Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from James Thomson Callender, 26 October 1798

From James Thomson Callender

Rasberryplain 26 October, 1798.

Sir

I am Sensible that this freedom needs an [appology]. I wrote You a letter In last month and if nothing can be done, or ought to be done, in one quarter, it is time that I Should be making application, in another, if I can say that I can have another; for I have not only motives of one kind, but others quite different, for not wishing to revisit that sink of destruction Philadelphia; for whose inhabitants I at present Sympathize as much as, and not more than, I would do for those of Grand Cairo, in the same Situation. If any body can believe in judgements, I think that the two Newspapers printed in that porch of perdition were sufficient for bringing on a yellow fever, if all their other enormities were extinguished. I hope that this pestilence, so justly deserved by all the male adults, will prove a happy check to a much worse one, the black Cockade fever, I mean the fever that, under the pretence of defending us from a foreign war, aims at promoting a civil one.

In Europe it is understood, and I mean, if I ever get into the press again, to tell the people of this Country, for the sake of giving them information, In Europe it is understood, that if a political party does not support their assistant writer, they at least do not crush him, whereas I have been crushed by the very Gentry whom I was defending. I have actually vindicated the political character of a man, after I knew that he was in his private Capacity, doing his utmost to injure me, and of course a dying woman and 4 innocent children, and I did so, because though I knew him to be in private a Rascal, yet I knew him to be an useful public character, and in that light an injured man. This Shews that I was superior to personal Revenge.

I am sure that You will be shocked to hear the treatment I have met with even from Men, whom I really consider As good men. For instance, M Giles, in Congress, made a Splendid reference to the esteem in which Muir and Palmer were held in America; vid: debate on Democratic Societies. I was their intimate friend, and quite as deep in the unlucky business as they were. This same Mr. Giles I had taken some Small pains in praising, and the defect of performance might have been palliated by the kindness of my intention. A man has no merit in telling truth, but he may claim the priviledge of not being the object of persecution, from the hero of his encomium. This I was; for Mr. Giles, (the printed debates attest it) joined as a leader in the conspiracy with Doctor Phocion for getting me out of Congress. The man offered afterwards to speak to me on the Street! He was aided in this affair, by an old and intimate friend of yours, a real and worthy man, whom I respect and love at this moment, and who, 14 days before, had told me, with the tear half in his eye, that my minutes of Congress were of essential service to the Country, and who yet, without pretending provocation did this. The latter was not a member, but I Suppress his name, as he has since obliged me. Now I would be glad to hear how M Giles Made his encomium on Mr. Palmer Square with his attack on me, an attack so scouted, that he and his Six per Cent Ally durst not risk a division on it. If Such was my treatment from men who were good men, what was I to have from those who were constitutionally, and Systematically Rascals. I am Sure that, at least I hope that, if Giles had known the distress he was to bring upon my family, he would have bit his tongue rather than have Said what he did on that day.

Bache is buried, and I wish that I Could bury the consequences of his behaviour to me. I know that he had many useful and many pleasing qualities; but I was never the better for the one, or the other. He would not extract from my publications, a matter most essential. He would not let me advertise my last in his name, [none of the booksellers durst do so, excepting honest James Carey]1 although he was to be defended in it. But he knew very well how to get books, without the least concern as to paying for them. In July last, just after I came away, Mr. Fenno printed an attack on me, which, callous as I am, hurt me sensibly. I instantly sent up an answer which this worthy Republican refused to print, but which I must take some notice of, with an explanation, that Bache would not print it, as a reason why I did not answer it sooner. This was my thanks for the multitudinous columns I have wrote for him, and the blame which I have incurred as author of pieces in his paper I had nothing to do with, such as Dr. Jones’s profound observations on Mr. Adams wanting his teeth, and being bald; while this Representative was himself attacking, or at least snubbing me, on account of my Stile, as if a man in rags were to upbraid another for wearing an unfashionable Coat. This Sir (I ask pardon for the length of the detail) is a part of my obligations to the democracts; and though I have not the egotistical effrontery of Dr. Priestley, I Shall contrive to give a general and genuine character of democrats, which will hit my friends the harder, because it is known, though not always confessed, that I write truth, and am not a commonplace railer! Last Summer, when Giles, whom I admire, and would Scorn to speak to, was vilely abused by Brookes, I wrote a defence, which Bache (Oh Such Republicans!) would not print, because Brookes was “a fighting man,” and so I had to print it in my last volume, a stranger in the Country, without 6 people in it, who care a farthing if I were gibbetted, while the mighty Republican, with half of Philadelphia at his back, durst not defend one of the most meritorious members that ever sat in a legislative assembly, a man whose eloquence has often made every fibre in my composition thrill with pleasure, as I yet hope to make him thrill with Shame. If […] really had almost any tolerable writers, except James Carey, […] think less of their treatment of me. I am, with much respect, Sir, Your most obliged & grateful Servant

J. T. Callender

RC (DLC); damaged; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Vice-President of the United States, Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Nov. and so recorded in SJL.

