Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willing Byrd, 27 May 1802

From Charles Willing Byrd

Secretary’s Office—Cincinnati—
N.W. Territory. May the 27th 1802


As I have to discharge the united and important duties both of Governor and Secretary of the North Western Territory, I think on the fairest principles of equity that I should enjoy the honors and emoluments of the most considerable Appointment of the two. I am conscious that I stand upon delicate ground, and that a solicitation of this nature in my behalf from a third person, would be deemed more consistent with propriety. But in truth you cannot view me in the light of a common Candidate, my application being for an Office the labours and duties of which have already devolved on me. It will not be an extravagant assertion to say, that with the smallest exertions I could have procured a Petition in my favor for the Appointment of Governor with several thousand Subscribers to it; but having heard, tho’ it has since been contradicted, that a Successor to Governor St. Clair in the event of his removal was already designated, I discouraged the importunities of my friends on that subject. It will readily occur to you, Sir, that when performing the duties which are attached to the Office of Governor, a considerable encrease of trouble as well as expence must unavoidably accrue, and that the pitiful salary of seven hundred and fifty dollars per annum with the title of Secretary, is not an adequate compensation.

In making this appeal to your justice I fear I have committed an intrusion upon your time and occupations, but I confide in your indulgence and flatter myself that you will pardon the trespass.

Accept Sir the assurances of consideration with which I have the honor to be respectfully yr—mo—ob—servt—

Charles Willing Byrd

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The honble, The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 June and “to be govr. of N.W. territory” and so recorded in SJL.

A native of Virginia, Charles Willing Byrd (1770–1828) was appointed secretary of the Northwest Territory at the end of 1799. During his tenure, he frequently clashed with Governor Arthur St. Clair and aligned himself with the Republican leadership of the territory. During St. Clair’s absence from the territory from March to July 1802, Byrd served as acting governor, making numerous appointments that aroused the governor’s ire and thwarting Federalist efforts to delay implementation of the Enabling Act. Following St. Clair’s removal from office in November 1802, Byrd served as interim governor until the territory became the state of Ohio in March 1803. That same month, TJ nominated Byrd to be the U.S. district judge for the new state, a position he held until his death (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 , 1:330–1, 447; Randolph Chandler Downes, Frontier Ohio, 1788–1803 [Columbus, 1935], 222–5, 236–7; Alfred Byron Sears, Thomas Worthington, Father of Ohio Statehood [Columbus, 1998], 58–9, 89, 97; Biographical Directory of the Federal Judiciary, 1789–2000 [Lanham, Md., 2001], 412).

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