Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Gouverneur Morris, 25 December 1800

To Gouverneur Morris

Washington Dec. 25. 1800.


I recieved last night from Colo. Wm. S. Smith the inclosed letters & documents with his request to lay them before the Senate, for their satisfaction on the subject of his late nomination. if the Senate had been in the course of daily meeting, it would have been my duty to have done so, that they might have been regularly referred to the committee of which you are chairman. but as you are instructed to seek testimony on this subject, and may perhaps proceed in this during the recess of the Senate, I suppose it regular to hand them to you directly, and that the object which Colo. Smith must naturally have at heart, of having them read in Senate to satisfy their minds can be answered by reading them when your report comes in. I have the honor to be with great respect Sir

Your most obedt. humble servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 6th Cong., 2d sess.); at foot of text: “Gouverneur Morris esq.”; endorsed by clerk: “No. 1 Letter of the Vice President of the U.S. to G. Morris Esqr. Decr. 25th. 1800” and designated “F-No. 1.” PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Enclosures: (1) William Stephens Smith to TJ, New York, 18 Dec. 1800, requesting a copy of charges against him as well as the opportunity to refute them stating, “I know of no circumstance of my Life, that I should shrink from an investigation of, and I have too great a Veneration for the Characters of the Senators of my Country to suppose, for a Moment, that they would permit a faithful Soldier of the Revolution, and a Gentleman who has Served in various Civil Employments, absolutely uncensured, and never suspected in any public Station, to be stabbed by private Assassins, and his reputation blasted in the dark.” (2) Smith to TJ, New York, 20 Dec. 1800, suggesting that the charges against him should be published and, if found false, “that I may have a well earned reputation restored to me brightened by my passage thro’ a firey ordeal in which I have been kept Hissing Hot.” (3) John Sullivan to Smith, 13 Oct. 1779, testifying to Smith’s service under his command. (4) George Washington to Smith, 24 June 1782, testifying to Smith’s Revolutionary War record as “a brave and valuable Officer” detailing his “gallantry intelligence and professional knowledge.” (5) Benjamin Lincoln to Smith, 2 July 1782, recommending Smith “as a Gallant, Enterprising, and highly meritorious Officer.” (6) Robert R. Livingston to Smith, 18 July 1782, recommending Smith to the “patronage and Protection” of the generals and commanders in the West Indies. (7) James McHenry to Smith, 17 Dec. 1798, accepting Smith’s provisional appointment as adjutant general to the army. (8) Washington to McHenry, 13 Dec. 1798, reporting that Smith stood charged with “very serious instances of private misconduct,” most notably that of pledging “Property to Major Burrows, by way of Security, which was before conveyed or Mortgaged, for its full Value” to William Constable, thus financially ruining Burrows. (9) Smith to James McHenry, 20 Dec. 1798, stating “I deny the Charge and Defy the informer” (Trs in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 6th Cong., 2d sess.; in clerk’s hand; docketed and numbered F-2 through 10, respectively; with docketing on cover sheet: “Papers and Documents sent under cover of a letter from the Vice President U.S.”).

On 10 Dec. the Senate referred Adams’s nomination of his son-in-law William S. Smith to serve as surveyor and revenue inspector of New York to Morris’s committee, which did not report until 16 Feb. The Senate consented by an 18 to 8 vote on 21 Feb. (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:357, 380, 384).

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