Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elijah Boardman, 1 March 1801

From Elijah Boardman

New Milford (Connecticut) March 1—1801


In the course of the last year it was found that some desining men in New England had conceived and were attempting to bring forth a new machine of terror for the more effectually to subjugate and govern the people of the United States—namely that Religion and State policy Should be connected and by that coalition, together with the encreased power and patronage of the President would enable the Executive branch of our government to bear down all oposition—I call this new because as a system in this Country it is so—altho in Europe it is old, and its fatal effects on civil liberty hath1 long been felt in that quarter of the globe—

Feeling as I did that if a measure of this kind should be adopted it would eventually prove fatal to the Civil & Religious liberties of my2 country, and expressing these ideas to a Clergiman living in the Town to which I belong, it was found that he entertained ideas similar to my own, and in October last he delivd a discourse a copy of which his friends requested for the Press and, Sir, I have taken the liberty of Sending to Your Excellency one of those Sermons.

—I am sensible this may appear improper not having the honor of any acquaintance with you and to the people in New England (if known) would appear still more improper to Send for parusal, a Sermon, to a person who, as many of them have attempted to insenuate, is totally destitute of any Religion, and hath treated (in certain conversation) contumusly the very author of our Religion—

But Sir, be your ideas what they may respecting an other moad of existance—they are doubtless correct, respecting the State of existance, of which we are Sure—And give me leave farther to observe that about half the people in New England congratulate each other on the issue of the interesting, and all important event, of the late election of President of the United States and that a great proportion of the other half will embrace simelar ideas should they be convinced that the measures of the Executive are conformable to, and in support of, the Constitution of the United States, and real Republicanism and more espetially if his actions are dictated by the council of his own mind

Pardon for this once, the bold intrusion of an unknown friend while he remains with impressions of profound respect, and esteem

Sincearly Yours

Elijah Boardman

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 13 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. Dupl (same); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr City of Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 June and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Stanley Griswold, Truth its own test and God its only judge. Or, an inquiry,—how far men may claim authority over each other’s religious opinions? (Bridgeport, Conn., 1800); Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3236. Dupl enclosed in Boardman to TJ, 18 June 1801.

Elijah Boardman (1760–1823), a Connecticut merchant and trader, served in the Revolution under the command of Colonel Charles Webb. In 1779 he moved to New Haven to clerk for the well-established merchants Elijah and Archibald Austin before opening a dry goods store of his own two years later in New Milford. He and his brothers joined the Connecticut Land Company in 1794 and bought a large tract in the Ohio Territory. They invested in the first two Western Reserve towns, Palmyra and Boardman, and later in Medina. For most of 1799 and 1800, Boardman and six employees surveyed the land holdings in Boardman Township. In 1800 Boardman was part of a Republican minority in Federalist Litchfield County, Connecticut, but he became increasingly involved in politics and remained outspoken against what he termed the new machine of terror or the coalition of church and state especially active in New England. From 1821 to 1823 he served as U.S. senator (Biog. Dir. Cong.; Rachel D. Carley, ed., Voices from the Past: A History as Told by the New Milford Historical Society’s Portraits and Paintings [West Kennebunk, Maine, 2000], 44–8).

1MS: “thath.”

2Dupl: “our.”

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