Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Anthony Haswell, 10 May 1801

From Anthony Haswell

Bennington, Vermont, May 10th. 1801.

Respected Sir,

Unaccustomed to flattery, and totally unused to the formality of state epistles, I shall without consulting any person, or studying any courtly form, address you with the freedom of a republican, as the political father of a great family, in which I consider myself, in point of pecuniary resources, a needy member.—In doing this I shall rely on the urbanity of which I feel persuaded you are eminently possessed, to excuse the boldness of so obscure an individual as myself, in troubling you with a few lines on his personal concerns, at a time when the important changes in our national circumstances, must necessarily engage your attention in a peculiar manner.—

For nearly eighteen years past I have carried on a news-paper in the place of my residence, and from sickness of person and family, and other causes, beyond my abilities to controul, such is my unfortunate lot, that in the forty fifth year of my age, I am very necessitous, with a large family to maintain, and numerous difficulties to encounter.—Yet I have been industrious, and am not sensible of ever indulging in excess or intemperance, altho’ poverty oppresses me.—

On account of political principles I have suffered very much by the secret and open enmity of men, whom I had formerly esteemed my friends, but who in the period of our late political phrenzy, for a few years last past, finding they could not bribe me to prostitute my press to their nefarious views, threatened my ruin, and have nearly effected it.—

They are now, Sir, insidiously and systematically endeavoring to prop their apparently sinking politics, by establishing what they term federal papers in every quarter of this state.—We have for several years past, had six public papers circulated in this state, four of them fashionably federal, one, viz. the Vermont Journal, as republican as its local situation would perhaps admit, and the Gazette printed and edited by myself. In addition to these there are now three new federal papers just established, and proposals issued for two others, one of which in this town, by a young man from Connecticut, in Company with Mr. Collier, printer, of Litchfield, who is now here, with two presses.

Owing to the influence of my neighbour, Governor Tichenor, and his party, with the coincident efforts of Dr. Williams of Cambridge, late a representative in Congress, from Newyork, who, as I am informed, supports an intersection of my principal routes, by a paper devoted to his own politics, and printed under his auspices, in the place of his residence, I am extremely injured, and impelled by a sense of duty only, keep my paper at present in circulation.—Could my Gazette be made the medium for necessary governmental communications of the United States, in this quarter, it would aid my efforts to live, and add the impulse of gratitude to the sentimental exertion of my limitted abilities.—

My sufferings in the common cause have been too heavy for me to bear—In the case of my prosecution on an indictment for sedition, I was put to great expence of time and money, in procuring evidence, council &c.—in suffering two months close confinement in a common goal room, about twelve feet square, with one little grated window, of four small squares only, and by enduring a fit of sickness, in consequence, from the effects of which I was freed for more than two months after my enlargement; which involved me in a heavy debt, notwithstand the aid of my friends in discharging my fine and costs, and a present of $100 from some friends in Virginia.—I however did but my duty, in conducting my paper conscientiously, and therefore claim no merit on that account, but if my services hereafter can be of service to community, and my country by compensating my industry can alleviate my distresses, I shall gratefully acknowledge the favors conferred, and as far as health and abilities admit shall be indefatigable in every point of duty.

Sincerely wishing you happiness, and divine support, in the discharge of the arduous duties of your station, I am, Sir, your respectful fellow citizen,

Anthony Haswell.—

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, esq. President of the United States”; franked; postmarked 12 May; endorsed by TJ as received 22 May and so recorded in SJL with notation “S.”; also endorsed by TJ: “refd. to Secy. of State Th:J.”

Anthony Haswell (1756–1816), Revolutionary War veteran, father of seventeen children, one-time postmaster general of Vermont, and Republican printer, had apprenticed with Isaiah Thomas of the Massachusetts Spy and partnered with Elisha Babcock on the Massachusetts Gazette or the Springfield and Northampton Weekly Advertiser before establishing his own Bennington newspaper, the Vermont Gazette, in 1783. He started another newspaper at Rutland, Vermont, in June 1792 and was active as a printer until his death. For his indictment and trial under the Sedition Act, see Vol. 31:493–4n (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:1072, 1074–5, 1094, 1427; John Spar-go, Anthony Haswell, Printer-Patriot-Ballader [Rutland, Vt., 1925], 34, 35, 38, 67, 72, 73, 79).

Vermont Journal: probably the weekly newspaper by this name published by Alden Spooner in Windsor (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:1099).

The young man from Connecticut was William Stockwell, who in company with Thomas Collier, printer of the Litchfield Monitor, established a printing office in Bennington, Vermont, and from July 1801 to February 1802 published The Ploughman; or, Republican Federalist (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:31, 2:1073; Samuel H. Fisher, The Publications of Thomas Collier Printer 1784–1808 [Litchfield, Conn., 1933], x–xi).

Isaac Tichenor of Bennington was governor of Vermont from 1797 to 1807 and 1808 to 1809 (Robert Sobel and John Raimo, eds., Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789–1978, 4 vols. [Westport, Conn., 1978], 4:1562–3). John Williams, a native of Barnstable, England, was a Federalist representative from New York from 1795 to 1799 (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

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