Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 12 September 1801

From Albert Gallatin

City of Washington Septer. 12th 1801

Dear Sir

This will be handed by Mr M. L. Davies of New York, the candidate for the naval office. I used my endeavours to prevent his proceeding to Monticello; but he had left New York with that intention & is not easily diverted from his purpose. The reason he gives for his anxiety is that, immediately after the adjournt. of Congress, E. Livingston & others mentioned to him that a positive arrangement was made by the administration by which he was to be appointed to that office; that he was so perfectly confident, till some time in June, that such was the fact, as to refuse advantageous proposals of a permanent establishment; & that the general belief on that subject has placed him in a very awkward situation at New York.

He presses me much on the ground of my personal knowledge both of him & of the local politics of N. York, to give you my opinion in a decided manner on that subject; which to him I declined; both, because in one respect it was not made up, & because my own opinion even if decided neither ought nor would decide yours. The propriety of removing Rogers remains with me the doubtful point; after Fish’s removal & that of others, they, in N.Y., seem to suppose that the dismission of Rogers is, on account of antirevolutionary adherence to enemies, unavoidable; the answer to New Haven appears to have left no doubt on their mind on that subject; and I apprehend that the numerous removals already made by you there, & the almost general sweep by their State Government have only encreased the anxiety & expectation of a total change. In relation to Rogers himself, though he is a good officer, I would feel but little regret at his being dismissed, because he has no claim detached from having fulfilled his official duties, has made an independent fortune by that office, & having no personal popularity cannot lose us one friend nor make us one enemy. But I feel a great reluctance in yielding to that general spirit of persecution which, in that State particularly, disgraces our cause & sinks us on a level with our predecessors. Whether policy must yield to principle, by going farther into those removals, than justice to our political friends & the public welfare seem to require, is a question on which I do not feel myself, at present, capable of deciding. I have used the word “persecution” & I think with propriety; for the Council of appointts. have extended their removals to almost every auctioneer, &, that not being a political office, the two parties ought certainly to have an equal chance in such appointments.

As to the other point; if Rogers shall be removed, I have no hesitation in saying that I do not know a man whom I would prefer to Mr Davis for that office. This may, however, be owing to my knowing him better than I do others who may be1 equally well qualified. I believe Davis to be a man of talents, (particularly quickness & correctness) suited for the office, of strict integrity, untainted2 reputation, & pure republican principles. Nor am I deterred from saying so far in his favour on account of any personal connection with any other individual; because I am convinced that his political principles stand not on the frail basis of persons, but are exclusively bottomed on his conviction of their truth, & will ever govern his political conduct. So far, as I think a prejudice against him in that respect existed, I consider myself, in justice to him, bound to declare as my sincere opinion. Farther I cannot go.

As the mail will reach you only one day later than Mr Davis, I will defer writing on business till Monday. The elections of Maryland are decisively in our favour—26 to 14 is the probable result—a majority certain.

I feel in better health & better spirits since the change of weather which, together with change of air, seems to have had a favorable effect on my child’s health. Mrs Gallatin & her daughter 3 weeks old are very well. Robert Smith is & will continue absent for some time longer. On his arriving home last Saturday, he found his eldest son dead; & his wife expects daily to be confined. S. Smith who wrote me on the subject that this ought to hasten Mr Madison’s return, & that friends & foes begin to complain of long absences. I wish earnestly we may all meet as early as possible; yet do not apprehend any inconvenience to have yet resulted for the public service from your absence.

I am with sincere respect & attachment Your obt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

