Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel Brown, 14 January 1801

From Samuel Brown

Lexington Jany. 14th 1801


It is expected by a great majority of the Citizens of Kentucky that Mr Samuel McDowell, who is Marshall for this District will not continue to hold that important & lucrative Office. Whether the Marshall himself has been guilty of improper conduct, as an Officer or not, remains doubtful; but it is most unquestionable that his Brothers, who were his Deputies, have repeatedly exacted large sums of money for the performance of those duties which they alone could execute & for which they were allowed, by law, a very liberal compensation. As it is confidently asserted that Evidence will be procured to substantiate these charges & as it is strongly suspected that the Marshall has not been wholly ignorant of the profitable Game which his Brothers are playing, his removal from Office is considered as almost certain. In consequence of this general expectation several Gentlemen have declared themselves anxious to succeed him. In this number I am happy to find Mr Charles Wilkins whose honesty, honor, industry & capacity for business are universally acknowledged by all who have the pleasure of being associated with him—Conscious that any expression of my personal regard & affection for Mr Wilkins ought to have no weight with you in giving him the appointment I beg leave to observe that an intimate freindship existes between him & Major Morrison the Supervisor & I might add between him & Judge Innes which in case of his appointment would promise the restoration of that harmony & confidence among the Officers of the Genl Govt which alone can ensure the faithful Execution of the Laws—

With sentiments of the highest esteem & consideration I have the honor to be Yo Mo Obt.

Sam Brown

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 21 Feb. and so recorded in SJL, where by a notation and bracket TJ marked the association of this letter with those of Innes and Peyton Short described below; also endorsed by TJ: “Wilkins Charles. recommdns.”

Harry Innes wrote on 12 Jan., giving his location as “State of Kentucky.” Believing that information about job seekers whom TJ did not know “would not be unacceptable” and that “in all your appointments you can have no other object, than that of the public good,” Innes had “concluded to state my opinion respecting the characters of such Gentlemen as may apply to me on this head, without giving either a preference, leaving the question on its proper ground-merit.” On the basis of personal acquaintaince of Charles Wilkins of about ten years, Innes affirmed that there was no doubt of Wilkins’s ability to perform the duties of the marshal’s office, nor any question about his character. Innes also noted that insofar as he was acquainted with the present marshal, that officer’s conduct was “unexceptionable” (RC in same, at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.,” endorsed by TJ as received 21 Feb. and so recorded in SJL; see also Enclosure No. 3 listed at John Jouett, Jr., to TJ, 12 Jan.).

Peyton Short wrote to TJ from Woodford, Kentucky, on 16 Jan. to recommend Wilkins, his friend and brother-in-law. “Principles of Delicacy forbid my dilating on Mr. Wilkins’ Merits,” noted Short, who wrote only to help Wilkins and not because of any personal motives against the incumbent of the marshal’s office. Short also wrote that “I had it not in my power to go to Virginia, last Fall, agreable to Promise on my Brother’s Business with Col: Skipwith, but shall endeavor to do so in the course of the ensuing summer” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Feb. and so recorded in SJL). On 2 Mch. 1801 John Breckinridge drafted a brief letter to TJ from Fayette, Kentucky, stating that Wilkins was qualified for the marshal’s position and would demonstrate “sufficient responsibility” in the office. Wilkins was aware, Breckinridge noted, that Breckinridge had written other letters in behalf of other candidates. Breckinridge probably never sent the letter, which is not recorded in SJL or acknowledged with other correspondence in TJ to Breckinridge, 29 July (Dft in DLC: Breckinridge Family Papers; at foot of text: “Thos. Jefferson Esqr.”).

On a list of candidates for office TJ noted Wilkins’s name, residence, and office sought, along with the names of Innes, Peyton Short, Samuel Brown, and John Brown as Wilkins’s references (DLC: TJ Papers, 108:18557).

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