dearborn informed McKean that he had overheard the “very lengthy” letter read, but the handwriting was unknown to him, and he was “not permitted to know the name of the writer.” The author was apparently intimately acquainted with the leading state officers. Minute circumstances were detailed to show how the governor “had been induced to consent to be a candidate for the Presidency.” Dearborn had conferred with William Findley and one or two other Pennsylvania congressmen. They assured him that the “whole story was unfounded, and especially that part of it which related to Your Excellency.” Dearborn thought Findley knew who the writer was. He evidently resided in Lancaster and had been a recipient of the governor’s patronage (RC in PHi).

1Word interlined.

2Word interlined in place of “better.”

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