Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Stevens Thomson Mason, 23 November 1798

From Stevens Thomson Mason

Rasberry Plain Novr 23d 1798

Dear Sir

Having been some time absent from home your favor of the 11th Ulto did not reach me ‘till last week. I have this day drawn according to your direction on your Correspondent in Richmond.

By the last post I received from an acquaintance the inclosed letter with a request to forward it to you. why it was not sent directly to you I can not divine.

I have frequently mentioned your wish to rent out your Land, and many people have expressed a desire, and some an intention of going to see you on the subject. yet none have procured letters from me. a circumstance I can only account for in one way. the great pecuniary distresses of the Farmers from the entire failure of their crops last Harvest. and consequent inability to make sale of their superfluous Stock and effects or to raise the money necessary for their removal.

I am informed of many Tenants who have been from that circumstance obliged to submit to the most intollerable increase of their Rents. and some of them very notable and industrious Farmers. I think it would not be safe to depend on a supply of Tenants from this quarter the present season, but should any offer I will still send them to you.

Lyon’s trial has produced a very strong sensation here, and many who have valued themselves on being friends of order and Supporters of Government admit that this is going too far, if to a few such instances of political persecution there should be added just and reasonable overtures of peace on the part of France. I think the whole bubble of imposition and deception will be blown up at once, and tho’ the connection between foreign aggression and domestic tyranny is forced and unnatural. I hope that as the Tories would marry them, they will not be divorced until the peace and liberties of this Country are fully re-established.

I am Dear Sir with the highest esteem and regard Your Obt Sert

Stes. Thon. Mason

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 Nov. 1798 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not identified, but see below.

The inclosed letter may have been one, now missing, that TJ entered in his epistolary record as “Anonymous,” adding in brackets “Ogden of Connecticut.” TJ’s record in SJL implies that the letter, which he received on 29 Nov. 1798, had no date. Episcopal clergyman John C. Ogden did not live in Connecticut in 1798 but maintained connections there from an earlier period of residence. On 20 Sep. 1798 he wrote to George Washington to denounce “the doings of Calvinists in The United States,” sending TJ a copy of the letter that is recorded in SJL as received on 13 Oct. but has not been found (Washington, Papers, Ret. Ser., 3:27–9). On the 26th of that month TJ noted the receipt of an undated letter from “Anonymous. Connecticut.” The reference to Connecticut, the similar SJL entry under 29 Nov. that names Odgen, and the scarcity of anonymous letters recorded in SJL in this period point to Odgen as the probable author of the letter received on 26 Oct. Then on 21 Nov. TJ received a letter of the 18th from John Strode of Culpeper County “by Ogden.” That notation strongly implies, given TJ’s practices in SJL, that Ogden brought him Strode’s letter. The clergyman was in Philadelphia by sometime in December 1798 with a petition asking for the pardon of Matthew Lyon. Mason was a supporter of Lyon, but it is not known if Ogden was the “acquaintance” whose letter Mason forwarded to TJ. According to SJL TJ received six letters on 29 Nov. in addition to Mason’s and Ogden’s, but none of the others seems likely to have been the one enclosed in the letter printed above (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , 16:634–5; TJ to Madison, 3 Jan. 1799; Ogden to TJ, 7 Feb. 1799).

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