Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Monroe, 2[5] May 1800

From James Monroe

Sunday 27. [i.e. 25] May 1800.

Dear Sir

I wrote you the day after you left town a letter wh. I gave to Dr. Foushee for Mr. Eppes who promised to breakfast with him on the morning of his departure. It was not till yesterday in council that I heard from the Dr: the letter had not been sent. So much time having elapsed I shod. not now write you on the subject of the former one, reserving it for future communication, if that were the only object. It was found on enquiry, in a way wh compromitted no one, that the affr. wd. not be made general, but wod. be dissented to, and probably opposed by the principal members of the admn. party. It was feared also that the zeal of some of our friends wh. had been in a peculiar degree excited by yr. presence, had abated by yr. absence, especially as yr. passing thro’ furnished so fair a pretext for not acting.

It was also probable it might lay the foundation for a like attention by the tories, to our new Secretary, whereby you wod. be involved in a kind of competition with a creature who wod. be benefited by any occurrence wh. gave birth to the idea alone. under these circumstances the project was abandoned.

Chase harangued the G. Jury in a speech said to be drawn with some art, as it inculcated [some] popular doctrines with allusions1 wh. supported by Eastern calumnies he intended for you. He declared solemnly he wod. not allow an atheist to give testimony in court. You have perhaps seen that the circumstance of the dinner in Fredbg. being on a sunday is the foundation for this absurd calumny. The G. Jury of wh. McClurg was for’man presented Calendar under the sedition law, & Chase drew the warrant & dispatched the Marshall instantly in pursuit of him. This was yesterday at 12. since wh. we have not heard of either. If taken I hope the people will behave with dignity on the occasion and give no pretext for comments to their discredit. If I cod. suppose the [contrary] I wod. take proper steps to aid in bringing him forth; I mean to prevent any popular meeting to the contrary. will it not be proper for the Exetive to employ counsel to defend him, and supporting the law, give an eclat to a vindication of the principles of the State? I have only time to add my best wishes for your welfare.

Yr. friend & servt

Jas. Monroe

Thos. Pinckney has been here, & called on me. civilities were reciprocated. Marshall has [called—Chase has not.]

RC (DLC); incorrectly dated by Monroe, TJ writing “25” above Monroe’s “27” in dateline; torn; incomplete, final portion of postscript being supplied in brackets from Hamilton, Monroe, 3:180; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 25 May received on that date, and so recorded in SJL.

TJ left Richmond on 21 May, having arrived there on the 19th. William Foushee had become a member of the Virginia Privy Council in December 1799 (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1019; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers …Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 9:62).

New secretary: John Marshall, who was in Richmond for the spring term of the U.S. circuit court (Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 4:38, 157).

Fredbg.: TJ took the ferry at Falmouth on 17 May and was in Fredericksburg on Sunday the 18th. According to his financial record, in Fredericksburg he paid 25 cents to a barber, 66 cents for gloves, and $1.50 for “entertt.” (entertainment)—probably the dinner that irritated Samuel Chase—before taking a stage to Richmond (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1019).

Chase, who had received a copy of James Thomson Callender’s The Prospect Before Us from Luther Martin, arrived in Richmond on 21 May to hold circuit court. He delivered his charge to the grand jury two days later, and on the 24th the panel returned a presentment against Callender under the Sedition Act for defaming the president and Congress. The writ went to David Meade Randolph, U.S. marshal for the district of Virginia, and on 27 May Callender was arrested in Petersburg, where the Richmond Examiner had reported him to be. Philip Norborne Nicholas, George Hay, and William Wirt volunteered their services as councel for the defendant, who was released on bail until his trial in early June. Chase rejected a defense request for a continuance to collect information and summon witnesses, would not allow John Taylor to testify to the validity of Callender’s statements about Adams, and squashed Wirt’s attempt to argue that the Sedition Act was unconstitutional. Nicholas, Hay, and Wirt finally refused to continue, and Callender’s trial, prosecuted by Thomas Nelson, concluded with the defendant unrepresented by legal counsel. He was found guilty on 3 June, and Chase, berating the journalist, sentenced him to nine months in jail, imposed a $200 fine, and required a bond of $1,200 to guarantee good behavior for two years (DHSC description begins Maeva Marcus and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States 1789–1800, New York, 1985–2007, 8 vols. description ends , 3:435–6, 438; Smith, Freedom’s Fetters description begins James Morton Smith, Freedom’s Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, Ithaca, N.Y., 1956 description ends , 342–56; James Haw and others, Stormy Patriot: The Life of Samuel Chase [Baltimore, 1980], 202–3).

1Preceding two words interlined.

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