Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, 4 May 1802

To Levi Lincoln

May 4. 1802.

Th:J. to the Atty Genl.

The inclosed paper signed Claudius is so bold, direct & false in it’s assertions respecting the clerks, that it ought really to be contradicted. would it not be worth while to ask of each head of department whether he found any republican clerk in his office & how many, and to state the fact, not naming the authority, but appealing to the notoriety of the fact. perhaps even the names as given in to Congress by the heads of departmts and printed1 might be reprinted and a defiance to point out one of them as republican, except those newly appointed & who might be printed in Italics.—I am always clear that truth & reason can maintain their ground if free to defend themselves. but th[at] they must defend themselves. we are agreed in this necessity and that each must do his part. you are directly attacked by name in this paper, that the defence seems yours of right. health & happiness. I go tomorrow.

RC (MHi: Levi Lincoln Papers); torn at seal; addressed: “Levi Lincoln esq. Attorney Gen[eral].” Enclosure: see below.

The article SIGNED CLAUDIUS, which appeared in the Washington Federalist on 4 May, was taken from the Connecticut Courant and reprinted in many newspapers, including the New-York Herald on 3 Apr. Several months later, former Treasury secretary Oliver Wolcott was recognized as the author of the piece. “Claudius” charged that TJ had falsely accused the previous administration of intolerance. He cited Lincoln, in particular, as making false charges in the essays signed “A Farmer.” Wolcott especially disagreed with Lincoln’s assertion that in March 1801 there were about 100 clerks in the four principal government offices, all of them Federalists since no others were allowed. According to “Claudius,” under the Adams administration “there never was an instance of a dismission on the ground of political opinion, or under circumstances which could afford a colour of justice for the accusation of intolerance” but under the present administration, “many an honest man has been ejected from office; his character questioned and his family reduced to distress, on the ground of this undefined offence.” Wolcott called Lincoln, writing as “Farmer,” guilty of “suppressing the truth and asserting a falsehood” (Troy Gazette, 15 Sep. 1802). For Lincoln’s essays, see Vol. 35:305–6.

NAMES AS GIVEN IN TO CONGRESS: at the request of the House of Representatives, the department heads prepared statements naming the clerks in their respective departments and giving the compensation received by each during 1799, 1800, and 1801. Robert Smith and Henry Dearborn submitted their reports on 29 Mch., Madison on 30 Mch., and Gallatin on 8 Apr. All were printed (see 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. 3304, 3311, 3326, 3329). For evidence supporting Lincoln’s claims, see Cunningham, Process of Government description begins Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Process of Government under Jefferson, Princeton, 1978 description ends , 174–5, 177–82, 328–32.

1Preceding two words interlined.

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