Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. Certificate of Joseph Jones Monroe and Thomas Bell, 17 October 1796

II. Certificate of Joseph Jones Monroe and Thomas Bell

We do hereby certify that at the time Mr. Burr visited Mr. Jefferson, there was no one then with him of any political character1 as far as we know or believe—Living in his neighborhood, from the consequent intercourse, had there been any such meeting as Mr. Powell in his address contemplated we conceive we should not have been ignorant of it.

We have positive testimony before us (but from motives of delicacy, the author would not wish a public exhibition of it) that there was no persons present when Mr. Burr was at Monticello But some female relations of Mr. Jefferson—the gentleman of his family—Mr. John Eppes—and Mr. Wm. Hylton jr.

To these last mentiond gentlemen we beg leave to refer you for positive evidence

Albemarle Octr: 17th. 1796.

Jo: Jo: Monroe
Ths. Bell

MS (DLC); in unknown hand; with one signifcant emendation (see note below); at foot of left margin, perhaps in William Burwell’s hand: “No 5th.”

Joseph Jones Monroe (b. 1771), a younger brother of James Monroe, lived in Albemarle county and practiced law in Charlottesville. He had studied at the University of Edinburgh from 1783 to 1789. He served as his brother’s private secretary during the Monroe presidency until he moved to Missouri in 1820 (Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., iv, 153; Ammon, Monroe, description begins Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, New York, 1971 description ends 3, 85, 115, 405). For his election to the Virginia House of Delegates in April 1796, see TJ to Thomas Mann Randolph, 13 Mch. 1796.

The precise date of the visit to Monticello by Burr is unclear. In an 11 Oct. 1795 letter to his Senate colleague Henry Tazewell, Burr wrote from Richmond that a two-week illness on the road, from which he was still recovering, had consumed the time he had allotted for his visit to the state and would keep him from visiting Tazewell at his home near Williamsburg. He indicated that he had visited with Governor Robert Brooke, John Dawson, and John Taylor, who would provide Tazewell with the latest political news he had brought. Burr gave no indication that he would be visiting TJ before he left Virginia. TJ wrote Wilson Cary Nicholas on 19 Oct., however, that Burr had stayed one day at Monticello and had left “two or three days ago.” This would indicate that Burr had just missed Madison who had visited Monticello from about 1 to 15 Oct. (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , i, 229; Madison, Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962– , 26 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 4 vols. description ends xvi, xxvi; Madison to TJ, 18 Oct. 1795).

In his address to the electorate dated 27 Sep., Leven Powell reiterated charges he had made earlier that month declaring that when Burr visited TJ he also met with other Virginians who like Burr were opposed to the Washington administration, and that they had agreed upon the “rash and violent measures brought forward in the last session of Congress” that Powell believed, if adopted, would have led the country into war with Great Britain. According to the rumor TJ not only planned and approved of the measures but “wrote to the different Southern members urging them to persevere in the line of conduct there agreed on.” Powell noted that if any of TJ’s letters appeared as proof of these charges, he most certainly could not vote for him. “A Friend to the present Administration of the Government” also referred to Burr’s visit at Monticello, characterizing it as a meeting of Burr “and several members of congress from Virginia” to determine “the manner of attacking the British treaty after its ratification by the Senate and President” (Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, 1 Oct., 1 Nov. 1796). Powell’s charges were repeated in the Boston Columbian Centinel by John Gardner in essays signed “Aurelius” which were later published separately as Brief Consideration of the Important Services, and Distinguished Virtues and Talents, Which Recommend Mr. Adams for the Presidency of the United States (Boston, 1796). While Powell and Gardner found no letters by TJ to support the charges, Federalist commentators identified his closest friends, Madison and John Taylor for example, as opponents of administration policies (Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, 25 Oct. 1796).

1Next seven words interlined.

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