Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on Presidential Appointments, 3 May 1798

Notes on Presidential Appointments

May. 3. the Presidt. some time ago appd. Steele of Virga a Commr. to the Indians, & now Secretary of the Missisipi territory. Steele was a Counsellor of Virga, and was voted out by the assembly because he turned tory. he then offered for Congress & was rejected by the people. then offered for the Senate of Virga & was rejected.   the Presidt. has also appd. Joseph Hopkinson Commr. to make a treaty with the Oneida Indns. he is a youth of about 22. or 23. and has no other merit than extreme toryism, & the having made a poor song to the tune of the President’s march.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 102:17525); entirely in TJ’s hand; on same sheet as Notes on Conversation with Tench Coxe, [25 Apr. 1798], being the final memorandum of notes on that page.

Near the end of March, before the occasion arose to nominate John Steele as secretary of Mississippi Territory, Adams had appointed him to a three-person commission to negotiate an acquisition of land from the Cherokee Nation. On 3 May the president nominated twenty-seven-year-old Joseph Hopkinson, a Philadelphia attorney and the son of Francis Hopkinson, to supervise a treaty for the sale of land from the Oneida tribe to the state of New York (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:636, 639–40; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

Opinions on Hopkinson’s song, “Hail Columbia,” which was introduced in Philadelphia on 25 Apr., split along party lines. As a favor to an actor friend Hopkinson had penned lyrics to go with the president’s March, a melody already popular with Federalists. William Cobbett’s Porcupine’s Gazette praised the new song even before its premiere, and soon printed the lyrics. The Aurora, on the other hand, declared that the work “contained, amidst the most ridiculous bombast, the vilest adulation to the Anglo-Monarchical Party.” The song was an instant hit at its inaugural performance before a boisterous crowd in the New Theatre on Chestnut Street (Porcupine’s Gazette, 24, 28 Apr. 1798; Aurora, 27 Apr. 1798; Burton Alva Konkle, Joseph Hopkinson, 1770–1842: Jurist, Scholar, Inspirer of the Arts [Philadelphia, 1931], 73–84).

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