I enclose recommendations sent to me in favr. of Davis

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 17 Sep. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) John Swartwout to Gallatin, New York, 1 Sep., noting that Matthew L. Davis had received information from Edward Livingston in April “that he had been favorably mentioned to the President, for the office of Naval officer of this Port,” and with that expectation Davis had declined a position with a salary of $1,500 per year and had kept his friends from seeking a state appointment for him, and while the government could not be held responsible for Livingston’s indiscretion, it placed Davis in an “unpleasant Situation”; also noting that the removal of Richard Rogers, “Independent of his disaffection to the Revolution,” would give general satisfaction because “his Manners, his gross and Unaccomodating temper, Renders him disgusting (as an officer) to a very great proportion of our Citizens of both interests”; recommending Davis for his industry and integrity, Swartwout predicts that his appointment “would gratify the Public as much as any appointment that has been Made by the administration” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Swartwout. to mr Gallatin” and “Davis”). (2) David Gelston to Gallatin, New York, 4 Sep., contradicting reports “industriously propagated, with a view to injure” Davis, the New York customs collector notes that Davis is a 30-year-old New Yorker, married seven years, and of respectable parentage, with a father who died of wounds received in defense of his country; Davis’s “knowlege in accounts, and his uncommon assiduity, and peculiar talent of dispatch in business,” Gelston concludes, “qualify him eminently for a complete discharge of the duties of the office, which public report has long since assigned to him” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ: “Gelston David. to mr Gallatin. Davis to be Naval officer”). (3) Ezekiel Robins to Gallatin, New York, 6 Sep., recommending Davis as of “excellent Moral Character” and as “a firm and decided Republican” who “has uniformly exerted himself at all our Elections in favour of the Republican Interest,” and noting that in case of the removal of Rogers, “which would be highly gratifying to the Republicans,” the appointment of Davis “would meet the general Approbation of our Republican fellow Citizens” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ: “Robins Ezekl. to mr Gallatin” and “Davis”). (4) Tunis Wortman to Gallatin, New York, 4 Sep., arguing for the propriety of removing Rogers, observing that not only were his principles “peculiarly hostile to our revolution,” but his manners were “rigid and austere, and his conduct marked with bitterness and asperity towards the Republicans,” thus giving him “no pretentions whatsoever to the patronage of government”; while believing it “presumptious of him to give any recommendation,” Wortman informed Gallatin that it was long the prevailing belief that Davis had been selected for the position, and he could testify that “in the worst of times he was an advocate of public liberty” and a man of business and respectable talents (RC in same; endorsed by TJ: “Wortman to mr Gallatin” and “Davis”). (5) Henry Rutgers to Gallatin, New York, 7 Sep., recommending Davis as a person well qualified to serve as naval officer, knowing that the public service “will be strictly attended to” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ: “Rutgers Henry to mr Gallatin” and “Davis”).

Matthew L. Davis probably handed TJ a 6 Sep. letter from John Rathbone to Gallatin as well. Writing from New York, Rathbone supported the appointment of a U.S. consul at Newry in Ireland, owing to the great increase of commercial intercourse between the United States and the Irish port in recent years. He recommended Trevor Corey, a partner at the house of Isaac Corey & Sons at Newry, as a person of “talents and unimpeachable integrity” capable of filling the position. Rathbone indicated that Davis could give Gallatin information about the applicant (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Rathbone to mr Gallatin to be Consul at Newry”).

Edward Livingston wrote TJ a brief, undated letter of introduction for Davis, who was about to pay his respects to TJ at Monticello. Livingston observed that “he is a gentleman whose principles and talents have commanded my Esteem & will I think justify the introduction I have presumed to give” (RC in MHi; at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson President of the US.”; endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL as received 17 Sep.).

Extended their removals: for the power of the Council of Appointment in New York, which included the governor and four state senators, see Vol. 32:304n. When George Clinton succeeded John Jay as governor in August 1801, the impediment to the removal of Federalist officeholders was dissolved. The council, dominated by the Livingstons and Clintonians, also determined that Burr and his followers should receive no patronage. The governor and Robert R. Livingston had misgivings about the extreme measures against Burr, but George Clinton would not defy DeWitt Clinton and other members of the council who were hostile to the vice president (Dangerfield, Livingston description begins George Dangerfield, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York, 1746–1813, New York, 1960 description ends , 305–6).

On 11 Sep., the Washington Federalist reprinted an article that pointed to the long absences of heads of departments, commenting that “the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of War, find it easy and convenient to have a recess from the duties of office, during the summer months.” The author compared them unfavorably with their counterparts in former administrations, who “never found time to make long visits to distant parts of the country, for the purpose of pleasure or business.” The writer questioned: “How then can these Secretaries, just introduced to office, without a previous knowledge of the details & arrangements of their several departments, find so much leisure for amusement or unofficial business?” Levi Lincoln and Henry Dearborn were charged with conducting political campaigns. On 14 Sep., a notice appeared in the same newspaper declaring that during his stay in Maryland in early September, Gallatin was “busily engaged in electioneering, instead of attending to his duty at the seat of government” (Washington Federalist, 11, 14, 21 Sep.; Gallatin to TJ, 29 Aug.).

Prominent New York City Republicans sent Gallatin recommendations in favor of Davis (see enclosures listed above). David Gelston, Tunis Wortman, and Henry Rutgers served as officers of the Democratic Society of the City of New-York in the 1790s, and John Swartwout, Ezekiel Robins, and Rutgers represented New York City Republicans in the state assembly in 1800. Gelston and Swartwout had already received federal appointments, as customs collector and U.S. marshal, respectively (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York: at Their Twenty-Fourth Session, Began and Held at the City of Albany, the Fourth Day of November, 1800 [Albany, 1801], 3; Philip S. Foner, ed., The Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790–1800 [Westport, Conn., 1976], 171, 183–4, 425n; Alfred F. Young, The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763–1797 [Chapel Hill, 1967], 393–4, 491, 567; Vol. 33:668–9, 672–3, 675–6).

1Preceding two words interlined in place of “are.”

2Gallatin here canceled “character.”

Index Entries