Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Caesar A. Rodney, 28 June 1802

From Caesar A. Rodney

Wilmington June 28th. 1802.

Honored & Dear Sir,

I had the pleasure duly to receve your letter of the 24. inst:—In my last I gave you the information I possessed on the subject required. From an observation in your letter you may have misunderstood a part of mine. Indeed I write such a scrawl that it is scarcly legible. You observe, that “you presume Col. M’Clane has been passive in electioneering.” In my letter I stated that his conduct continued the same, as before the honorable acquittal for which he was indebted to your justice & impartiality. I beleive neither his opinions or his exertions have been altered or relaxed. He is now less public but of course less liable to have his plans counteracted. In opposing the election of Col: Hall he on one occasion in this town went so far as to commit that of Genl. Mitchell’s which he was with too much zeal supporting. On this point I presume you can have the most satisfactory proof that the nature of the case will admit. The system of neutrality on this subject which I had adopted (& which I do not concieve I am departing from when called on by you for my opinion, in performing what then becomes a duty, tho’ a reluctant one) renders a remark necessary. Our friends will be apt to suppose I know, that it is because I have not interfered, that Col. M’Clane is not turned out. This will be most artfully managed by the Federalists, who are aware of it. They will pretend to speak of it in public as a matter of credit to me, knowing the injurious effect it will produce. Altho’ Col. M’Clane’s activity directed personally against me would affect the election in some degree, it would not be half as detrimental to me as the idea, I have suggested, being industriously spread abroad.

Our State requires some act of nerve & spirit at this moment. You saw published the infamous letter of the late Secy. of this State to the Committee of our House of Reps: & their disreputable conduct on the occasion. I was absent having been compelled by sickness to leave the house & as soon as I was out of it, the affair happened. We have never yet got the Executive papers. To the commissions granted by Col. Hall they refuse to give credence. Even a Recorder holds possession of an office & the seal after a new commission given to another. Backed by the Courts & a majority of the legislature this is the game Federalism is at this moment playing in this State, & the Collector undoubtedly classes himself with those people. It is important to furnish to those less informed, a strong evidence that power has changed hands. The consequences will be wonderful. In our State affairs I trust we shall not after this year be hampered. But to conclude this topic, Governor Hall will be here on the 4th. july & we will come on to see you immediately after. I will bring the book I mentioned to you in my former letter.

You will observe in the Fedl. papers an ext. of a letter from this state to New-bury Port. It is supposed to be written by a Jos. Dana a relation of the Congressman. Dana came to this State a Clergyman. Was afterwards employed at New-Castle as a teacher, & at the same time commenced reading law with our C. Justice Johns who was so active last year in harranguing the people at public meetings which in the reign of terror he had denounced in a charge from the bench. The conduct of C. Justice relative to the New-Castle Pier lottery which has since been exposed will silence his battery during the ensuing campaign. Such were Dana’s principles in politics & so offensive to a majority of the trustees of the New-Castle school, that they were about to notify him that his services were no longer required when sensible of this he voluntarily relinquished his situation. Since that time, he has figured as Chief of a little gambling club there. The piece will be properly noticed in our paper, but I thought it proper to give the above information. It has already produced one good effect. A general meeting of our citizens for the County is to take place on saturday next. They will appoint a general committee of Correspondence, direct the hundreds to meet also & to choose hundred committees & will recommend the same proceedings to their brethren of Kent & Sussex.

I beg leave after due advice to recommend to you the following citizens as Commissioners of Bankruptcy agreeably to your request.

French Macmullen Esq. of New-Castle
James Brobson } of Wilmington
John Warner
& Isaac H. Starr

The first is a young gentleman who read law with me & was admitted about two years ago. The second is the present Chief Burgess of this place. The third is a member of the corporation & our most influential, active politician. The last is a man of uncommon talents education & sense. All those from this place of the society of friends but the last (Mr. Starr) is the only full member of the meeting. They are all honest disinterested1 Republicans & men of respectability & well qualified for the duties they will have to perform. Messr. Warner & Brobson were selected by Judge Bedford in one of only two cases which have occurred under the Bankrupt law. They are both merchants & know nothing else. Mr. Starr is in the shipping line also but pursues the profitable profession of tanning also. We consider his name an acquisition as he has generally declined every thing of the sort. He will serve like the rest on the true & patriotic principles of supporting you & your administration.

