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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 24 April 1811

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Apr. 24. 11.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 19th. is recieved. I have carefully examined my letter files from July 1808. to this day, & find among them no such Anonymous letter as you mention. Indeed the strong impression on my memory is that I never recieved an Anonymous letter from England, or from any other country than our own.

Certain newspapers are taking a turn which gives me uneasiness. Before I was aware of it, I was led to an interference, which tho’ from just motives, I should not, at a later moment, have shaped exactly as I did. I cannot therefore repress the desire to communicate it fully to you. On the 24th. of March I recieved a friendly letter from Duane, informing me of the distress into which he had been thrown by his former friends, Lieper & Clay, withdrawing their endorsements for him at the banks; the latter expressly for his attacks on John Randolph, the former without assigning any particular cause: & he concluded by asking whether, in Virginia, where he had been flattered by the support of his paper, 80. gentlemen could not be found, who would advance him their hundred Dollars apiece, to be repaid at short periods. I immediately engaged mr. Peter Carr here, & mr. Wirt in Richmond to set the experiment afoot, & one of these engaged a friend in Baltimore to do the same. But I mentioned to these gentlemen that, to apprise Duane of the grounds on which we interested ourselves for him, to wit, his past services to the cause of republicanism, & that he might not mistake it as an approbation of his late attacks on mr. Gallatin, of which we unequivocally disapproved, I would write him a letter. I accordingly wrote him the one now inclosed,1 which I previously communicated to messrs. Carr & Wirt. It did not leave this till the 1st. of April. The thing was going on hopefully enough, when his papers of the 4th. & 8th. arrived here,2 the latter written probably after he had recieved my letter. The effect at Baltimore I have not learned. But every person who had offered, here or at Richmond to join in aiding him, immediately withdrew, considering him as unequivocally joining the banners of the opposition, federal or factious. I have to give an account of this to Duane, but am waiting, in expectation of an answer to mine of March 26. In that I shall make one effort more to reclaim him from the dominion of his passions, but I expect it will be the last, and as unavailing as the former.

I could not be satisfied until I informed you of this transaction, and must even request you to communicate it to mr. Gallatin: for altho the just tribute rendered him in the letter was certainly never meant to meet his eye, yet as it is there, among other things, it must go to him. Ritchie has been under hesitation. His paper of the 16th. decides his course as to yourself.3 And I propose to set him to rights, as to mr. Gallatin, through a letter to Wirt in which I shall expose the falsehood or futility of the facts they have harped upon. All this however is confidential to yourself & mr. Gallatin; because, while I wish to do justice to truth, I wish also to avoid newspaper observation.

With respect to the opposition threatened, altho it may give some pain, no injury of consequence is to be apprehended. Duane flying off from the government, may, for a little while, throw confusion into our ranks, as John Randolph did. But, after a moment of time to reflect & rally, & to see where he is, we shall stand our ground with firmness. A few malcontents will follow him, as they did John Randolph, & perhaps he may carry off some well meaning Anti-Snyderites of Pensylvania. The federalists will sing Hosannas, & the world will thus know of a truth what they are. This new minority will perhaps bring forward their new favorite, who seems already to have betrayed symptoms of consent.4 They will blast him in the bud, which will be no misfortune. They will sound the tocsin against the antient dominion, and anti-dominionism may become their rallying point. And it is better that all this should happen two, than six years hence.

Disregarding all this, I am sure you will pursue steadily your own wise plans, that peace, with the great belligerents at least, will be preserved, until it becomes more losing than war, & that the total extinction of the national debt, & liberation of our revenues, for defence in war, and improvement in peace, will seal your retirement with the blessings of your country. For all this, & for your health & happiness I pray to god fervently.

Th: Jefferson

P. S. Be so good as to return the inclosed as I have no other copy.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Jefferson enclosed a copy of his 28 Mar. 1811 letter to Duane (DLC: Jefferson Papers; printed in Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (10 vols.; New York, 1892–99). description ends , 9:310–14), written in response to Duane’s 15 Mar. 1811 to him (DLC: Jefferson Papers). While indicating he did not doubt that Duane’s attacks on Gallatin were grounded in the sincerity of his convictions, the former president defended the treasury secretary as a man of “pure integrity, and as zealously devoted to the liberties and interests of our country as it’s most affectionate native citizen.” Jefferson also discussed the possibilities, which, he stressed, were limited, of Duane’s obtaining financial support for his newspaper from Virginia Republicans. He concluded by warning the editor of the dangers of his carrying his opposition to JM to extremes. “Leave the President free to chuse his own coadjutors, to pursue his own measures, & support him & them, even if we think we are wiser than they are, honester than they are, or possessing more enlarged information of the state of things. If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object: but if we break into squads, every one pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check.”

2The 4 Apr. 1811 issue of the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser reprinted from the Washington Spirit of ’Seventy-Six an ironic defense of Gallatin against the various charges of corruption, improper influence, and treason that Duane had made against him. Duane published the defense partly to point out that the Spirit of ’Seventy-Six (and by implication Gallatin as well) was under the influence of John Randolph of Roanoke, and partly because he regarded the irony of the defense as the equivalent of “a pretty confession” of Gallatin’s guilt. In the issue of 8 Apr. 1811 Duane editorialized on the subject of “The Next President,” claiming that Gallatin had usurped JM’s functions and warning JM that if he expected to retain the presidency, he would have to arouse himself and take personal responsibility for the direction of public policy. Following the editorial Duane printed a letter from a “gentleman of high standing in New York” to his friend in Philadelphia. The letter declared that Gallatin had manipulated JM into a position of hostility toward the Clinton and Smith families, particularly after Vice President George Clinton had used his casting vote in the U.S. Senate to defeat the recharter of the Bank of the United States, and that Gallatin was now making an alliance with the Burrite faction in New York in order to seek the presidency for himself.

3On the subject of the recent cabinet disputes, the Richmond Enquirer of 16 Apr. 1811 announced that Robert Smith ought to have been neither appointed secretary of state nor retained in that office and that JM, although he had made errors in some respects, was “guilty of no dereliction from republican principles.” The same issue also contained a long editorial in support of the stand taken by JM in his negotiations with France and Great Britain. If France had repealed its edicts against neutral shipping and if Great Britain failed to do likewise, the editorial advised, the president should “call congress together and put it in their power to protect the rights of the nation.”

4Jefferson was referring to John Armstrong, and he was by no means alone in his suspicion that Armstrong might head an antiadministration party. Littleton Waller Tazewell issued a similar warning to Monroe in the belief that “at the head of this party you may expect to see General Armstrong. It will be supported by the Clintons, and a strong Republican phalanx in New-York; by Leib Duane & Co. in Pennsylvania; and by the Smiths of Maryland. Its great object being to obtain the reins of government, and the means of achieving this end being derivable from the North and East only, you will of course expect that the motto of the party will be ‘Free Trade’” (Tazewell to Monroe, 10 May 1811 [DLC: Monroe Papers]).

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