From David Ross1
Bladensburgh [Maryland] Octr. 16th. 1797
The subject of the letter I alluded to in my last,2 did not relate to Colo. Mercer but to a public assertion of a letter of yours, being seen in one of the West India Islands in favour of a change of our Government to Monarchy.3 I had concluded you had agreed with me in sentiment that nothing Co. Mercer could say was worth your notice after I had furnished you with Capt. Campbells4 & my answer to a piece of his, filed in the Printing Office at Annapolis & which he suffered to pass unnoticed:5 & I had put it in that point of view the only time I heard the subject mentioned, that is, the close of your corrispondence with him.6 I still think the same. If you can make up your mind to determine in favor of my opinion it would be right to put it in my power to ascertain it, if the subject should ever again be introduced, as he has yet some political friends in this Neighbourhood & you of course some political enemies.
Mr. Monroes application for the reasons of his recall,7 was a surprize, it being so directly in opposition to the principles of our Government; but this surprize has vanished when it is found by your Publication8 that he thinks nothing of sacrificing the happiness of a private family, to his Party-views: for if he should be able to show he was not a voluntary means of the Publication yet his conduct in obliging you to answer it or admit yourself a dishonest man will ever be sufficient to condemn him & prevent his being considered as a man of honour even if he had not evaded as he has done your charges of Malignancy & dishonour. This is the general sentiment here & I may with truth say universal with the friends of Government so far as has come to my knowledge.
Your Publication has also confirmed impressions made here by a private letter of Mr. Jefferson, since his being Vice President, which does not approve of the change in our Representation it being in favor of Government & addressed to one, in a district that elected a federal member & who was opposed to his election;9 and this has done away the hopes some had from his Speech as V-President, that he meant to support the measures of the Executive—or at least would have restrained any observations on that representation that has been its support.10
Little is to be expected from Partizans, but with those who are yet open to conviction, your Publication is thought will have a happy influence & prevent their rallying round any other Standard than that of their own Government.
I am Dr Sir Your friend & obedt. Servt.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. After service in the American Revolution, Ross practiced law and managed his family’s estate in Frederick County, Maryland. He corresponded with H about H’s protracted dispute with John Francis Mercer, a member of the House of Representatives from Maryland from 1791 to 1794. See the introductory note to H to Mercer, September 26, 1792.
7. On July 6, 1797, soon after his return from France, James Monroe wrote to Timothy Pickering and asked for a “statement as a matter of right” on why he had been recalled, (Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe Including a Collection of His Public and Private Papers and Correspondence Now for the First Time Printed, 7 Vols. [New York, 1898–1903; reprinted: New York, 1969], III, 66–68).
9. This is a reference to a letter which Thomas Jefferson wrote to Peregrine Fitzhugh of Washington County, Maryland, on June 4, 1797. After discussing the role of the Republicans in blocking preparedness measures, Jefferson wrote: “… In fact I consider the calling of Congress so out of season an experiment of the new administration to see how far & on what line they could count on it’s [the Republican majority in Congress] support. Nothing new had intervened between the late separation & the summons, for Pinckney’s non-reception was then known. It is possible from the complexion of the President’s speech that he was disposed or perhaps advised to proceed on a line which would endanger the peace of our country: & though the address is nearly responsive yet it would be too bold to proceed on so small a majority.… The nomination of the envoys for France does not prove a thorough conversion to the pacific system …” (Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , VII, 298–300).
Fitzhugh described the contents of this letter to some Republican friends, one of whom mentioned the letter to a Federalist, who in turn sent its substance to correspondents in Frederick and Georgetown (Fitzhugh to Jefferson, October 15, 1797 [ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress]).
The district to which Ross is referring was Maryland’s fourth congressional district, which included Washington County, Fitzhugh’s home. In the first session of the fifth Congress which assembled on May 15, 1797, George Baer, Jr., a Federalist, replaced Thomas Sprigg, a Republican, as the Representative of that district.
10. Ross is referring to the speech which Thomas Jefferson delivered in the Senate chamber following his inauguration as Vice President. In this speech Jefferson said: “… The rules which are to govern the proceedings of this House, so far as they shall depend on me for their application, shall be applied with the most rigorous and inflexible impartiality, regarding neither persons, their views, nor principles, and seeing only the abstract proposition subject to my decision. If, in forming that decision, I concur with some and differ from others, as must of necessity happen, I shall rely on the liberality and candor of those from whom I differ, to believe, that I do it on pure motives” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , VI, 1581).