Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Harry Innes, 3 June 1801

From Harry Innes

Kentucky near Frankfort June 3d. 1801

Dr Sir,

Pardon me for requesting a few moments attention from the important duties of your office to read the following lines on a subject of a private nature. Justice to myself, as well as a desire to remove doubts, if any exist, relative to what I have written respecting the Official conduct of the Marshal of this District require it of me.

From recollection I incline to think the observations relative to Mr. McDowell, were confined to my own observation & stated that nothing had been suggested to the Court respecting his improper conduct.

Previous to that time a Supersedeas had been granted to set aside an Execution issued upon the nonpayment of a Replevy Bond in which Milage is charged for riding to levy the first Execution, & among other causes that is stated as Error, at the November Term last the Supersedeas was continued by consent of Parties without argument. Also an application had been made for a Supersedeas in two other cases to stay similar Executions, & among the errors stated to exist in the Replevy Bonds were Milage. On examining these two last Replevy Bonds, I discovered milage expressed in the Conditions, yet upon calculating them & taking into account a small credit on each given by the Marshal, it did not appear, that if Milage had been charged, the demand then existed, upon which the applications were rejected, however on the next day the business came before me in a different shape & the prayer of the petitions were granted. The three cases are still depending.

These sir are all the complaints that had come to my knowledge respecting the Marshal himself previous to my letters relative to the application of Mr. Joüett & Mr. Wilkins & the certificate given to Mr. McDowell. As to the first case I had ’till about two weeks ago, been impressed with the idea of the Replevy Bond being taken by a deputy, & under this impression I wrote what has been presented to you.

The intention of this letter is to state candidly my conduct relative to the Marshal of Kentucky & to declare that if I had seen the extracts furnished Mr. James Brown by the Clerk of the Court (which have been forwarded to you) before writing the letters & certificate herein alluded to, or if it had been suggested that such transactions existed, I should have remained silent respecting the Marshal.

By examining the Sheet on which my certificate is written you will observe that it is preceeded by that of Messrs. Daviess, Murray, Hughes & Todd practising Attorneys in the Court, & of Mr. Tunstall the Clerk—if these gentlemen so conversant in the business of the Clerks office were not apprised of malfeasance in the Marshal, it ought not to be supposed that I had any knowledge of it.

With assurances of respect & esteem I remain Dr Sir your friend & servt.

Harry Innes

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 June and so recorded in SJL.

On 31 Jan. 1801, Innes, the U.S. district judge for Kentucky, had certified the conduct of the Marshal of the district, Samuel McDowell, Jr., stating that he had “no information” of any impropriety on McDowell’s part and that the marshal’s moral character was, to Innes’s knowledge, “unimpeached.” Innes had also written earlier in January that McDowell’s official conduct was “unexceptionable” (Vol. 32:451n, 563n).

Also in January, pledging to write an attestation of what he knew about the character and conduct of any aspirant to the marshal’s position who might ask him for a reference, Innes wrote statements for John Jouett, Jr., and Charles Wilkins (same, 451n, 461n; see same, 452n, for a communication from Innes to TJ in July 1801 concerning Jouett). By examining the Sheet: Innes’s certificate for McDowell was one of a conjoined group of statements (same, 562–3n).

On the same day that he wrote the letter printed above, Innes wrote to TJ with regard to another applicant for the marshal’s position, Gwyn R. Tompkins. Innes noted that he had known Tompkins since 1785, and “during this time he has as far as hath come to my kno[wled]ge conducted himself as a good Citizen.” Tompkins had “by his merit” won the office of sheriff of Fayette County “against several candidates.” On inquiry Innes had learned that Tompkins performed the duties of the sheriff’s office “with fidelity” and “acquits himself to the general satisfaction of all persons who have business with him.” Tompkins having performed the duties of sheriff over several years, “there can be no doubt [of] his capacity to discharge the duties of Marshal” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; torn; endorsed by TJ as received 24 June and so recorded in SJL with notation “Tompkins Off.”; also endorsed by TJ: “Gwyn Tompkins to be Marshal of Kentucky”). In Lexington on 3 Feb. 1801, Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, the U.S. attorney for the district of Kentucky, attested to “the upright and unblemished character of Mr G. R. Tompkins.” In the performance of his duties as sheriff for almost three years, Tompkins had shown the “utmost diligence and punctuallity, and has given public satisfaction.” Tompkins had asked Daveiss for the certificate in the expectation that the district might be split and a second marshal’s position created, Daveiss having already written certificates for McDowell and for Jouett, who hoped to replace McDowell (MS in same; in Daveiss’s hand and signed by him; apparently written on the address cover of an unidentified letter received by Daveiss; endorsed by TJ: “Tompkins to be Marshal of Kentucky”). For Tompkins’s application to be marshal, see also Vol. 33:667n. For Daveiss’s certificate for McDowell, see Vol. 32:562n. In 1805, Tompkins (d. 1823) won election to the Kentucky legislature (G. Glenn Clift, comp., Kentucky Obituaries, 1787–1854 [Baltimore, 1977], 31; Charles R. Staples, The History of Pioneer Lexington, 1779–1806 [Lexington, Ky., 1939], 223; James F. Hopkins and Mary W. M. Hargreaves, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 11 vols. [Lexington, Ky., 1959–92], 1:16–17, 211n, 213n).

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