Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Baldwin, 1 May 1802

To Abraham Baldwin

Washington. May 1. 1802.

Dear Sir

A mr Putnam of Georgia was lately appointed to the command of a revenue cutter on the recommendation of yourself, Genl. Jackson & mr Milledge; and I trust on good grounds. the Washington Federalist however of Apr. 30. charges him with having been tried and convicted of having stolen a gold watch. a charge so specific brought forward in the public papers, I have always supposed sufficient to make it the duty of the Executive to enquire into it. it becomes necessary therefore for mr Putnam to justify himself if innocent: and as we do not hold courts of enquiry, the only way would be by bringing the question before a jury by way of action against the three editors Caldwell, Kirkland & Rind. may I ask from your friendship to apprize mr Putnam that we shall expect to hear from him on this subject? Accept assurances of my high consideration & esteem.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. Baldwin”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

For the RECOMMENDATION, see note to TJ to the Senate, 10 Mch. CHARGE SO SPECIFIC: the accusation against Henry Putnam was included in the extract of a letter from Savannah printed in the Washington Federalist. THREE EDITORS: according to the masthead, the newspaper was edited by William A. Rind “& Co.” Elias B. Caldwell, clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, was referred to as an editor of the newspaper in 1804. Putnam resigned his position in early 1804 (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:95–6; Pasley, description begins Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic, Charlottesville, 2001 description ends Tyranny of Printers, 240–1; DHSC description begins Maeva Marcus and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800, New York, 1985–2007, 8 vols. description ends , v. 1, pt. 1:163–5, 168n; Washington Federalist, 30 Apr. 1802; 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 , 9:343; Gallatin to TJ, 16 Feb. 1804).

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