Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Martin, [20 July 1796]

From James Martin

Long Isla[nd 20 July 1796]


Having purchased near Jamaica on this Island the Whigs of the County nominated me to a task of which I enclose you the performance—it is not to a political but a Literary Character I present it, and not that it is calculated to stand your Criticism but that it may amuse a leisure hour—it was very numerously attended and had a good effect as to delivery if it fills up agreeably some of those listless Moments which even the best informed Mind cannot but feel in the Country my purpose in it will be complete.

Accept it as a proof of my high respect and a trifling return for the polite attention you honour’d me with upon my Arrival in Philadelphia. Most obediently & faithfully yours

James Martin

RC (ViW); salutation and dateline partly torn away; date assigned from SJL, which records it as a letter of 20 July 1796 received 14 July 1797. Enclosure: oration delivered by James Martin at Jamaica, Long Island, 4 July 1796, expressing antipathy for the monarchical form of government and for the influence which Great Britain still exercised in the United States; praise for France, which, inspired by the example of the United States, “fought and Conquered all the force which United Despotism could produce against” it; and concerns lest freedoms enjoyed by citizens of the United States be lost through corruption, such as that which occurred in Great Britain after the parliament was extended from three to seven years, noting especially the perils of the six-year terms of senators (MS in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections Division; 24 p.; in Martin’s hand, with title page in typeface: “Oration on the 4th of July, 1796 By James Martin”; endorsed in unknown hand: “James Martin, M.S. July 4th 1796”). 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. 3179.

James Martin (ca. 1753–1831), son of British artillery officer William and Anna Gordon Martin, was born and spent his early years in Boston before going to England for further schooling and to study law. He returned to Boston and was admitted to the bar in 1773 but then left for the British West Indies where he practiced his profession during the American Revolution. Upon his return to the United States in 1791, Martin laid the groundwork for a prolonged effort, in which he was ultimately successful, to reclaim property in Massachusetts confiscated from his parents during the war. In 1792 he became a member of the New York bar, practicing in Aaron Burr’s law office and cultivating political ties with New York Republicans. He purchased an estate and resided at Jamaica, Long Island, New York, and also invested in lots in Washington, D.C. Through his acquaintance with Albert Gallatin, Martin obtained a position in the Treasury Department in 1813, reviewing cases filed for forfeitures. In 1815 he returned to his Long Island residence, where he spent the remainder of his life (Robert R. Livingston to Martin, 21 Jan. 1794, in NHi: Livingston Papers; Burr to Martin, 4 Jan. 1799, in NNPM; DHSC description begins Maeva Marcus and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States 1789–1800, New York, 1985–2007, 8 vols. description ends , vi, 199–211; Kline, PAB, description begins Mary-Jo Kline and others, eds., The Papers of Aaron Burr, 1756–1836, microfilm edition in 27 reels, Glen Rock, N.J., 1978 description ends 20: 187, 575, 592, 632; Benjamin H. Latrobe to Martin, 21 July 1810, in Van Horne, Latrobe description begins John C. Van Horne, ed., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, New Haven, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends , ii, 881–3; Martin to TJ, 20 Aug. 1813; Martin to Gallatin, 12 Sep. 1815, in NHi: Gallatin Papers; Letter from the Acting Secretary of the Treasury, Transmitting a Report of the Names of Clerks Employed in the Several Offices of the Treasury Department during the Year 1813… [Washington, 1814]; Linda K. Kerber, No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship [New York, 1998], 3–7, 19–20).

See TJ to Benjamin Vaughan, 31 Aug. 1797, for TJ’s mistaken response to this missive and TJ to Martin, 23 Feb. 1798, for his clarificatory reply.

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