Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Moses Robinson, 17 November 1801

From Moses Robinson

Bennington Novr. 17th 1801


The Bearer doctor Benjamin Robinson is a native of this town and a nephew of mine, Sustains a good moral Character, and has Acquired no inconsiderable knowledge in the Arts of Phisyck and Surgery—in the latter Especially he has made Proficiency in Practice he is Temperate, Sober, & Discreet in his General deportment, and I Consider him a promising young man he is of an enterprising make and wishes by Industry in his Calling to obtain property he has often Expressd his desire of Going to the Southern States but has lately had Information from a Gentleman living in Chesterfield County & State of Virginia on the River Appamattox that there is at present a Vacancy in that Vicinity for the Practice of Physick &c. he has therefore determind to Journey thither his informant also mentiond that a letter from President Jefferson to his brother in law living in that place would be of Service to Introduce him to practice he therefore desires that favour from you Sir and I trust his future Conduct will not Cause you to Regret your bestowment of such a favour—

The Return of Republicanism in this State is beyond our highest Expectations there is a decided majority in both houses of the Legislature there was not a tryal in any Instance but the Republicans Carried there point, yet they believd it to be Good Policy not to Reject the (Self Stiled) Federalist in every Instance the address to your Self was Carried by a majority of thirty and the Reply to Governr. Tichenors Speech which was a Severe Reprehension on his Past Conduct,1 was nearly the Same which with Maryland Resolutions are demonstrations beyond a doubt,—we have in Bennington labourd Incessantly to Stem the Currant of Federalism (falsly Calld) in this State but not without fear & trembling lest we should Fail we have Gaind in a great measure our point and I believe the Progress of the Cause of liberty through the United States Calls for Gratitude to that being who Superintends the affairs of men, Governs the nation with a nod, and has mercifully Crown’d their Efforts with Success—

I have Just now learnd. that Certain persons are doing all they Can to Injure the Reputation of Mr. Willard the present Marshal in the district of Vermont and to make or have made you Sir to beleive that you had been misinformd as to his True Character. I therefore think it my duty to give you some information on that Subject I have been acquainted with Mr. Willard about Two years and Set in the Council of Censors with him (he being a member) for nearly three month, he appeard to be a person of Abilities a firm Republican and have never heard any thing unfavorible to his Charecter I this day have Calld on Col. David Fay District attorney to know of him how he the marshal performd the duties of his office he tells me he did it with dignity and Faithfulness and has had an oppertunity to Look into his Conduct in Relation to the discharge of his duty in taking a Prisoner in a Civil Suit or in Execution that had Caused some talk by the Federalist but it was Settld or rather there never was any difficulty between the marshal and the Prisoner to wit mr Hatheway—that mr Fay Considers him as Competent to Execute the office of Marshal well with honor to himself and the Government—

This I think ought to have more weight in as much as many persons who wish to Supplant mr Willard have mentiond my Brother David Robinson the present Sheriff of Bennington County as a Candidate to Succeed him in the office of Marshal and Say he had the best Right to it however I may Respect my Brother and may Beleive him to be Sufficiently Capable to Execute that office yet I beleive mr Willard to be so too and ought not to be Supplanted by him or any other person—unless there appears Sufficient Cause—

Accept Sir my best wishes for your domestic happiness as well as public administrations and beleive me to be your most Obedient & very Humble Servant

Moses Robinson

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 Dec. and so recorded in SJL.

Benjamin Robinson made successful experiments with smallpox vaccinations in Vermont in 1800 and 1801. He relocated to Fayetteville, North Carolina, around 1805, where he was a prominent physician and civic leader until his death in 1857 (Abby Maria Hemenway, ed., Vermont Historical Gazetteer, 5 vols. [Burlington, 1868–91], 1:164, 180; Vermont Gazette, 2 Feb., 9 Nov. 1801; William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 vols. [Chapel Hill, 1979–96], 5:233; John A. Oates, The Story of Fayetteville and the Upper Cape Fear [Charlotte, 1950], 856).

The brother-in-law in chesterfield county was probably Francis Eppes of Eppington. He was the husband of Elizabeth Wayles, who was the half-sister of TJ’s wife, Martha Wayles Skelton, and the father of John Wayles Eppes (Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, Boston, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends , 1:432–3; Vol. 1:86–7).

Address to your self: Vermont House of Representatives to TJ, printed at 5 Nov. The address was adopted by a vote of 86 to 59 (Journals of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, at Their Session, Begun and Holden at Newbury, in the County of Orange, the Eighth Day of October, A.D. One Thousand Eight Hundred and One [Windsor, 1802], 218).

Reply to governr. Tichenors speech: in their 21 Oct. reply to Federalist Governor Isaac Tichenor’s 9 Oct. address to the General Assembly, the Republican-led House of Representatives rebuked the governor’s speech of 10 Oct. 1800 to the assembly, in which he urged legislators to choose presidential electors who would select “an Independent American” rather than a candidate with a “predilection for foreign principles, or an ardor for foreign theories.” In their 21 Oct. reply, the House congratulated the governor “on the spirit of true republicanism having so far regained its well merited ascendancy,” and on the election of a man to the presidency, “who is not destitute of the sentiments of ‘an independent American,’ and who, you do not suspect, will be influenced in his administration by a predilection for foreign principles, or for the government of any foreign nation.” The House approved the reply by a vote of 103 to 69 (E. P. Walton, ed., Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont, 8 vols. [Montpelier, 1873–80; repr. New York, 1973], 4:516; Journals of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, 10–16, 105–9; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 3460).

Maryland resolutions: on 17 Oct., Tichenor sent the Vermont house a set of resolutions passed by the Maryland assembly in December 1800. The resolutions called for a Constitutional amendment to create a uniform method for choosing presidential electors and representatives to Congress, recommending that they be chosen by district, rather than by statewide or legislative elections. The Vermont house approved Maryland’s district plan and passed a virtually identical set of resolutions on 19 Oct. by votes of 126 to 41 and 105 to 55. In the election of 1800, the legislature had chosen Vermont’s four presidential electors, all of whom were Federalists (Journals of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, 77–80, 89–93; Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism [New York, 1993], 905).

TJ appointed John Willard marshal for Vermont on 5 Mch., removing Federalist Jabez Fitch for “cruelty” and to increase the number of Republicans in the federal courts (Vol. 33:587, 673, 674).

1Preceding nine words interlined.

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