Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from William Irvine, 18 July 1802

From William Irvine

U.S. Arsenal near Philadelphia
18th July 1802


When at Washington I took the liberty to recommend Robert Porter Esqr. of Philadelphia to your notice as one of the Commissioners of Bankruptcy for the District of Pennsylvania—Circumstances probably were not favorable at that time to his appointment—as there is now a vacancy by the death of John W. Vancleve, I again solicit your attention to the pretensions of Mr. Porter for that office, which I look upon equal, if not superior in many respects, to some of those who were lately appointed, if I did not I assure you I would not give you this trouble—

Mr. Porter is a Lawyer in considerable repute, he was prevailed on by the Republicans of Philadelphia to suffer himself to be elected a Representative of the State Legislature, which as they sit at Lancaster must have been against his private interest—He & all his connexions, who are numerous & respectable, are warmly attached to the Republican interest—If you will be pleased to take the trouble of inquiring I flatter myself you will find I have not overrated his character or pretensions—

With high respect I am Sir Your Most obedient Servant

Wm. Irvine

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 July and “Porter to be Commr. bkrptcy” and so recorded in SJL.

Irvine, superintendent of military stores at Philadelphia, wrote this letter on the day of John W. Vancleve’s death (Philadelphia Repository, and Weekly Register, 24 July 1802; Vol. 33:180n). I TOOK THE LIBERTY: Robert Porter appears on TJ’s list of candidates for bankruptcy commissioners for Pennsylvania with “Genl. Irwin” identified as the person who recommended him (see Vol. 37: Appendix ii, List 1).

THOSE WHO WERE LATELY APPOINTED: Joseph Clay, Alexander J. Dallas, Mahlon Dickerson, John Sergeant, Thomas Cumpston, and Vancleve (Memorandums to Albert Gallatin, 10 June 1802).

On 21 July, Mahlon Dickerson wrote Meriwether Lewis regarding the vacancy caused by Vancleve’s death. He did not know if TJ would fill the vacancy, because originally the president had intended to appoint only four commissioners for Pennsylvania, the number under the “old establishment.” Understanding that several Philadelphians had already sent recommendations, however, Dickerson requested that Lewis recommend Peter S. Du Ponceau to the president “as a very suitable character” to fill the office. Dickerson noted: “he is justly admired for his talents & great learning, & I believe no one at our bar has been more uniformly a republican than he.” He also mentioned that he had just read “A view of the political conduct of Aaron Burr,” and if the fever outbreak continued in Philadelphia, Dickerson planned to visit New York, where he could investigate some “facts” revealed in the pamphlet that appeared “very mysterious.” He was informed that Burr “means to treat all these attacks upon his character with silent contempt; that he will not deign to vindicate his conduct” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; addressed: “Capt Merewether Lewis City of Washington”; forwarded by the postmaster at Washington on 27 July to “Monticello, near Milton Va.”; endorsed by TJ: “Dickerson Mahlone to Capt Lewis Duponceau to be Commr. bkrptcy”). TJ obtained a copy of the pamphlet attributed to James Cheetham entitled A View of the Political Conduct of Aaron Burr, Esq. Vice-President of the United States, published in New York in 1802 (see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3443). For Cheetham’s account of Burr’s intrigues with New York Federalists during the election of 1800, see Vol. 36:83–8.

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