Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Findley, 26 February 1801

From William Findley

Lancaster Feby 26. 1801


While I make free to call your attention to a few Subjects which I conceive to be of importance, I will not detain you with Congratulations, nor those expressions of satisffaction which I feel with greater force than I can utter on the account of the final happy result of the presidential election and the flattering prospect of our affairs, my Joy however is mingled with as Sincere Sympathy. I am sensible of the difficulties of the important station which you are called by your Country to occupy and in the calling you to which the voice of the people was much more general than the Constitutional expressions of it which they were permitted to make

The purging of the public offices will be perhaps the most inviduous part of the task, not so much on the account of the clamour that will be raised on the account of removals which from both Moral and political causes will be necessary, but also on the Account of the difficulty of Supplying their place to advantage.

Perhaps all the Departments will require changes, but it is the postoffice to which I make free particularly to call your attention. it must be purged1 The abuses in that department have been general and scandalous, at least in pennsylvania. The suppresion or mislaying of the votes for Electors in 1796 was an Attrocious and public instance of abuse and all the changes made since within my knowledge have been for the worse. Indeed I am not aquainted with any unexceptionable postmasters, except probably Mr peters of the City and Mr Moore of Lancaster, there may be more. Before a crooked policy dictated a change of those officers, the officers in that department had been selected for their fittness and conducted with propriety.

The postmaster general expressed the highest approbation of the postmaster of Greensburgh near where I live to me and before the Session was over he was removed and a character the most exeptionable in every point of view put in his place. He had nothing to recommend him but a talent for low invictive which he unceasingly exercised against the Republicans, the Revenue of the office has sunk under his hand. I complained of him to the postmaster genl. some years Since who acknowledged he had seen my own Letters returned and burned in the office, during one Session of Congress every letter of mine sent by that office was lost except that to my wife and to a Federal friend. I wrote last year to the postmaster genl. what I thought sufficient causes for his removal without being attended to except in the case of some unjust charges of fees against myself. The postmaster in Carlisle and in most if not all the Western Counties of the state are highly exceptionable. There are exceptionable officers in other departments respecting whom our Members of Congress can give more correct information, therefore I shall only mention the Supervisor of the Excise, He never was qualified for it nor worthy of the trust and his removal would not encrease the number of our enemies and would be gratefull to our friends and I think promote the public interest. He has been active against us to the last degree

It is not my design Sir, to trouble you with applications for my friends. I feel indeed for the uneasiness you will be made to suffer by numerous solicitations for office, though being the means of introducing a worthy person to office has its merit, I shall therefore make free to Mention one Samuel Bryan Esqr now Register General for the state of pennsylvania, I think would be a valuable appointment for an office that would require the Superintendance of Revenue and Compelling the settlement of accounts2 In this way he has been the most indefatigable faithfull and Correct officer that ever the state has employed. And his deetecting the numerous Mistakes of former officers, and the abuses in various departments and especially with Landofficers and Contractors under the very relaxed administration of the late governor has occasioned him many enemies. his detecting the enormous and long Continued frauds against the public last year, committed by Col Johnson receiver genl. of the land office Subjected him to the enmity of the Federal party and his able and very usefull writings in favour of the Republican cause, especially before the two last elections has strengthened that enmity. However he is happy in this, that no stain has ever attached itself to his Moral or official character, nor any charge of partiallity. His father the late Judge Bryan did honour to the Republican cause and was long its principle support in this state and was never forgiven for refusing to pardon the Traitors Roberts and Carlisle. He died poor and governor Mifflin Voluntarily promised to provide for his family, but first delayed and then failed in making the provision he had promised. It was his the governors3 fortune to be supported by the Whigs while his favours were chiefly bestowed on the torys. The effects of this are severely felt in the state. Mr Bryan has a wish to be indebted to you Sir for an appointment but is too modest to Urge. He is well known to Mr Gregg and most of our other Members of Congress. Be pleased Sir to excuse my freedom and believe to be with the most unfeigned esteem and the most Sincere wishes for the success of your administration

