Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel Elliot, 30 November 1802

From Samuel Elliot

New salem, (County of Hampshire)
Novr. 1802.

Respected Sir.

When I address you as the President of a great and independent Republic, I am impressed with diffidence & awe; but when I recognize you, as the mild and philanthropic Jefferson—when I behold you as the author of several valuable literary productions, and the uniform admirer and friend of Science, and all useful & entertaining lucubrations, my Diffidence, in some measure vanishes, and, clothed with manly confidence, I address you, with the freedom and familiarity of a fellow citizen & friend.

While surly base, unprincipled wretches as Callender and other impudent declaimers and writers, are poisoning the public Sentiment, and liberally sowing the seeds of dissatisfaction, it may be matter of Joy with you, to find others, who are grateful enough to acknowledge your services & worth, and just enough to render that respect & obedience to you & your administration, which they so justly merit.

Permit me, Sir, to rank among the undeviating supporters of the republican Cause, my respected brother, James Elliot of Brattleboro’, Vermont; present Post-Master, and Clerk of the Genl. Assembly of that State. He, with several other genuine disciples of rational Liberty, have boldly & invariably stood forth, the avowed advocates of the (lately proscribed) republican Cause.

During his attendance on the last and very recent Session of the Legislature of that State, he received a Commission from the President, appointing him Commissioner of Bancruptcy for the District of Vermont.—I rejoiced, and my brother felt grateful for this public and presidential notice. The office, in Vermont, cannot be very lucrative, but may be agreable and attended with very little expence. In that State, Republicanism has, decidedly the ascendency, but not in Massachusetts.—The friends to order, headed by such great & virtuous Characters as Gerry, Lincoln, Dearborn, Eustis, Varnum, Geo. Blake, Bacon, Crowningshield, Skinner, with others too numerous to mention, will soon effect a Change, already begun, auspicious to Republicanism

In this part of the State, the federalists must awhile prevail—We are very deficient in republican Characters of any celebrity—The offices have been hitherto engrossed by the river demagogues, generally revolutionary adherents to our enemies, or violent, overbearing federalists.

I have just published a little work which accompanies this Letter; and wishing to present you with one of the pamphlets, have been induced to forward both the letter & the Book.—

Respect for the unfortunate Fayette, and Gratitude for his services, during our struggle for Liberty, when you, with other American worthies, were no less active & useful in the Councils of our Country, induced me to the prosecution of the work.—Altho’ it is trifling, being nothing more than an incorrect & incomplete Tragedy, yet I hope it may be entertaining to some, & disagreable to none.

With high respect I am yours Obediently &c.

Saml. Elliot

P.S. I have procured 600 subscribers for the Work, & shall probably be able to purchase me a little law Library from the profits, against my admission to the bar, next May.

RC (DLC); partially dated; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq. President of the United States Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Dec. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Fayette in Prison: or Misfortunes of the Great. A Modern Tragedy. By a Gentleman of Massachusetts, a play, in five acts, on Lafayette’s confinement by the Austrians at Olmütz (Worcester, Mass., 1802; 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 , No. 2215).

Samuel Elliot (1777–1845) was two years younger than his brother James Elliot, who served as a Republican congressman from Vermont from 1803 to 1809. The family moved from Gloucester to New Salem, Massachusetts, in 1780, after the death of their father, to be raised by their mother Martha Day Elliot, a seamstress. Samuel followed his brother to Guilford, near Brattleboro, in southern Vermont, where they established a law practice in 1803. Samuel served as postmaster at Brattleboro from 1803, when he succeeded his brother, until 1811, when he was replaced. He served several terms as the representative from Brattleboro in the Vermont House and held other local offices, including justice of the peace, register of probate, and Windham County state’s attorney. In the 1790s, the Elliot brothers and John H. Palmer wrote newspaper essays, entitled “The Rural Moralist.” In 1803 and 1804, Samuel Elliot delivered the Fourth of July orations at West Springfield, Massachusetts, in praise of the new Republican administration. By 1812, however, in an address before the local Washington Benevolent Society, he denounced the abuses of both parties and wished to harmonize the factions around the “first good old” policies of the Washington administration. In 1844, as a member of the Brattleboro Clay Club, he was elected a delegate to the Whig state convention. Working with representatives from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, he advocated measures for the improvement of navigation on the Connecticut River (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , s.v. “Elliot, James”; Stets, Postmasters description begins Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States 1782-1811, Lake Oswego, Ore., 1994 description ends , 243; Samuel Elliot, Oration Pronounced at West-Springfield, (Mass.) July Fourth, Eighteen Hundred and Three [Bennington, 1803]; Elliot, An Address. To the Members of the Washington Benevolent Society, and the Public [Brattleboro, 1812], 8–15; Brattleboro Reporter, 2 May 1803; 6 Feb., 23 Sep. 1809; 11, 18 Mch. 1811; 13 June 1812; 20 Nov. 1813; 4 Nov. 1814; 11 Jan. 1815; 28 Oct. 1817; 1 Sep. 1819; 11 Nov. 1822; Northampton, Mass., Republican Spy, 3 July 1804; Worcester National Aegis, 10 May 1826; Brattleboro Vermont Phoenix, 28 June 1844).

commission from the president: see Memorandum to James Madison, printed at 18 Oct. 1802.

TJ responded to Elliot on 20 Dec.: “Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Elliot, and his thanks for the poetical production inclosed to him and recieved the last night. he is sensible also to the sentiments of respect and confidence expressed in mr Elliot’s letter, and having in view no earthly object but the good of his fellow citizens, he deems their approbation the highest reward they can bestow on him” (RC in Raab Collection, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, 2007; PrC in DLC, at foot of text: “Mr. Samuel Elliot,” endorsed by TJ in ink on verso).

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