Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Tench Coxe, 21 May 1799

To Tench Coxe

Monticello May. 21. 99.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Apr. 29. came to hand by our last post. I have for some time been anxious to write to you on the subject mentioned therein, but a want of confidence in the post office, and a certain prospect of conveyance by Dr. Bache who has been with us some time, & was to return to Philadelphia, induced me to await that occasion which now accordingly takes place. immediately on my parting with you the evening before I left Philadelphia I went to mr Venable’s lodgings. he was not at home. I waited for him & at length he returned. I explained the subject to him & we went together to mr Livingston’s. he was gone to the theatre; so no hope of an early return. on returning to my lodgings mr Nicholas joined us, and it was there settled that mr Venable should devote the next day to the reducing to a certainty (in black & white) what could be done; & as it was then a late hour & I had still much to prepare for my departure the next morning, instead of calling on you again mr Venable promised to do it & to communicate to you the effect of his exertions: he promised moreover to write to me specially of his success. I had been at home a considerable time when I saw mr Foreman’s proposals in some newspaper for the publication of a new gazette. I immediately wrote to Venable to inform me if that was the paper we had expected in order that I might prepare for the fulfilment of my engagements. I inclose you his answer, which will explain to you why you heard nothing further after I parted with you. the sum there, with the addition of two others of 500. D each, of which you were apprised (I believe there was a third also) fell far short of expectations. I sincerely regret the failure, and am thorougly sensible of the importance of the undertaking, tho’ much has been lost by it’s not having taken place this summer. my situation exposes me to so much calumny that I am obliged to be cautious of appearing in any matter however justifiable & useful, if it be of a nature to admit readily of misconstruction. a very short text will for a long time furnish matter for newspaper torture. I am satisfied from what I have seen since my return that there would be scarcely any limits to the subscription for such a paper. I shall still hope that it will not be abandoned.

The Virginia congressional elections have astonished every one. they have five certain federalists. three others however on whom also they count, Page, Gray, & are moderate men, and I am assured will not be with them on questions of importance. this result has proceeded from accidental combinations of circumstances, & not from an unfavorable change of sentiment. the change has unquestionably been the other way. the valley between the Blueridge & North Mountain, which had for some time been much tainted, (and which had given me more serious uneasiness than any other appearance in this state) has come solidly round. they were represented by Homes & the two Triggs, who the last summer would have been left out by great majorities, but have now been re-elected by great majorities. the progress of the republican cause here is proved by the state elections made on the same day with those for Congress. they are more republican than those of the last year; & particularly from all the upper country. how long we can hold our ground I do not know. we are not incorruptible; on the contrary, corruption is making a sensible tho’ silent progress. offices are as acceptable here as elsewhere, and when once a man has cast a longing eye on them, a rottenness begins in his conduct. mr Henry has taken the field openly: but our legislature is filled with too great a mass of talents & principle to be now swayed by him. he will experience mortifications to which he has been hitherto a stranger. still I fear something from his intriguing & cajoleing talents, for which he is still more remarkeable than for his eloquence. as to the effect of his name among the people, I have found it crumble like a dried leaf, the moment they become satisfied of his apostacy. with every wish for your health & happiness & sentiments of sincere esteem I am Dear Sir

your friend & servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (NjP); addressed: “Tenche Coxe esq. Philadelphia”; endorsed by Coxe. PrC (DLC). Enclosure: Abraham Venable to TJ, 20 Apr. 1799 (recorded in SJL as received 25 Apr. but not found).

Ezekiel Forman’s plan for the Publication of a new gazette entitled the Constitutional Gazette; and Republican Courier began appearing in Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser on 26 Mch. 1799. The proposal promised a newspaper with few advertisements and an “unusual quantity of intelligence and information” to be published in Philadelphia three times a week. Founded on the premise that the press was the “noblest instrument in the command of Freemen,” the publication would “rely on important literary and political contributions from various sources” and support the principles of the “Federal and State Constitutions” and adhere to “Republican codes.” Forman edited the Philadelphia Weekly Magazine of Original Essays, Fugitive Pieces, and Interesting Intelligence from February to 1 June 1799, when he could no longer pay his debts and the publication ceased. Forman had served as a clerk in the revenue office during Coxe’s tenure as commissioner (Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 13:448; Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741–1850 [New York, 1930], 122; Forman to Coxe, 10 and 28 May, 1799 in PHi: Coxe Family Papers).

According to SJL TJ wrote to venable on 5 Apr. 1799, but the letter has not been found.

The five certain federalists included Thomas Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from …1639 …to …1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59,14 vols. description ends Henry Lee, John Marshall, Josiah Parker, and Levin Powell. Samuel Goode was the third person considered a Moderate. He and Edwin Gray voted with the Republicans a majority of the time during the Sixth Congress, but Robert Page usually voted with the Federalists (Dauer, Adams Federalists description begins Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists, Baltimore, 1953 description ends , 320, 325).

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