I wrote you a letter: see Callender to TJ, 22 Sep. two newspapers: John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States and William Cobbett’s Porcupine’s Gazette. The dying woman was Callender’s wife, who died in the spring of 1798 (Durey, Callender, description begins Michael Durey, “With the Hammer of Truth”: James Thomson Callender and America’s Early National Heroes, Charlottesville, 1990 description ends 105–6).

Defending the democratic societies in the House on 26 Nov. 1794, William B. Giles referred to Scottish radicals Thomas Muir and Thomas F. Palmer, who were tried, found guilty of seditious practices, and in March 1794 transported to Australia. Giles contended that these “martyrs of Scotch despotism” who were “toasted from one end of the Continent to the other” for asserting their “right of thinking, of speaking, of writing, and of printing” were treated more fairly than democratic societies, for they at least had the semblance of a trial (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 2d ed., New York, 1908–09, 22 vols. description ends ; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 4:918). I was their intimate friend: see Durey, Callender description begins Michael Durey, “With the Hammer of Truth”: James Thomson Callender and America’s Early National Heroes, Charlottesville, 1990 description ends , 41–3. When William L. Smith, author of the 1796 anti-Jeffersonian articles under the signature of Phocian, advocated hiring stenographer David Robertson as the official House reporter in January 1796, Giles served with Smith on the committee considering the proposal and joined in criticism of the current standards of reporting congressional debates in the House. While Robertson was not hired, Callender subsequently lost the position he had held since December 1793 as congressional reporter for the Philadelphia Gazette (Durey, Callender description begins Michael Durey, “With the Hammer of Truth”: James Thomson Callender and America’s Early National Heroes, Charlottesville, 1990 description ends , 56, 60–1; George C. Rogers, Jr., Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston (1758–1812) [Columbia, S.C., 1962], 292; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 5:131, 275, 280, 286). For a description of Callender’s reporting on debates in the House and for his relationship with Giles, see Durey, Callender description begins Michael Durey, “With the Hammer of Truth”: James Thomson Callender and America’s Early National Heroes, Charlottesville, 1990 description ends , 56–63. six per cent ally: another reference to William L. Smith, who played a prominent role in Callender’s work Sedgwick & Co. or a Key to the Six Per Cent Cabinet, which examined the funding of the national debt and numerous other subjects.

Bache is buried: Benjamin Franklin Bache died of yellow fever on 10 Sep. and publication of the Aurora ceased until the first of November (Tagg, Bache description begins James Tagg, Benjamin Franklin Bache and the Philadelphia Aurora, Philadelphia, 1991 description ends , 396–8). On 13 July Fenno printed a very short piece in the Gazette of the United States entitled “Envoy Callender” in which he noted that the Republican publicist had left the city going in a westward direction on unknown business. He reported that Callender had since been sighted on the Lancaster road in a drunken state. It is not clear if Callender sent up an answer to this short piece or if he referred to the report of his arrest in Leesburg, Virginia, in August (see Callender to TJ, 22 Sep. 1798).

The profound observations of Virginia Congressman Walter Jones appeared in the Aurora on 27 Apr. as an extract of a letter from a gentleman in Philadelphia to his friend in Virginia and referred to “the querulous and cankered murmurs of blind, bald, crippled, toothless Adams” (Mason, Papers description begins Robert A. Rutland, ed., The Papers of George Mason 1725–1792, Chapel Hill, 1970, 3 vols. description ends , l:lxvi; Dauer, Adams Federalists, description begins Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists, Baltimore, 1953 description ends 314). The confrontation between Giles and New York Representative David Brooks, A fighting man, took place on 29 Mch. 1798. In his last volume, Sedgwick & Co., Callender depicted Brooks as “an aristocratical orator of the most clownish and repulsive species” who in the confrontation with Giles unsuccessfully sought a duel. Callender praised Giles for his “nervous brevity,” “persuasive modesty,” and “accuracy of information” (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 8:1345, 1352–3, 1356; Callender, Sedgwick & Co., 28–9, 31).

1Brackets here inserted by Callender.

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