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To Thomas Jefferson from William Adamson, 30 January 1803

From William Adamson

Philadelphia the 30th. of Jany. 1803

Esteemed friend

When I had the pleasure of seeing thee last year at Washington, I promised to send thee a copy of Rufs: King’s Lettr. to my friend Henry Jackson granting him permission to come to America, & on going to Carlisle, I accordingly applied to my said frd. for a Copy, who replied that he wd. shortly go on to Washington & hand thee the original!—He did go there soon after, but his diffidence got the better of his strong desire to enjoy the pleasure of thy acquaintance; & on his return home he wrote me that seeing the base lengths wch. the Federal papers went in foul abuse of thy hospitable attentions to some individuals obnoxious to the malice of that maligning faction, he thought it best to avoid the possibility of their vilifying thee on his account, he being proscribed by the British government, for his attachment to free representative government, & abhorrence of that wch is corrupt & oppressive, as theirs is become: & knowing that their partizans in this Country are full as vindictive as themselves, he thought it most prudent for that time to decline his intended visit to thee!—An occasion has however recently occurr’d, for calling upon him for Rufus King’s letter! Subsequent to the late peace in Europe, the British government relax’d in it’s rigours towards the Irish state prisoners, & I believe all or most of them are now liberated: & some of them are come to this Country: these have united with the Aliens before resident here, in a Memorial to the present Congress for an amelioration of the late naturalization Law, enacted by that body: in which they took occasion to advert to the hostility of the late administration to Aliens of known republican principles, particularly the Irish, as evinced by the interference of the American Minister at the Court of St. James, with the British Government, to prevent their being allowed to emigrate to the United States; by which many respectable, industrious & opulent republicans, & some of first rate literary talents, were detain’d in dungeons near four years longer!—lest this should be cavill’d at, or it’s authenticity disputed, by the friends of that administration, my friend Edwd: Hudson, one of the late prisoners of Fort George, wrote to our frd. Hen: Jackson for the Lettr., in order to send a copy of it to the friendly member who presents the Memorial to Congress, & received the original copy of wch. & of the memorial, as well as of E: Hudson’s Lettr. & H: Jackson’s answer, I now take the liberty of inclosing to thee, in order that thou mayest have a view of the whole ground: and knowing thee to be friendly to virtuous republican Aliens, I have great pleasure in assuring thee, on this occasion, that all my Countrymen who have taken asylum in this Country, from British Tyranny, are to a man strongly attach’d to the constitution of the united states, & inexpressibly happy in the present administration of this Government, in so much that I declare I believe they appreciate it more highly than the native patriots; from the glaring contrast of former missery, & Present happiness—of slavery and liberty! oppression & freedom! and tho this experience excited their jealousy against the venal measures of the late administration; it strengthens their confidence in the present, whose measures promise permanency to the blessings they enjoy under its mild & equal government:—a proof, I trust, sufficient, of the injustice of the charge that the Irish cannot be satisfied under any governmt: as Wm. Pitt & Rufus King, & all the enemies of real (not nominal) free government wd. have it.

I have the happiness now to call thee my fellow Citizen, having been enfranchized under the five years act of naturalization; & am with great esteem & regard

