Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Delaware Democratic Republicans, [5 June 1802]

From Delaware Democratic Republicans

[5 June 1802]


We beg leave to address you on a subject which we deem momentous and important. We do not wish, Sir, to obtrude our sentiments upon you, on a measure, to the accomplishment of which the Constitution has assigned to you the entire power, and the absolute discretion. But in the confidence that the voice of the People will be indulgently heard by a republican President of the united States, we earnestly solicit from your hands the removal of Allen McLane, from the collectorship of the Port of Wilmington, in the District of Delaware. In doing this we are not influenced by motives of ill will or enmity towards that officer; but on grounds, and principles which will conduce to the public weal, and promote the views of Republicanism.

The conduct of this officer has assumed a shape the most violent and intolerant towards those of his fellow Citizens who have opposed him on points of a political nature. The influence of office in his hands, instead of promoting the happiness of those around him, has, in many instances, been perverted to purposes the most selfish and time-serving: Nay, Sir, prosecutions and convictions have been Occasioned by his agency (in cases where we believe the parties to have been innocent) which have plunged into distress, impoverished and made helpless several families. In short, the course of his political Career since the organization of the present Constitution, has been marked by a conduct almost amounting to Madness, and by a violence as dangerous to the repose of society, as it is criminal: Exhibiting a behaviour of this kind for a series of years, and likely again to re-act the scenes, to which we have, but Slightly alluded, we are deeply impressed with the policy, and necessity of his Speedy and immediate removal.

In addition to the reasons we have already given, we think our present republican administration would be strengthened in their measures and in their duration by appointing to stations of honor and profit, those who are devoted to the best interests of their Country.

If Hostility to the measures of the present rulers of our public affairs should be encouraged by suffering the authors of such conduct to enjoy posts of influence and wealth, the ardor of Republicanism will be damped, and the exertions of our friends will be parylized by disappointment.

May the almighty and supreme ruler of the Universe lengthen out your Days, and encrease the prosperity of the nation by continuing to you the Blessings of Health and Activity—

Signed by Order of the Delegation

Danl. Blaney. Chairman
Risdon Bishop Secy.

RC (DLC); in John Bird’s hand, signed by Blaney and Bishop; date supplied from minutes of meeting written above inside address (see below); at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson, President of the united States”; endorsed by TJ “Address to remove Allen Mc.lane” and so recorded in SJL. Recorded in SJL as received 10 June. Enclosed in John Bird to TJ, New Castle, 8 June 1802, stating “The Chairman of the Democratic Republican Delegation of the State of Delaware, hath charged me with the inclosed Address—, desiring at the same time, that I should forward it with all possible expedition to the President of the United States,” which he does with “pleasure” and with “much respect and consideration” (RC in same; at head of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, Esquire”; recorded in SJL as received 10 June with notation “coverg Address from Dover”).

Daniel Blaney, a surveyor, worked in Delaware in the 1790s and in 1797 was hired to prepare a survey of New Castle. In 1803, Benjamin H. Latrobe described him as a “good clever surveyor” and hired him to do surveys for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company. Blaney moved from Port Penn to New Castle in 1804. He served as recorder of deeds for New Castle County from 1804 to 1811. Risdon Bishop had a farm near Dover and regularly took a leadership role in Democratic Republican meetings in Kent County. On 23 May 1801, he served as secretary of the meeting that met at Daniel Cooke’s house in Dover to promote the successful bid of David Hall for governor (Latrobe, Correspondence description begins John C. Van Horne and Lee W. Formwalt, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, New Haven, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends , 1:346–50; Wilmington, Mirror of the Times, 6 June 1801; 9 June 1802; 25 Feb., 14, 21 Apr. 1804; 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 , 7:521).

Democratic Republicans met at Dover on 5 June 1802 to select “a suitable Character to be supported by them at the next general Election, as Representative to Congress.” After agreeing unanimously on Caesar A. Rodney as the candidate, the delegation “took into consideration the removal from office of the present Collector for the Port of Wilmington in the District of Delaware” and unanimously adopted the address printed above (minutes of 5 June meeting attached to RC printed above; Wilmington Mirror of the Times, 9 June 1802).

ALLEN MCLANE learned of this proposal for his removal and wrote John Steele and Gallatin in his own defense. McLane discovered that several of his political enemies, including Risdon Bishop and Abraham Pierce, were among the jurors who were called for the meeting of the U.S. circuit court in Dover on 3 June but discharged when there were no cases to be heard. Republican leaders used the time between 3 June and their scheduled meeting on the 5th to gain support for an address to the president urging the collector’s dismissal. Although urged by his friends to send a “Counter address to the President,” McLane informed Steele that because of the recent “friendship and Justice” shown to him by the administration, he “thought it unnecessary to trouble” the president until officially informed of the charges. He argued that merchants in Wilmington and Philadelphia who knew of his attentiveness to his duties wanted him continued in office. Only Nehemiah Tilton and one other person in Wilmington opposed him, and Tilton wanted the collectorship for himself. In his letter to the Treasury secretary, McLane stressed his Revolutionary War record and his ability to garner letters and certificates of support from every state in the union. He was not an enemy of the present administration, as some had charged, but was being persecuted by office seekers (McLane to Steele, 12 June, in DLC, endorsed by TJ: “Mc.lane Allen,” and enclosing an extract by an unidentified correspondent to McLane, Kent County, Delaware, 8 June, in same; McLane to Gallatin, 12 June, in same; Wilmington Mirror of the Times, 5 June 1802).

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