Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Levi Lincoln, 16 September 1801

From Levi Lincoln

Worcester Sept. 16. 1801


you will have learnt before this reaches you, that we have failed in electing a republican member for the next Congress. The defeat was occasioned by the grossest misrepresentations & the basest arts. Emissaries were sent round the district to propagate slander in a way which could not be detected untill it was too late—Both the Worcester papers have been devoted to the federal party. The pieces under the signature of the farmer & the federal republican, are the first which for years they have published of that complexion for years—The latter altho they did not go to the press, in my hand writing, are charged by public suspicion on me—From a fear on your seeing, the animadversions in the public papers on these numbers, you might be apprehensive of more improprieties, than they in fact contain—I have prevailed on myself, however, apparently indelicate, to forward them, The farmer’s numbers will be continued so long as they are thought to be useful—any hints will be gratefully acknowledged—We are about establishing a republican paper in this town from, which we promise ourselves pleasing effects—

accept sir of my most sincere assurances of the highest esteem & respect—

Levi Lincoln

RC (DLC); at head of text: “To the President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Oct. and so recorded in SJL.

We have Failed: General John Whiting, Lincoln’s ally, lost to Federalist Seth Hastings in the contest for the seat that Lincoln had vacated in the House of Representatives (Worcester Independent Gazetteer, 8 Sep. 1801; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; Paul Goodman, The Democratic-Republicans of Massachusetts: Politics in a Young Republic [Cambridge, Mass., 1964], 225).

In August, before the election to fill his former congressional seat, Lincoln began using the pen name farmer for a series of essays that argued for Republican principles and was addressed “To the People.” Isaiah Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy published the first two installments on 19 Aug., and the other Worcester newspaper, the Independent Gazetteer, reprinted them on 1 Sep. The series continued after the election, with numbers 3 through 9 running in the Spy from 9 Sep. well into November. Another numbered series of commentaries, this one signed by someone calling himself the federal republican, began in the Spy a week before the “Farmer” essays opened. The first item from the “Federal Republican” declared the author’s intention to present “some arguments in favor of political charity, forbearance and toleration.” In 1802, Lincoln’s “Farmer” essays, 14 in all, were published as a collection (Massachusetts Spy, 12, 19, 26 Aug., 9, 16, 23 Sep., 7, 21, 28 Oct., 11, 18, 25 Nov. 1801; Letters to the People. By a Farmer [Salem, Mass., 1802]; Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 3442; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

Republican Paper: Lincoln was the key force behind the establishment of the National Aegis, which began publication in Worcester early in December. Its first issue included the tenth of the “Farmer” essays, which stopped appearing in the Massachusetts Spy. The “Federal Republican” series continued in the Spy (Pasley, Tyranny of Printers description begins Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic, Charlottesville, 2001 description ends , 206; National Aegis, 2 Dec.; Massachusetts Spy, 16, 23, 30 Dec. 1801, 6, 13 Jan. 1802).

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