Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Smith Barton, 14 February 1801

To Benjamin Smith Barton

Washington Feb. 14. 1801.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Jan. 18. is duly recieved. the subject of it did not need apology. on the contrary should I be placed in office, nothing would be more desireable to me than the recommendations of those in whom I have confidence, of persons fit for office. for if the good withold their testimony, we shall be at the mercy of the bad. if the question relative to mr Zantzinger had been merely that of remaining in office, your letter would have placed him on very safe1 ground. besides that no man who has conducted himself according to his duties would have any thing to fear from me, as those who have done ill would have nothing to hope, be their political principles what they might. the obtaining an appointment presents more difficulties. the republicans have been excluded from all offices from the first origin of the division into Republican & federalist. they have a reasonable claim to vacancies till they occupy their due share. my hope however is that the distinction will be soon lost, or at most that it will be only of republican & monarchist: that the body of the nation, even that part which French excesses forced over to the Federal side, will rejoin the republicans, leaving only those who were pure monarchists, and who will be too few to form a sect.—this is the 4th. day of the balot, and nothing done: nor do I see any reason to suppose the 6½ states here will be less firm, as they call it, than your 13. Senators. if so, and the government should2 expire on the 3d. of March by the loss of it’s head, there is no regular provision for reorganising it, nor any authority but in the people themselves. they may authorize a convention to reorganize & even to amend the machine. there are 10. individuals in the H. of R. any one of whom changing his vote may save us this troublesome operation. be pleased to present my friendly respects to mrs Barton, mrs Sarjeant & mrs Waters, and to accept yourself my affectionate salutations.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PHi: Benjamin Smith Barton Papers); addressed: “Doctr. Benjamin S. Barton Philadelphia 44. N. 5th.”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by Barton as received 18 Feb. PrC (DLC).

Barton’s favor of Jan. 18 was a plea in behalf of a brother-in-law, merchant Paul Zantzinger of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who had held a place in the U.S. revenue system that had come to an end. With 11 children to support, he was in need of another position. Barton praised Zantzinger’s accounting abilities and dedication to the Whig cause during the Revolution, but confessed his brother-in-law’s commitment to Federalist politics since about 1794. Without recommending Zantzinger for a specific position, Barton hoped that TJ would keep him in mind (Dft in PPAmP: Barton Collection; recorded in SJL as received 11 Feb.). Zantzinger had received his appointment as a commissioner of the Direct Tax in July 1798 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:288–9). In an undated list of people recommended for office, TJ recorded Zantzinger’s name, residence, the date of Barton’s letter above, and “in the revenue &c” as the office sought by the applicant (DLC: TJ Papers, 108:18557).

Mrs Barton, Mrs Sarjeant & Mrs Waters: Barton had wed Mary Pennington in 1797 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ). His cousins Elizabeth Rittenhouse Sergeant, the widow of attorney Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, and her sister Esther (Hetty), widow of Dr. Nicholas B. Waters, were the daughters of David Rittenhouse and his first wife, Eleanor Coulston Rittenhouse, and acquaintances of TJ and his daughters (Brooke Hindle, David Rittenhouse [Princeton, 1964], 24–5, 304–5, 316, 344, 350–1; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 2:17, 16:589–90; Vol. 22:294; Vol. 23:159).

1Preceding two words interlined in place of “high.”

2TJ here canceled “run out.”

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