Your most obedt and very humble servt

Wm Findley


After Writing the enclosed I received a Letter from Genl. Wm. Irwin of Carlisle, of the substance of which he seemd, to wish You to be informed. He says that whilst, the Feds with them held out the language of Conciliation they at the same time behave with the greatest rancour, he informs me of some stricking instances of this even within this few days, though he is the most respectable Citizen in the place, they have excluded him and Mr Hamilton the Republican Lawyer from their Society. He thinks and so does most other of our friends with whom I converse that there ought to be a general change of public officers. In this however I am tender in advising but official influence and insolence has gone to a great height in pennsylvania. I am convinced Numerous removals would make more friends than enemies, but from the intimate experience I have had of numerous changes in our own State for a year past, I am convinced that notwithstanding the loud Clamour that was made about the Numerous removals, some and indeed too many mistaken appointments has done more harm as well some not being removed who ought to have There are no Men more to be guarded against then confident office hunters, recommendations can be procured with too much facility. The rapid encrease in wealth of the Collectors of Excise affords ground of suspicion but I am unaquainted with their Conduct. I crave indulgence for the freedom of these hints, they are well intended.

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of third page: “The honorable Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Mch. and so recorded in SJL; TJ later canceled “Findley Wm.” and added “Boyer Samuel” to the endorsement.

William Findley (1742–1821) migrated to Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, from the north of Ireland with other Scotch Irish Presbyterians in 1763. He served as a militia captain in 1776 and 1777. In 1782 Findley moved to Westmoreland County, where he resided the rest of his life. A leading spokesman for the Antifederalists, Findley voted against the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. He regularly held elective political office, including that of congressman from 1791 to 1799 and again from 1803 to 1817. During the years he was not in Congress, he served in the state senate. Findley’s publications include History of the Insurrection, in the Four Western Counties of Pennsylvania, a history of the Whiskey Rebellion (Philadelphia, 1796; 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. 532). He also wrote numerous newspaper articles for the western Pennsylvania press, often in opposition to Hugh Henry Brackenridge (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DHRC description begins Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, Madison, Wis., 1976–, 20 vols. description ends , 2:728; Callista Schramm, “William Findley in Pennsylvania Politics,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, 20 [1937], 31–40).

Mr Peters of the city: Findley probably referred to Robert Patton who had served as the postmaster at Philadelphia since 1789. Greensburgh: David McKeehan was appointed postmaster at Greensburg, in Westmoreland County, in April 1798 in place of John Morrison. When McKeehan resigned in April 1801, Joseph Habersham requested that Findley select a suitable successor but noted that it should not be Morrison because he had been “removed for not rendering his accounts regularly.” Findley recommended Thomas McGuire, who was said to possess “many good qualities for a Postmaster” even by those who differed with him on “political subjects.” He served as postmaster until 1804. John P. Thomson was postmaster in carlisle from February 1800 to January 1802 (Habersham to Findley, 10 Apr. and 11 May 1801, Habersham to McKeehan, 11 May 1801, all FCs in Lb in DNA: RG 28, LPG; Stets, Postmasters description begins Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States, 1782–1811, Lake Oswego, Oregon, 1994 description ends , 218, 220, 224).

Supervisor of the excise: Henry Miller (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 , 1:164).

In 1778 George Bryan refused to pardon John Roberts and Abraham Carlisle although more than 7,000 petitioners pleaded for the lives of the two men convicted of treason (Joseph S. Foster, In Pursuit of Equal Liberty: George Bryan and the Revolution in Pennsylvania [University Park, Pa., 1994], 154).

1Preceding four words interlined.

2Findley added in the margin, without indicating where it was to be inserted: “He has been Several years Register General in the office of Accounts for the state after having been long first Clerk.”

3Preceding two words interlined.

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