Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph H. Nicholson, 10 May 1803

From Joseph H. Nicholson

Chesterfield May 10. 1803


I beg Leave to enclose you a Letter which I received a few Days past from Capt. Jones of Philada. In this I have no Authority from him, but as it may throw some light on a Transaction with which I believe you are already partially acquainted, I have no Doubt he will pardon me. It will discover to you the Reason why you did not receive from the Pennsylvania Delegation, a written Communication, which I understood you were induced to expect.

It is a Circumstance of real Regret, that many of our Friends have discovered so strong an anxiety for office, as to afford too much reason to believe that this was their leading Motive in desiring a Change of administration. Whenever the Views of such Men are developed, Disgrace and Disappointment ought to follow them. As far as my Knowledge extends, I am persuaded the public are satisfied with the Course that has been pursued in Relation to offices, and that it ought not to be abandoned at the will of a few unprincipled Demagogues—

I would not have taken the Liberty of offering these Remarks, but for a Belief that you would be gratified at hearing the Opinions of Men who feel a Pleasure in avowing themselves personally and politically your Friends.

After perusing Capt. Jones’s Letter, I will beg the Favor to have it returned to me, and remain Sir Most respectfully Yr. Ob. Servt.

Joseph H. Nicholson

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 12 May and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

William jones was angered by fellow congressman Michael Leib’s efforts to make banishing all Federalists from public office a test of commitment to the Republican Party. In February 1803, Jones, Andrew Gregg, Robert Brown, John Smilie, John A. Hanna, and Isaac Van Horne, Republican members of the pennsylvania delegation to Congress, drafted and signed a letter to TJ in which they denied that they were dissatisfied with the president because he had failed to dismiss all Federalists from office. They asserted that the calls for removals were restricted to a small minority of their constituents, particularly to those interested in office. Three other Republican congressmen—Leib, William Hoge, and Joseph Hiester—refused to sign the letter. In an effort to gain their approval, a second draft was drawn up. After Leib declined to sign it as well and took a copy of the original letter to Philadelphia for use in organizing ward meetings, the initial signers decided against sending either letter (Raymond Walters, Jr., Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat [New York, 1957], 159–60; Higginbotham, Pennsylvania Politics description begins Sanford W. Higginbotham, The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics 1800–1816, Harrisburg, 1952 description ends , 58–9; Andrew Shankman, Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism & Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania [Lawrence, Kans., 2004], 98–9; William Jones and Others to TJ, 12 Feb. 1803, Dfts in PHi). For both drafts of the letter, dated 12 and 14 Feb., see the Aurora, 6 Aug. 1805. For the ward meetings held in Philadelphia demanding the removal of all Federalists from public office, see Gallatin to TJ, 21 Mch. In March, Jones, who had left Washington before Leib failed to sign the revised letter, wrote Virginia congressman John Randolph: “I am now more than ever convinced of the propriety and necessity of that address to the President, and regret as well as all the respectable independant republicans with whom I have conversed, that the original letter was not sent to the President when the faithless ‘prevaricator’ refused to sign the substitute” (William Jones to John Randolph, 19 Mch. 1803, in PHi).

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