Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Stevens Thomson Mason, 29 June 1798

From Stevens Thomson Mason

Phila. June 29th 1798

Dear Sir

Your prediction was speedily verified, the same day you left us, Fenno’s paper contained an address to you. pressing you not to go. and honoring You with some of their common-place abuse. we have no late intelligence from Europe. a number of Refugees, (Royalists & Negroes) from Port au Prince. have on the evacuation of that place by the British been sent here with a letter of introduction to R Liston. who has been interceding with the Executive for their admission the subject has been referred by the Presdt to Congress and yesterday a Bill was introduced in the Senate to restrain their landing (except such as the Presdt may permit) this Bill is prefaced by a long preamble abusing the French and justifying the act as a measure of retaliation or revenge or something agt them. tho’ it is notoriously a British favor attempted to be conferred on us. I am Dear Sir

With great respect & esteem Your Obt Sert

Stes: Thon: Mason

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 18 July 1798 and so recorded in SJL.

The address to TJ, which took the form of a letter from “Pliny” dated 26 June, mockingly beseeched him not to leave Philadelphia “at this critical period,” and particularly when Bache was about to stand trial for libel. The letter emphasized TJ’s connections to the Aurora, along with his and Bache’s support of Monroe, George Logan, and France. “Pliny” also presumed—probably incorrectly, as indicated in the note to TJ’s letter to John Wise of 12 Feb. 1798—that TJ was the author of letters to correspondents in Baltimore and Delaware that had appeared in the Aurora in March and April (Gazette of the United States, 27 June 1798).

Adams notified Congress of the situation regarding the refugees from Saint Domingue on 27 June. The committee to which the matter was referred reported the bill the following day, and by unanimous consent the Senate waived a second reading. On the 29th Mason attempted to amend the bill’s preamble, which stated that although the United States had extended hospitality to French citizens seeking asylum, it was prudent to “guard against the arrival and admission of such evil disposed persons as, by their machinations, may endanger the internal safety and tranquillity of the country,” but his effort lost on a tie vote. The bill, which would have empowered the president to “prevent or regulate the landing of French passengers,” passed the Senate on 30 June, but the House declined to consider the matter during the current session (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:520–3, 525).

A letter from Mason to TJ, written and received on 2 Feb. 1798, is recorded in SJL but has not been found.

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