Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, 21 February 1802

To Thomas Mann Randolph

Washington Feb. 21. 1802.

Dear Sir

I am made happy by the regular accounts of the health of the inhabitants of Edgehill. here there has been an uncommon degree of sickness; ascribed of course to the mild winter, tho’ we cannot see why. The H. of R. have now been a week debating the judiciary law, and scarcely seem to be yet on the threshold of it. I begin to apprehend a long session: however I believe all material matters recommended in the first day’s message will prevail. the majority begins to draw better together than at first. still there are some wayward freaks which now & then disturb the operations.

I know nothing of the person from Loudon who went to take Shadwell, having never heard of him till your letter. in a letter to mr Craven, which he recieved on the day of the date of yours I expressed a wish that he could bring some good tenant to it; and as the man happened to be with him that very day, he made an agreement with him to take all except the yard on Peyton’s terms: but as to the yard that remains to be arranged. I have written to him on the subject.   I forward you two newspapers presenting two versions of Hamilton’s speeches. the language of insurgency is that of the party at present, even in Congress. mr Bayard in a speech of 7. hours talked with confidence of the possibility of resistance by arms. they expect to frighten us: but are met with perfect sang froid.   present my warmest affections to my ever dear Martha & the little ones, and be assured of my constant & sincere attachment.

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “T M Randolph”; address clipped: “Thomas Man[…]”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by Randolph as received 1 Mch. PrC (MHi); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Your letter: perhaps Randolph to TJ, 23 Jan., recorded in SJL as received from Edgehill on 27 Jan., but not found. Letter to Mr Craven: according to SJL, TJ wrote Craven on 6 and 19 Feb. TJ received letters dated 30 Jan. and 11 Feb. from Craven on 3 and 17 Feb., respectively. All of the correspondence is missing. Craven came from Loudoun County to lease Tufton and part of Monticello in 1800 (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1030; Vol. 32:108–10). For Craven Peyton’s arrangement to have William Davenport take over his lease of Shadwell, see TJ to Peyton, 3 Dec. 1800.

Hamilton’s speeches: on 11 Feb., Alexander Hamilton spoke before a meeting of the New York City bar held to consider a memorial to Congress against the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801, as their colleagues in Philadelphia had done. On 13 Feb., the New-York Gazette & General Advertiser printed an account of Hamilton’s statements at the meeting, in which he noted that repeal of the Judiciary Act would be an “unequivocal violation” of the Constitution. He spoke against a memorial to Congress, however, because it would have no impact. Hamilton stated that the repeal of the 1801 Act would destroy the independence of the judiciary “and we should, e’er long, be divided into separate confederacies, turning our arms against each other.” On 15 Feb., Denniston & Cheetham’s American Citizen and General Advertiser gave another account of Hamilton’s remarks, reporting that near the close of the meeting he predicted that if the judiciary law were repealed “we should soon see State ‘arrayed against State to embrue their hands in each other’s blood.’ In which case, some daring usurper (he did not mention himself) would arise, seize the reins of government, and like Bonaparte, establish a despotism” (see Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 25:520–7).

At the close of his speech on 20 Feb., James A. Bayard raised the possibility of resistance by arms, if the Judiciary Act of 1801 were abolished. He argued: “You have a right to abolish by a law, the offices of the judges of the circuit courts.—They have a right to declare your law void. It unavoidably follows in the exercise of these rights, either that you destroy their rights, or that they destroy yours. This doctrine is not an harmless absurdity,” he warned, “it is a most dangerous heresy. It is a doctrine which cannot be practised without producing not discord only, but bloodshed.” Bayard warned again: “There are many, very many who believe, if you strike this blow, you inflict a mortal wound on the constitution. There are many now willing to spill their blood to defend that constitution. Are gentlemen disposed to risk the consequences?” Comparing the U.S. with France, Bayard concluded: “We are standing on the brink of that revolutionary torrent, which deluged in blood one of the fairest countries of Europe” (Speech of the Honorable James A. Bayard, of Delaware. February 19, 20, 1802. On the Bill Received from the Senate, Entitled “An Act to Repeal Certain Acts Respecting the Organization of the Courts of the United States” [Hartford, 1802], 27, 46–8; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. description ends , 11:648, 650). Bayard’s speech was published in pamphlet form—sometimes along with that of William B. Giles, who defended the proposed legislation—in several cities, including Hanover, New Hampshire; Wilmington, Delaware; Boston, Worcester, Hartford, and Washington, D.C. (Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , Nos. 1848–52, 2323–4, 3443).

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