Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Isaac Briggs, 27 September 1806

Washington M.T. 27 of the 9 mo. 1806.

My dear friend,

I have before me thy favor dated April 26. 06. Thy own benevolent heart can estimate more justly than I can describe the grateful feelings excited in my mind by thy generous offer of reimbursing from thy private purse my expenses in exploring the Post-route to New Orleans.

Although even this sum would be very convenient to me; yet, if due to me at all, it is due from the general purse of my country, and not from thee:—I intend to petition Congress; permit me therefore respectfully to decline being burdensome to the friend to whom I already have incalculable obligations.

Had I had any claims on thy esteem, I am overpaid by the assurance “that I retain thy entire confidence.” If I may build, a claim to what I so highly value, upon rectitude of intention my conscience tells me that I never have forfeited it and my heart promises me that I never will. I am convinced I do not possess political talents.

Poindexter, assisted by a few industrious partisans, has been able to excite against me a general popular dislike, and then by persecuting me, has ixhibited himself as a champion for the people against the patronage of the Executive of the United States, as supporting a favourite to the total dereliction of their interest. On this foundation, principally I believe, he has established a temporary popularity sufficient to hoist him into the Legislature, where I am told he meditates further persecutions against me, in the form of a memorial to Congress. The weapons of this man and his little party are misrepresentation and falsehood, which they use with considerable dexterity: I have neither the leisure, inclination nor address necessary to contend with such weapons in such hands. They pick up and enlist in their service those who have been discarded from my department for misconduct.

It is with extreme regret I mention that Secretary Mead seems to have thrown himself implicitly and in disregard of honest warning, into the arms of that party, and I fear will be the devoted victim of its influence.

George Davis, lately one of my principal Deputies, whom on my return to this country I found in prison and in debt, and to whom, on account of his mathematical knowledge and my confidence in his integrity, I gave an employment, which has cleared him of debt and raised him to independence, has imposed on me the necessity of patronizing him no longer. A few months ago I found it necessary to restrain his attempts to grasp the emoluments of more business than he could faithfully perform. On this occasion his conduct towards me was very improper, but as soon as he found I had filled both the places of Principal Deputy in the other Territory to his exclusion, he became outrageous, and has ever since exhibited the ingratitude, invenomed malice, treachery, and falsehood of Callender, but without his talents.

I ardently long, for a release from the labyrinth of difficulty and unhappiness into which I have fallen in this country, without being able to discover in myself any intentional fault—and to have it in my power to return to the peaceful bosom of my dear family. Were there a scientific employment in or about the City of Washington, of which the President should deem me adequate and worthy, how happy I should think myself in being translated! From the exhibition of characters of baseness and depravity, I turn with pleasure to those of opposite principles.

Gideon Fitz and John Dinsmore, the two young men with whom I became acquainted through thy introduction, I have found to be men of solid worth and improving talents. More than eighteen months ago, I sent them to manage the surveying business in the County of Washington on Tombigbee River. In this trust they have acquitted themselves to my entire satisfaction, and to their own honor. I have lately recalled them in order to send them to the Western side of the Mississippi. I have appointed Gideon Fitz the Principal Deputy Surveyor of the Western land-district of the Tirritory of Orleans, and Wallur Gilbert, also a valuable young man, for the Eastern district. Fitz has greatly improved, and is in a state of progressive advancement in knowledge,—his discriminating judgment, uncommon prudence—in short, the virtues of his heart, and qualities of his head, affords us a pleasing promise that, if health should be his lot, he will rise to a distinguished place in the constellation of American worthies, and reflect great honor on those who have patronized him.

The bones sent to Natchez by Capt Lewis are, I believe, irrecoverably lost.

I am thy grateful and affectionate freind,

Isaac Briggs.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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