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To Thomas Jefferson from Elijah Russell, 7 August 1801

From Elijah Russell

Concord, N.H. August 7. 1801.

Respected Sir,

Humanity, more than self interest, dictates this letter; I hope, therefore, you will excuse the freedom taken by a stranger occupying but an humble walk in the world—I write but because my respect for an aged, grey-headed Father, overpowers my diffidence in addressing the Chief Executive of the United States—My father (now about 70 years of age) was a poor man;—but he was not destitute of love to his country—He had a numerous family—they looked to him, many of them, for their support—But, when the tyranny of a British King, called for those who lov’d their country, and who valued their natural rights, to defend them—then did my Father shoulder his musket, and march to the war—he had Five Sons who also entered the service about the same time—leaving my mother, and four younger children—whose sole dependance was on her industry and the small pittance of his scanty wages—He returned from the war, as he went, a poor man—but I never heard that he dishonor’d the title of a Soldier—He is now principally dependant for the comforts of Old Age, upon my eldest Brother; who fought in the army by his side, as I have been informed—This Brother, on whom he rest his last hopes, has held the Office of Inspector of the Revenue at Burlington, in Vermont—and, as he is a Federalist, it is probable application will be made to have some other person appointed to said office—I believe his integrity has never been doubted—and, as I believe him a wrongly prejudiced, but true Friend to his Country, and prefers its interest to that of any other country whatever—and as my aged Parents are so much dependant on him, to render the evening of their lives calm and comfortable—and as this office has considerably assisted him to administer to their necessities—In their behalf, I humbly plead, that he may be continued in said Office, if it is consistent with the honor and interest of the Government—and provided he shall discharge its duties with honest fidelity—

With the utmost deference and respect, I am Sir, your most humble servt.—

Elijah Russell

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson. Esq. Presd. of the U.S.—”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Aug. and so recorded in SJL.

Elijah Russell (1769–1803) entered the printing business in 1792 in Concord, New Hampshire, where he worked sporadically over the next 11 years as a solo editor or in partnership on several New England newspapers. He established the Gilmanton Rural Gazette in late October 1799, served as the town postmaster from January through December 1800, and, in March 1800, printed Samuel G. Bishop’s eulogy on the death of George Washington. His “true blue Jacobin paper,” the Republican Gazette, which he established in Concord in February 1801, became the organ of the Republican party in New Hampshire. In May 1803, Russell was fined and sentenced in Connecticut for forging state certificates, but he jumped bond and absconded to his home state. He died at the age of 34 after a brief illness while returning from a visit to his parents in Burlington, Vermont (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:201–2, 209, 442, 443, 445, 446, 447, 458; Stets, Postmasters description begins Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States, 1782–1811, Lake Oswego, Ore., 1994 description ends , 161; James O. Lyford, ed., History of Concord, New Hampshire, 2 vols. [Concord, 1903], 1:295; Samuel G. Bishop, An Eulogium on the Death of Gen. George Washington [Gilmanton, N.H., 1800; Evans description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends , No. 36981]; Concord Mirrour, 6 Sep. 1792; United States Oracle, and Portsmouth Advertiser, 14 May 1803; Portsmouth New Hampshire Gazette, 7 June 1803; Worcester National Aegis, 15 June 1803).

My father: David Russell, with fellow printer Anthony Haswell, established the Bennington Vermont Gazette in 1783 and continued as partner until 1790. Either David Russell or his son by the same name was postmaster at Bennington from 1784 to 1797 (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:1074; Vermont Gazette, 17 Oct. 1843; Stets, Postmasters description begins Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States, 1782–1811, Lake Oswego, Ore., 1994 description ends , 242, 243).

My eldest brother: David Russell. After serving in the American Revolution the young man settled in Vermont in 1783, where he was associated with his father’s newspaper in Bennington. He subsequently moved to Burlington, where he held a number of different offices. George Washington in 1797 nominated him as collector for the district of Vermont, a position he held until TJ replaced him with Jabez Penniman in 1803 (White, Genealogical Abstracts description begins Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Waynesboro, Tenn., 1990–92, 4 vols. description ends , 3:2983; 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 , 1:223, 441; Bennington Vermont Gazette, 17 Oct. 1843; Burlington Vermont Centinel, 5 May 1803; Vol. 33:125n, 672).

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