Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Blair McClenachan, 6 January 1802

From Blair McClenachan

Philada. Jany. 6th. 1802.


Upon a former occasion I took the liberty of applying for Some place under the Government—and of explaining the personal circumstances that induced the Solicitation.

I trust I do not Seek an improper or an unmerited favour—indeed the purity of your principles, must repel any man, who knows you; from obtruding an improper request.

When I was young and rich, my means were devoted to the independance of America; and now when I am Neither, if my Services and industry in any office could procure me independence I should be happy.

Permit me to mention Sir, That the place now held by Israel Whelen the purveyor of Stores, it is Said, will be Soon vacant—Should it be So, may I presume to Specify, that, as a Situation the duties of Which I trust I Should discharge Without detriment to the people or discredit to Myself.

Pray Sir, accept My unfeigned respect.

Blair Mclenachan

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); in a clerk’s hand, signed by McClenachan; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Jan. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be Purveyor of stores.”

Upon A Former Occasion: see Blair McClenachan to TJ, 16 May 1801.

When I Was Young And Rich: during the American Revolution, McClenachan had been a member of the First Troop of Philadelphia cavalry, an outfitter of privateers, as well as a public creditor for the American war effort. A wealthy trader, banker, and shipowner who maintained a grand country estate at Cliveden for eighteen years, he rivaled Robert Morris as the largest importer in Philadelphia. A failed partnership, numerous business speculations, and the fraudulent transfer of assets to his children changed his fortune and led to the merchant’s financial ruin and imprisonment for debt. After service in the state assembly and as a Republican congressman in the House of Representatives from 1797 to 1799, McClenachan continued to look for steady employment and, in 1801, was listed in the Philadelphia Directory simply as a “gentleman” who lived at 167 Walnut Street (John H. Campbell, History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and of the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland [Philadelphia, 1892], 126; E. James Ferguson and others, eds., Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784, 9 vols. [Pittsburgh, Pa., 1973–2000], 1:250; Bruce H. Mann, Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence [Cambridge, Mass., 2002], 214; Abraham Ritter, Philadelphia and Her Merchants [Philadelphia, 1860], 159–60; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877– description ends , 88 [1964], 35; Stafford, Philadelphia Directory, for 1801, 94).

Purveyor Of Stores: the position left vacant by the resignation of Israel Whelen was not filled until November 1803 when TJ nominated Tench Coxe (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 , 1:453; Blair McClenachan to TJ, 8 July 1803).

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