Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Philip Norborne Nicholas, 8 October 1799

From Philip Norborne Nicholas

Richmond October 8th 1799.

Dear Sir,

Inclosed is a little posthumous work of my brother Colo. Geo. Nicholas. It contains some very severe strictures on the measures of the last session of Congress. This pamphlet is characterized by that freedom of inquiry and independence of spirit which is conspicuous in all the writings of the author. Harper if not calous must feel some of the cutting truthes which it contains. I feel great solicitude to hear from the election in Pennsylvania. it is of great importance, much is to be feared from the success of Ross, but I will not let myself for a moment suppose that a possible event. This very mail may bring us information. I have written to Colo. Monroes urging him to come to Richmond by the begining of the session, his presence will have a good effect and I belive will insure him the chief magistracy of the state & these are times when nothing is to be left undone which may advance the common cause.

I am with great respect & regard

Ph: Nor: Nicholas.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 17 Oct. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Correspondence between George Nicholas, Esq. of Kentucky, and the Hon. Robert G. Harper, Member of Congress from the District of 96, State of South Carolina (Lexingon, Ky., 1799). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3196.

Philip Norborne Nicholas (1775–1849) was the younger brother of George, John, and Wilson Cary Nicholas. They were the sons of Robert Carter Nicholas and Anne Cary Nicholas. In 1775 the family moved from Williamsburg to Hanover County, then in the early 1780s, after her husband’s death, Anne Cary Nicholas relocated the family again, this time to Albemarle County. After attending the College of William and Mary, Philip Norborne Nicholas studied law, and in March 1800 James Monroe appointed him attorney general of Virginia. Beginning in 1804 he was a bank director in Richmond, and in 1823 he became a judge of the state’s General Court. He subsequently played a role in committing the “Richmond Junto” to the support of Andrew Jackson (DAB, description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends 13:482–6; Monroe, Writings description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe, New York, 1898–1903, 7 vols. description ends , 3:170).

In the election in Pennsylvania, Senator James Ross and Thomas McKean vied for the governor’s office. Over 70,000 votes were cast, more than double the number in any previous election of a Pennsylvania governor. McKean won by a margin of close to 5,400 votes (Harry Marlin Tinkcom, The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, 1790–1801: A Study in National Stimulus and Local Response [Harrisburg, 1950], 238). In contrast, the chief magistracy of Virginia was decided not by popular vote but by the assembly, and despite Nicholas’s urging, Monroe, the Republican candidate, did not go to Richmond during the legislative session. Anticipating that the Federalists would make an issue of his recall from Paris in 1796, Monroe let James Madison and John Taylor defend him. On 6 Dec. 1799 the legislature selected him for the governorship over James Breckenridge, the Federalist candidate (Ammon, Monroe description begins Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, New York, 1971 description ends , 173; 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–, 27 vols. description ends , 17:285–7).

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