Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, [15 December 1801]

From Albert Gallatin

Tuesday Morning [15 Dec. 1801]

Dear Sir

The enclosed requires but little comment. Why Mr Beckley did not divide the printing between Mr Duane & Mr Smith I do not know; but I am sure that most of our friends are so chagrined at it, that they speak of altering the rules of the house, so as to have the printer appointed by the House & not by the clerk. Mr Smith came here before the fate of the election was ascertained & at a risk. He was promised by myself & others every reasonable arrangement. But this cannot be construed into an exclusive monopoly. He has already the printing of the laws & of every department, and the Congress business might have been divided.

I wish however that Mr D.’s application for purchase of his stationary might be communicated to the several heads of Departments; &, if you think it proper, the letter being transmitted by you may be better attended to. We may in the Treasury purchase a part, but cannot pay until Congress shall have made an appropriation; ours being exhausted.

No Letters which required immediate answers having been received these three days, I have delayed acting on them until I had got rid of the report to Congress. This is the reason of your not receiving any these two days.

With sincere respect & affection Your obedt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); partially dated; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Dec. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Duane.” Enclosure: William Duane to Gallatin, Washington, 13 Dec. 1801, noting his disappointment at failing to obtain the printing of the journals of the House of Representatives as he had been given reason to hope by Nathaniel Macon; encouraged to keep the Aurora at Philadelphia, even though it afforded him a bare maintenance, and noting the service it provided to the public, Duane thought it “not unreasonable to expect the preference of printing for Congress,” and many influential members of Congress questioned why he had not received it; having incurred thousands of dollars of debt in setting up his printing establishment and acquiring “a stock of Stationery, adequate to any demand of Congress,” Duane hoped, by soliciting Gallatin’s friendship “and that of the gentlemen of the administration,” to acquire advance orders and payments for stationery from the public offices before he left for Philadelphia on 20 Dec.; the proceeds would enable him to pay debts, which were coming due, and thus preserve his credit (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 6:176; Cunningham, Jeffersonian Republicans in Power, 268–9).

One explanation for Beckley’s failure to divide the printing of the House of Representatives is that he had learned that Duane had kept him from becoming clerk of the Senate. In September 1801, Samuel A. Otis reported on “pretty good authority” that Republicans planned to elect Beckley clerk in his place. Although Beckley and Duane were friends, Duane reportedly met with Otis shortly before Congress convened and proposed that if Otis would give the Senate printing contract to him, he would assure Otis of keeping his office, in spite of the Republican plan to oust him (Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, John Beckley: Zealous Partisan in a Nation Divided [Philadelphia, 1973], 229, 231; Gerard W. Gawalt, ed., Justifying Jefferson: The Political Writings of John James Beckley [Washington, D.C., 1995], 245; Beckley to TJ, 27 Oct.). Duane received the printing contracts for the journal of the Senate for the Eighth and Ninth Congresses but not for the Seventh (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 , Nos. 1486, 3285, 7510, 9535, 11586, 13935).

They speak of altering the rules: on 17 Dec., John Randolph informed the House that he had learned it would take 20 days to get a report printed for the Committee of Ways and Means, thus impeding their work. He, therefore, moved that a committee “be appointed to devise a plan for expediting the printing work of the House.” The committee, chaired by Randolph, reported the next day with two recommendations. First, the committee thought it expedient to give the heads of the departments the responsibility for printing “all such documents, reports, and statements, as are directed by law to be annually laid before the House.” Second, they asked that a printer be appointed who would provide the “faithful and prompt execution of all business confided to him by order of the House.” The House accepted the first recommendation, but not the second. Randolph, Joseph H. Nicholson, and Samuel Smith argued for the appointment of a printer by the House, while Roger Griswold, Thomas Lowndes, and William Eustis argued against it. Griswold “could see no reason for altering the mode in which the printing business was now and had ever been done; it now lies with the Clerk, who is empowered to employ as many persons as he pleases or deems expedient” (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:20; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. description ends , 11:335–7; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

Purchase of his stationary: the Treasury Department had earlier ordered supplies from Duane, including paper for stamps, for which Duane requested a $3,000 advance in September (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:299, 727). For the debts acquired by Duane in setting up his printing office and bookselling business in Washington, which led to his dire financial condition, see Duane to TJ, 10 May 1801.

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