Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Smith, 13 December 1802

To John Smith

Dec. 13. 1802.

Th: Jefferson to General John Smith.

Altho’ the subject of the inclosed letter is at a distance from your local position, yet you may have opportunities of making enquiry from your colleagues & others, so indirectly as not to have it’s drift observed, how far it is expedient to make the removals proposed. the present state of parties in New York increases much the difficulty of obtaining and estimating information as to characters. if the persons proposed to be removed have been guilty of official delinquencies, or have been active in electioneering in favor of those whose object is to overthrow the established order of things, or openly zealous to discredit the existing functionaries legislative or Executive, there would be no hesitation to remove. otherwise it should be avoided. health & friendly salutations.

RC (NNPM); addressed: “General John Smith of New York”; endorsed by Smith. PrC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 10:0381–2); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Enclosure not identified, but see below.

John Smith (1755–1816), of Mastic, Long Island, began representing Suffolk County in the New York Assembly in 1784, and, except for six years, served continuously until 1800. He was among the 12 Antifederalists who voted in favor of the ratification of the Constitution at the New York Convention in 1788. Smith served as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives from February 1800 to 1804 and in the Senate from 1804 to 1813. In that year he became the U.S. marshal for the Southern District of New York, a position he held until 1815. Smith was also a major general in the state militia (Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, 24 vols. [Madison, Wis., 1976– ], 21:1330n; 22:1676–7; 23:2498n).

For removals proposed at the custom house at Hudson, New York, see Thomas Jenkins to TJ, 7 July; Jenkins, Ambrose Spencer, and Alexander Coffin to TJ, 16 Oct.; and Isaac Dayton to TJ, 19 Oct. In March 1803, TJ removed John C. Ten Broeck, surveyor and inspector at Hudson, describing him as a “delinqt. of old” and categorizing him with others who were dismissed for “Misconduct or delinquency.” Henry Malcolm, collector at the port, remained in office until 1814 (New York Columbian, 30 July 1814; Vol. 33:673).

Smith’s 14 Dec. response to TJ, recorded in SJL as received the next day, has not been found.

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