Thy respectful friend

Wm Adamson

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr:”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Feb. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Rufus King to Henry Jackson, Brighton, 28 Aug. 1799, replying to Jackson’s letter of 22 July requesting permission to emigrate to America; King explains that Congress had recently given him “an assurance, that a particular description of persons in Ireland” would not be permitted to leave for the United States without that nation’s consent; this restriction, King assumes, would be lifted on individuals “against whose emigration I should not object”; examining the political situation in America, King and others believe that a portion of their countrymen has “erroniously supposed” that America’s civil and political institutions would be improved “by a close imitation of the Models of France”; this has created considerable divisions among Americans and “required a greater watchfullness and activity from the Government”; in particular, King states that a large proportion of Irish immigrants, especially in the middle states, has “arranged itself on the side of the Malcontents”; King excepts a few “enlightened & well educated Irishmen who reside among us,” and largely confines his comments to the “indigent and illiterate, who entertaining an attachment to freedom are unable justly to appreciate those salutary restraints without which it degenerates into anarchy”; King worries that the Irish in America may enlist in “mischievous combinations against our Government”; he does not object in general to the emigration of persons of capital and skill, but such persons may become “tenfold more dangerous” if their opinions align them with the malcontents; “the motives which lead me to interfere with your Government to restrain the emigration of the persons above alluded to,” King explains, “oblige me to observe a due caution on the present occasion”; the recommendation in Jackson’s favor that he received from Joseph Wilson, the United States consul at Dublin, has led King to “withdraw every objection that may be supposed to stand in the way of your being permitted to go to the United States”; King urges Jackson to carry an “unbiassed mind” to America and hopes that he may find the country favorable to his future business endeavors “& its Government deserving your attachment” (Tr in same; King, Life description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King: Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents and His Speeches, New York, 1894-1900, 6 vols. description ends , 2:645–7; 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 , 1:158). (2) Edward Hudson to Henry Jackson, Philadelphia, 20 Jan. 1803, restraining himself from giving full vent to his feelings on the betrayal of his country and the victimization of its people “to a mercantile, relentless policy”; Hudson has no desire to become “an American politician,” but as an Irishman, Hudson must always feel as such; many of his countrymen in Philadelphia have resolved to send a memorial to Congress, praying an alteration of the naturalization laws; the memorial will also assert that because of the American minister’s refusal to allow Irish political prisoners to reside in the United States, the British government made this the pretext for “detaining them in dungeons for the space of four years, in open violation of a solemn compact”; the aliens wish to support this statement with every document possible; while imprisoned, Hudson was present when Mr. Marsden, one of the secretaries of the Irish government, informed the prisoners that they would not be allowed to emigrate to America because of objections by the American minister in London; Hudson and his fellow prisoners, including Jackson, initially believed this was a lie concocted by the British to keep them imprisoned; Hudson recollects that Jackson wrote Rufus King on the subject, and received a reply establishing the fact “that he did interfere against us” and the “imprecations” by the prisoners against King as a result of his letter were unanimous; King’s letter to Jackson would confirm the statement of the aliens in their memorial to Congress, and Hudson asks Jackson for a copy of it, or, preferably, the original; it may not be necessary to make use of the letter, but if a partisan of King should call for proof of the accusations made against him by the memorialists, the use of the letter would prevent the tables from being turned against the memorialists; anything brought before the public must not only be grounded in fact, but able to be proven as well; the accusations against King “cannot be questioned by us,” but may be by others and the difficulty lies in proving them; “Without the letter in your possession,” Hudson concludes, “we cannot—With it we can: and to the conviction of the most willfully incredulous” (Tr in DLC). (3) Henry Jackson to Edward Hudson, Carlisle, 24 Jan. 1803, forwarding Rufus King’s letter to him, “full proof of his interfering, and I have little doubt of his doing as the English Government directed him”; Jackson also encloses “that Scoundrel Castlereagh’s letter to me returning it, having sent it to him to remove the only objection the Irish Government said they had to my leaving Ireland”; King’s delay in answering Jackson cost him £500; “somebody got that sum for procuring an order for leave for me to go to America,” Jackson claims, although he did not learn this until a year after he arrived; “this same influence” now offers to procure leave for Jackson to return for a “few hundred pounds—What a virtuous Government”; Jackson asks Hudson to take care of the letters, since he may have occasion to make use of them at another day, and hopes to see some of Hudson’s committee in Washington, “if the weather is tolerable, all depends on that” (RC in same). (4) “Memorial of the Aliens, Inhabitants of the City and County of Philadelphia” to the Senate and the House of Representatives, undated, stating that they had petitioned Congress during their previous session for a repeal of the existing naturalization law; describing the experiences of those memorialists residing in America from the summer of 1798 to the spring of 1801, the petition claims “Every Alien distinguished for his attachment to the principles of Liberty, was incessantly abused” by the Federalist press, that the American minister in London stated in the name of his government that Irish state prisoners would not be allowed to reside in the United States, that the British government made this a pretext for detaining them “in dungeons” for four years, that the president at that time was “notoriously hostile to Aliens of Republican principles,” and that he was authorized by law to banish any alien at his pleasure; under these circumstances, few resident aliens declared an intention of becoming a United States citizen, “For by so doing, he placed his name on a list of proscription, and subjected himself to banishment, at the arbitrary will of an Individual”; the memorialists argue that even the poorest immigrant arriving in America “has a property in his life, in his liberty, and in his labour; and is as liable to the laws as the richest Citizen”; to tax, imprison, or execute him by laws that were framed without his representation “is to exercise against him an act of tyranny”; society would benefit by enfranchising aliens that have demonstrated good character, paid taxes, showed their attachment to American government, and declared their wish to reside permanently in the United States; they rest their case not only on rights, but on justice and policy as well; the majority of the memorialists are natives of Ireland and retain a love and appreciation for freedom; Congress acknowledged the services of Irish patriots to the cause of “Humanity and America” and invited them to partake of the United States and of their success, “and the countrymen of Montgomery, have never by their conduct in war, or their votes in peace, proved unworthy of the Blessing”; those who have sacrificed their country “for the Principles on which your Constitution is founded” deserve the trust and functions of citizenship; states like Pennsylvania and others, where the laws regarding foreigners are most liberal, “are not inferior in attachment to the American Union, in Morals, in Freedom, in Arts, Industry or Prosperity to any of their Sister States”; such states are foremost in population increase, affording strength and security to the nation, and by their constitutions the “Stranger of good Conduct” may become a citizen after two years residence; Spain and France suffered by expelling foreigners from their lands, and the memorialists urge Congress to “Encourage your Aliens, you will have the Arts and Manufactures of Europe;—neglect us, we suffer, but you are not served”; they therefore pray that Congress admit to citizenship those aliens who are now excluded on account of not having made a declaration of their intention three years previously, and to restore the time of two years’ residence specified in the original naturalization law (printed copy in same).

