Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Breckinridge, 25 October 1793

To John Breckinridge

Monticello Oct. 25. 1793.

Dear Sir

This will be handed you by Mr. Toulmin a gentleman who goes to visit your state with a view to settle in it. I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with him; but from the multiplied testimonies of those who have, I am able to assure you that you will find in him a person of understanding, of science, and of great worth: and what will be an additional recommendation to you, a pure and zealous republican. Any attentions or services you can render him will oblige me, and will be a comfort to yourself also when you shall have known him of yourself. I am with great & sincere regard & respect Dear Sir Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Breckinridge Family Papers); addressed: “Mr. Brackenridge Kentuckey.” Not recorded in SJL.

John Breckinridge (1760–1806), a lawyer and native Virginian who drafted the address with which a committee of Albemarle County residents welcomed TJ home from France in February 1790, had been elected to the third Congress as a Republican in 1792, but resigned and moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where he headed the Democratic Society of Kentucky and in 1793 supported an effort, launched by Edmond Charles Genet, to open the Mississippi River through an assault on New Orleans under the command of George Rogers Clark. After holding office as attorney general of Kentucky, 1795–97, Breckinridge served in the lower house of the state legislature, 1797–1801, presiding as speaker from 1799, where he guided a modified version of TJ’s Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 through the legislature. Breckinridge was also responsible for the passage by the legislature in 1799 of a second set of Kentucky resolutions inspired by TJ. He represented Kentucky in the United States Senate from 1801 to 1805, and was appointed Attorney General by TJ during the latter year, serving until his death (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Adrienne Koch, Jefferson and Madison: The Great Collaboration [New York, 1950], 185, 187–8, 196–201, 209; Address of Welcome by the Citizens of Albemarle, [12 Feb. 1790]).

On 8 Nov. 1793 TJ wrote Breckinridge a brief letter enclosing his interim commission as District Attorney for Kentucky (RC in DLC: Breckinridge Family Papers, in Benjamin Bankson’s hand, signed by TJ, addressed “John Brackenridge esquire Kentuckey,” franked and postmarked; Dft in DLC, in Bankson’s hand, with “<Hugh> John Brackinridge Esqr” at foot of text and endorsement by George Taylor, Jr.; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL; not recorded in SJL). The commission bore the same date (MS in DLC: Breckinridge Family Papers, in Bankson’s hand, with place, day, and month completed by TJ, and signed by Washington and countersigned by TJ, being originally made out to Hugh Brackenridge and with one occurrence of the latter name remaining uncorrected). Breckinridge declined the appointment (note to William Murray to TJ, 7 Dec. 1792).

Harry Toulmin, a Unitarian minister who had just fled England for religious and political reasons, visited Monticello during TJ’s absence in August 1793 and called upon Madison not long after, giving him a description of a threshing machine and obtaining similar letters of introduction. Toulmin settled in Kentucky, serving first as president of Transylvania Seminary and from 1796 to 1804 as secretary of state of Kentucky. TJ appointed him one of the judges of the Mississippi Territory in 1804 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Madison, Papers, xv, 6, 125–6, 139–40; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–, 28 vols. description ends , v, 320–2; 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 description ends , i, 472, 474).

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