I had a letter from my old friend A. H. Rowan the other day, dated at Altona, of which the following is an extract. “How I rejoice with you on the election of Mr. Jefferson. How my exultation is increased when I read his public addresses. Persevere in such principles & your nation will be invincible. If you have an opportunity tell Mr. Jefferson that I recollect the polite attention he was once pleased to shew me with honest pride.”

I will thank you to preserve this & my preceding letter as I have not kept any copies of them.

With great esteem I remain Dr. Sir Yours Most Sincerely

C. A. Rodney

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 30 June and so recorded in SJL.

For Federalist Nathaniel MITCHELL’S close run for governor against David Hall in 1801, see Vol. 35:427–9.

INFAMOUS LETTER: on 4 Feb., Governor Hall sent the Delaware house and senate a message, noting that Abraham Ridgely, the late secretary of state, had failed to turn over any official papers pertaining to the executive office dated after 20 May 1799, making it impracticable for him to perform his duties as governor. The House appointed a committee to determine why Ridgely had not delivered the papers. The next day, Outerbridge Horsey, from the committee, delivered a letter from Ridgely to the speaker of the House, Stephen Lewis. Ridgely explained that the delay was due to “his indisposition,” which for some time preceding the governor’s inauguration had kept him from carrying out the duties of his office. Philip Lewis, a House Republican, immediately moved that no notice be taken of the letter in the House journal and that it be “thrown under the table,” because it included “a gross insult to the Chief Magistrate of the State.” Later in the day, the Federalists introduced their own resolution, which admitted that Ridgely’s letter contained “intemperate language,” and argued that only the part stating the reasons why the papers were not delivered should be entered in the House journal. The Republicans failed in their effort to amend the resolution by adding that the “intemperate language” was insulting to the governor. The resolution passed (Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Delaware, at a Session of the General Assembly, Commenced and Held at Dover, on Tuesday the Fifth Day of January, and Ended on Friday the Fifth Day of February, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Two [Dover, Del., 1802], 4, 64–71).

On 1 Feb. 1802, the Delaware General Assembly passed legislation calling for Chief Justice Kensey JOHNS, treasurer of the NEW-CASTLE PIER LOTTERY, to turn over to newly appointed commissioners more than $3,000 in surplus monies and $653.45 in outstanding debts due to the lottery. The commissioners were charged with applying the monies to the “purposes intended by the original act,” that is, erecting and repairing piers in the harbor of New Castle (Laws of the State of Delaware; Passed at a Session of the General Assembly, Which was Begun and Held at Dover, on Tuesday, the 5th day of January, and Ended on Friday, the 5th Day of February, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Two [Dover, Del., 1802], 223–8).

LETTER FROM THIS STATE: on 19 June, the Boston Columbian Centinel printed an extract of a letter from Delaware dated 22 May, describing the large reception, a “genuine tribute of heartfelt gratitude and affection,” Congressman James A. Bayard received at Christiana Bridge when he returned home from Washington on 17 May. Although Bayard had determined not to seek reelection, he felt obliged “to bend his will” to that of his constituents after their warm reception. Indeed, the writer asserted, the popularity of Bayard caused Rodney, the leader of the opposition, to decline to compete. On 30 June, the Wilmington Mirror of the Times printed the extract and a response. “Honestus” noted that the correspondent was a clergyman from New England who had resided in New Castle for several years and recently returned to Massachusetts. “Honestus” pointed out that Bayard’s welcome at Christiana Bridge did not exceed 20 people and that he did not on the occasion consent to stand for reelection. Far from being popular in the state, “Honestus” contended, Bayard was “too lordly in his manners” and had never obtained a seat in the state legislature although he was several times a candidate. The great falsehood in the letter, “Honestus” noted, was that Rodney had declined to run against Bayard. “Honestus” predicted that Bayard would soon be retired from public service and that Rodney would be elected by a “considerable majority.”

GENERAL MEETING: on 30 June the Mirror of the Times carried a notice for the 3 July meeting of the Democratic Republicans of New Castle at the Red Lion tavern. The results of the meeting were published in the Wilmington newspaper on 14 July.

TJ appointed Rodney’s four candidates for COMMISSIONERS OF BANKRUPTCY on 1 July (list of commissions, FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC). On his personal list, TJ dated the Delaware appointments 2 July (see Appendix II, list 2).

The Irish nationalist Archibald Hamilton ROWAN resided in the U.S. from 1795 to 1800 (see Vol. 34:475n). An extract from Rowan’s letter to Rodney of 3 Apr. 1802 appeared in the Wilmington Mirror on 16 June.

1Preceding two words interlined.

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