seeing thee last year at washington: no information regarding Adamson’s meeting with TJ has been found. Adamson mentioned this meeting in his letter to TJ of 28 Dec. 1801, in which he detailed the travails of United Irish refugee Henry Jackson as well as Rufus King’s efforts to thwart the emigration of Irish political prisoners to the United States in 1798 (Vol. 36:220–4).

memorial to the present congress: the petition from the aliens of the city and county of Philadelphia, seeking a revision to the naturalization act of 1802, was presented to the House of Representatives on 16 Feb. 1803 and referred to a select committee formed two days earlier. Committee member Michael Leib reported a bill on 17 Feb. that would allow any free white alien, who resided continually in the United States between 18 June 1798 and 14 April 1802, to become a citizen without complying with the portion of the naturalization law of 1802 that required an alien to declare in court his intention at least three years before his admission to citizenship. After much debate, in which opponents questioned the necessity of the act and objected to the indecorous language of the petition, the bill was rejected by the House (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:339–40, 345–6, 347, 357–8; 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. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled…by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 12:570–81). George Logan presented memorials from sundry aliens in Pennsylvania to the Senate on 16 Feb., remarking that they “contained some expressions not so respectful and decorous as he could wish.” After debate, the memorials were ordered to lie on the table (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820-21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:266; 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. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled…by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 12:97–9).

Dentist Edward hudson was among the United Irishmen arrested by British authorities in 1798 and subsequently imprisoned at Fort George in Scotland. Released in 1802, he emigrated to Philadelphia the following year, where he became a leading dental practitioner (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928-36, 20 vols. description ends ).

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