Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Gabriel Phillips, 18 October 1801

From Gabriel Phillips

New York Octr 18th. 1801


Influenced by the Voice of Public Opinion so conspicuously evinced in the change of Political Sentiment I have taken the liberty to address you on a Subject connected with the most uncontrovertable Facts tho’ some have contested & Even Denied their Existence

Some of the Disapointed & Clamorous Polititions of our Country have come forward with the utmost Virulence with Determined Opposition to the present Administration because it possesses an Independancy congenial with the Wishes of a large and increasing Majority of the Citizens of these States. It has been asserted repeatedly that the former Councils never removed from Office a person whose political Sentiments were incompatible with their Own. This has been a Theme of continual Invective against some Removals which have taken. A Man under the fictitious Name of Marcus Junius Brutus in discenting on your Answer to the Merchants of New-Haven Asserts that no Collector of Duties under any particular State before the present Constitution but was continued in Office after the Collection of Duties was ceded to the United States.

Colonel Payne of Edenton North Carolina is a conspicuous Instance of the Contrary. Mr Payne at the commencment of the Revolution took a very Active Part in Defence of the Rights & Liberties of his Country. At the Expiration of the Contest he was by the Legislature of that State chosen Collector for the Port of Edenton. Upon the Adoption of the present Constitution of the United States Mr Samuel Jonston of that State was chosen one of the Senators in Congress. By his Exertions Mr Payne was removed & a Mr Samuel Tredwell a Young Man nephew of Mr. Jonstons apointed in his Room. Mr Tredwell was of a disafected Family in the state of New York (during the War with Great Britain) placed within the Enemies Lines. After the War Mr Tredwell became an Inhabitant of Edenton & connected to a Neece of Mr Jonstons. This may account for Mr Paynes Dissmission. While on the Other hand not a Single Objection could be attached to his Character. On the Contrary he was distinguished for his Activity in Defence of his Country against the Usurpation of a foreign Power. As a Collector he was Universally Esteemed and his Removal Lamented by all who well knew him. A Man of handsome Abilities & a Mind the Most Noble. I may Venture to assert no one who knows his Charecter but must Admire the Many Amiable Qualities he possesses. Two or three years after his Removal from Office as Collector he was Choshen Marshal of the District of North Carolina. His Apointment took place on the resignation of Col John Skinner the former Marshal and I presume apointed in his Room in consequence [of Mr] Skinners Recommendation to the President. Mr Payne was continued in Office between three & four Years. During that Period he was a zelous Advocate of the French Revolution and an Enthusust in their Successes believing its tendency would be the Emancipation from Slavery a large portion of the human Race Sunk in Ignorance & Despotism.

He was a Violent Opposer of the British Treaty and with Others Signed the largest Petition ever presented to the house of Representatives praying it might not be carried into Effect. Unfortunatly his Manly Resistance and Independent Mind caused his Dismission. Mr Sedgraves the District Judge of that State could not think & act with Colonel Payne tho’ in Offices connected a simelarity appeared necessary. How far this Effected Mr Paynes Situation I will not presume to determine but to these causes he attributes his fall. I hope Sir you will pardon the Liberty I have taken in this lengthy Degression tho’ true Statment of Facts. Learning that Mr Habersham the Post Master General is about to retire from Office Could you think Colonel Payne worthy that Office or Another from what I have said from the knowledge you may heretofore possess of his Character or from Information from David Stone Esqr Senator in Congress and Charles Jonston Esqr Member of the house of Representatives both perfectly acquanted with Colonel Payne I cannot but flatter myself the Duties he may be entrusted with would meet the Aprobation of the President & his Country

Accept My Duty & Respects

Gabrl Phillips

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); torn; addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Washington”; franked; postmarked 19 Oct.; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Oct. and so recorded in SJL; TJ later canceled “Philips Gabrl.” and added “Colo. Payne of Edenton for office” to the endorsement.

Fictitious Name: An Examination of the President’s Reply to the New-Haven Remonstrance; with an Appendix, Containing the President’s Inaugural Speech, the Remonstrance and Reply; Together with a List of Removals from Office, and New Appointments, Made Since the Fourth of March, 1801, published in New York in September 1801, was signed Lucius Junius Brutus, the pseudonym used by William Coleman, a Federalist lawyer and ally of Alexander Hamilton, who became editor of the New-York Evening Post in November 1801. The author argued that eliminating the stability of tenure from public office destroys “a great inducement to enter into public service.” He explained that “Previous to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, most of the individual States had their own particular laws of impost and excise, and consequently their several officers of the customs. These officers, deriving their authority from the respective States, lost of course their public characters, by the transfer to the general Government of the power under which they had acted.” Washington, however, according to Brutus, appointed “all those officers who held analogous stations in the several States, and who were properly qualified, without any reference to their political opinions” (Brutus, Examination, 15, 23–4; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 25:419n).

During the Revolution, Michael Payne served as an officer in the Second North Carolina Regiment. In 1777 he became the naval officer, not collector, at Edenton. Washington did appoint Thomas Benbury, state collector of customs for Albemarle Sound since 1784, collector at Edenton in 1790, which would support the contention by “Brutus.” A naval officer was appointed only at Wilmington, North Carolina. Samuel tredwell became collector at Edenton in 1793, upon the death of Thomas Benbury. Payne did not receive an appointment under the Federal government until 1794, when John Skinner resigned as U.S. marshal for North Carolina and recommended him for the position. He accepted the appointment in a letter dated 19 Aug. 1794. When his term expired in 1798, Adams appointed John S. West in his stead (Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser. description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983–, 48 vols.: Presidential Series, 1987–, 12 vols. description ends , 5:197; 12:59n; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:37, 39, 129, 278). For evidence that the Washington administration listened primarily to Federalists in North Carolina and applied a political test to appointments at Edenton, including that of Tredwell, see Prince, Federalists description begins Carl E. Prince, The Federalists and the Origins of the U.S. Civil Service, New York, 1977 description ends , 120–4.

North Carolina’s petition in opposition to the british treaty was presented to the House of Representatives on 8 Mch. 1796 (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 2:466). Sedgraves: John Sitgreaves.

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