Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from "A Republican," 23 July 1802

From “A Republican”

Philada July 23d 1802


It is a recd. opinion in this City that Mr. John L Leib is to have an appointment of Commissioner of Bankruptcy in the place of Mr. Vancleve decd. I hope Sir that this is not the case; the Writer of this article has been an uniform Republican he is neither in search of places of Honor or profit, but purely governed by the warmth of his wishes that all appointments made by you may be such as will reflect Honor not discredit upon your Administration he has been led to address you upon the Subject. The private Character of Mr. Jno L Leib is notoriously bad. His public Character and Conduct I consider equally so—during the reign of Terror Mr. Leib was found in the Ranks of Federalists only and it was not untill a complete change had taken place in the minds of the people that Mr. Leib was known as a republican. The Man who now addresses you has heard him revile your Character upon two Occasions and if necessary he can bring forward Evidences who were present—To wind up the Conduct of Mr. Leib he thought proper to choose a Wife of a notoriously infamous Character from a Common Bawdy House. I consider the Character of his Brother as equally infamous If your Excellency has Doubts I beg you will make the Enquiry necessary—Pardon the liberty I have taken—beleive me Sir that an Appointment of this kind would meet the decided disapprobation of the warmest Republicans of the City and County of Philada—

I am your real Friend

A Republican

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 31 July and “against John L. Lieb” and so recorded in SJL.

Attorney JOHN L. LEIB and his brother Dr. Michael Leib were members of the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania in the 1790s. REIGN OF TERROR: Mahlon Dickerson recalled in 1829 that John L. Leib had been “among the most active politicians who brought about the change that placed Mr. Jefferson in the presidential chair, and gave a check to aristocracy at that time.” On 3 Feb. 1802, Leib, Dickerson, Matthew Lawler, and Mathew Carey were maligned in the Gazette of the United States for drawing up the Philadelphia memorial, which supported the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801. It was laid before the House of Representatives on 18 Feb. 1802. Michael Leib, a member of Congress at the time, was closely allied with William Duane (Philip S. Foner, ed., The Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790–1800 [Westport, Conn., 1976], 439–40; Harold D. Moser and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 8 vols. [Knoxville, 1980– ], 7:349–50; Philadelphia Gazette, 23 Dec. 1801; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877– description ends , 17 [1893], 465–6; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled . . . by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 11:568; Vol. 33:543; Vol. 36:71). CHOOSE A WIFE: John L. Leib married Margaret Conner of Philadelphia. During the War of 1812, Leib moved his family to Michigan Territory (Clarence M. Burton and others, eds., The City of Detroit Michigan, 1701–1922, 5 vols. [Detroit, 1922], 2:1148, 1385–6).

On 19 July, John L. Leib wrote Meriwether Lewis, requesting that he mention Samson Levy to the president as a “suitable Successor” to John W. Vancleve. He noted that his brother had previously recommended Levy and that his friend would fill the office “with honor to himself & usefulness to the publick” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Levy Sampson to be Commr. bkrptcy”). See Michael Leib to TJ, 28 Apr., for the earlier recommendation. At that time, TJ recorded Levy’s name on his list of candidates for bankruptcy commissioner (Vol. 37: Appendix ii, List 1). Later in 1802, TJ received another letter endorsing Levy. On 13 Oct., Moses Levy wrote his friend Alexander J. Dallas in support of his brother as bankruptcy commissioner. His legal acquirements qualified him for the office, Moses Levy observed, and “his Integrity will guard him against any improper Conduct.” He declared that Dallas’s “favorable representation” to the president would be considered as an act of kindness to a friend (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Levy Sampson to be Commr. bkrptcy v. Vancleve”). Dallas forwarded another application. On 16 Sep., Joseph B. McKean wrote him soliciting the position for his brother-in-law Andrew Pettit, because, McKean noted, Dallas was finding it inconvenient to have to attend “so constantly” as commissioner of bankruptcy that he wished the vacancy occasioned by the death of Vancleve would be filled. McKean observed that the Philadelphia commissioners were already acquainted with Pettit (RC in same, endorsed by TJ: “Pettit Andrew to be Commr bkrptcy vice Vancleve” and “J.B. Mc.Kean’s letter to mr Dallas”; Rowe, McKean description begins G. S. Rowe, Thomas McKean, The Shaping of an American Republicanism, Boulder, Colo., 1978 description ends , 266). For Thomas McKean’s support of Pettit for the position, see Vol. 37:591–2. TJ did not fill the vacancy until October 1803, when he appointed Blair McClenachan to the office (list of commissions in Lb in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC).

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