Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, 1 June 1803

To Levi Lincoln

June 1 1803.

Th:J. to mr Lincoln.

On reading a paragraph in the N.Y. Evening post, I took up my pen to write a squib on it; but the subject ran away with me till I found I had written a treatise. it is one on which I have a great desire to reconcile the parties among the republicans, & the paragraph in the post seemed to offer an occasion of taking just ground, & introducing a public discussion of it, on which I have no doubt the opinion of all candid men would settle together with that of the executive. the interest I take in the question made me willing to hazard a few lines for the press, altho’ I have thro’ life1 scrupulously refrained from it; insomuch that this is but the second instance of my being willing to depart from my rule. I have written it under the character of a Massachusets citizen, with a view to it’s appearing in a paper there; the Chronicle I suppose is most read, but how to get it there, divested of the evidence of my handwriting? think of this if you please; correct the paper also to make it what it should be, & we will talk of it the first time we meet. friendly salutations, & religious silence about it.

P.S. it probably requires considerable pruning to adopt it to the character and feelings of a Massachusets writer. of this you can judge best, and will be so good as to perform the operation with severity.

RC (DLC). PrC (DLC); lacks postscript.

but the second instance: TJ may have thought of his piece on Connecticut politics printed by Samuel H. Smith as a recent departure from the rule (see Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power, Party Operations, 1801–1809 [Chapel Hill, 1963], 256; TJ to Smith, 21 May).

divested of the evidence of my handwriting: Lincoln undoubtedly made a copy of TJ’s essay, which he then submitted to the Boston Independent Chronicle for publication, but it has not been found. No notice of the piece was taken after its appearance in the 27 June issue, indicating that TJ’s authorship was not suspected at the time. Lincoln returned TJ’s manuscript; both the original and press copy are in TJ’s papers (see Enclosure below). For other examples of TJ using an amanuensis to keep his authorship a secret, see Vol. 29:491–3 and Vol. 30:529–35, 549n.

Instead of considerable pruning, a concluding paragraph was added to TJ’s essay (see note 18 at Enclosure printed below). Perhaps Lincoln and TJ composed it together, but no evidence has been found to indicate TJ’s involvement.

1 TJ here canceled “carefully.”

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