Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Bacon, 3 March 1803

From John Bacon

March 3d. 1803.

J Bacon presents his respectful regards to the President of the United States—wishes him a long, a useful, and a happy life—that he may be richly endowed with that wisdom which is from above, with that prudence which is profitable to direct, and with that integrity and uprightness which shall still preserve him; and that as his day is, so may his strength be.

RC (DLC); addressed: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.

A native of Connecticut, John Bacon (1738–1820) graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1765 and worked as an itinerant Presbyterian minister before assuming the pulpit of Boston’s Old South Church in 1771. His short tenure there was marred by controversies over his orthodox Calvinism and suspicions that he was a Tory sympathizer. Denied another pulpit, Bacon settled in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he prospered as a farmer, became a successful politician, and trained in the law. He represented Stockbridge in the state house of representatives and senate for many terms and served for four years as chief justice of the court of common pleas for Berkshire County. During the 1778 convention called to draft a state constitution, he delivered a long, forceful address opposing a clause that barred Indians and citizens of African descent from voting. When the Massachusetts legislature debated Virginia’s resolutions against the Alien and Sedition Acts in February 1799, Bacon was the lone senator to vote against the legislature’s final report in support of the Acts, a stance that prompted one Federalist newspaper to dub him derisively “the Nay” and that likely contributed to his defeat in the state elections held two months later. In 1801, he won a runoff election to represent Massachusetts’s first western district in the Seventh Congress, his only term in federal office (James McLachlan, Princetonians, 1748–1768: A Biographical Dictionary [Princeton, 1976], 479–82; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; George H. Moore, Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts [New York, 1866], 187–91; Northampton, Mass., Hampshire Gazette, 20 Feb. 1799; Boston Columbian Centinel, 24 Apr. 1799; Michael J. Dubin, United States Congressional Elections, 1788–1997: The Official Results of the Elections of the 1st through 105th Congresses [Jefferson, N.C., 1998], 22–3).

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