Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Maxwell, [15 May 1801]

From Robert Maxwell

[15 May 1801]


The reign of Terror being over, and an Era commenced in which Men may think, & act freely, & enjoy their own oppinions; without being accountable to any one:

I have used the freedom to inclose to you, several letters which passed between the Post Master General & myself; the sequel you will see—

Political sentiments were unquestionably the cause, as I never could bring him to assign the reasons for his conduct.

The subject in itself (to be sure) is trifling, but shews the spirit of the times, & the Man.

One principal reason that induced me to this step, is to come forward as testimony in behalf of the Editor of the Aurora, who has several times, alluded to my case, & once or twice mentioned it, in plain terms—

Nothing sycophantick is meant in this letter—I would not accept the office again, in this place—You will pursue the plan you judge most prudent; I have no doubt, yet must confess, I should be much gratified to see a retaliation take place on this Man—

Believe me sir, when I assure you, that no one has more awful forebodings at what we have passed through, nor does any one anticipate, with more pleasure the “prospect now before us

Permit me, with thousands, & ten’s of thousands, of my Fellow Citizens, to felicitate you on the glorious change—

With the Highest respect I remain your Obdt. Servt.

Robt Maxwell

Dupl (DLC); subjoined to Maxwell to TJ, 17 July 1801; at head of text: “Copy—sent 15 May 1801”; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States.” RC, now missing, recorded in SJL as received from Middletown, Delaware, on 20 May 1801 with notation “S.” indicating that TJ forwarded the letter to the state department (see also TJ to Maxwell, 6 Aug. 1801). Enclosures not found, but see below.

Robert Maxwell owned an estate at Saint George’s Hundred in New Castle County, Delaware. He served in the Delaware Assembly, first as a representative and then as a senator. In 1805 he became a justice of the peace (Scharf, History of Delaware description begins J. Thomas Scharf, The History of Delaware, 1609–1888, Philadelphia, 1888, 2 vols. description ends , 2:625, 990; Henry C. Conrad, History of the State of Delaware, 3 vols. [Wilmington, Del., 1908], 1:264, 272).

Letters which passed between the post master general & myself: Maxwell served as postmaster at Middletown, Delaware, from March 1792 to October 1795, when he recommended William B. Shields for the position. Maxwell was again appointed to the office in October 1798 after Shields resigned, but on 18 Feb. 1799, Joseph Habersham wrote Maxwell that there were “so many objections” to his holding the office that he would not be sending him a commission, explaining that it was his “wish to give general satisfaction in all my Appointments.” On 4 Mch., Habersham again wrote Maxwell: “The information which induced me to with hold your Commission I received from the most respectable quarters. Be assured that I would not have taken that step if it could have been avoided consistently with my duty” (DNA: RG 28, LPG; Stets, Postmasters description begins Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States, 1782–1811, Lake Oswego, Ore., 1994 description ends , 105).

Prospect now before us: alluding to James Thomson Callender’s Prospect Before Us (Vol. 31:376–7).

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