Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 16 June 1803

From Albert Gallatin

June 16th 1803

Dear Sir

I enclose a sketch of the conditions on which the salt springs on Wabash may be offered—also T. Coxe’s answer respecting the purveyorship. Please to examine the conditions of the lease & to suggest alterations. I will call tomorrow, in order to explain the reasons of some of them & receive your decision, after which I will make an official report.

I received last night a private letter from New York, in which E. Livingston’s defalcation is spoken of as a matter of public notoriety in that city. I suspected as much from the last letter from Gelston & answered rather angrily. His letters & copy of my last answer are enclosed. The copy of mine of the 21st April I cannot find; it was short but very explicit. A resignation or removal must unavoidably follow; and I apprehend an explosion. But, at all events, a successor should be immediately provided. Will you have any objection to write to D. W. Clinton or shall I do it? I would prefer that he should be requested to mention the names of two or three persons; and he must be told that talents & legal knowledge sufficient to defend the suits of the U. States & integrity that may hereafter secure us against any danger or even imputation of want of caution, are absolutely necessary. I think no time ought to be lost; and if we had a successor ready I would propose an immediate appointment; for by the law every bond unpaid must on the day after it has become due be lodged in hands of the dist. attorney and no day passes without several being there placed.

With sincere respect & attachment Your obedt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); addressed: “The President”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 16 “Jan.” and “salt springs. T. Coxe E. Livingston” and so recorded in SJL but at 16 June. Enclosures not found.

salt springs on wabash: at TJ’s urging, on 3 Mch. Congress appropriated $3,000 for the establishment of salt works at the Wabash site (see TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 18 Jan., second letter).

In July 1802, Israel Whelen informed Gallatin of his plans to resign the purveyorship in the coming year. At that time, both the Treasury secretary and the president agreed that Tench Coxe should be offered the position. After some hesitation, Coxe accepted the appointment and took office as purveyor of public supplies in August 1803 (Jacob E. Cooke, Tench Coxe and the Early Republic [Chapel Hill, 1978], 404–5, 415; Vol. 38:122, 123n, 156; Gallatin to TJ, 21 June, first letter).

official report: see Gallatin to TJ, 22 June.

For livingston’s defalcation, see Vol. 38:122, 123n. In July 1802, Gallatin wrote TJ that he had evidence that Edward Livingston was recovering monies from bonds put in suit “& not paying the same to the Collector” (same).

or shall i do it: Gallatin wrote DeWitt Clinton a confidential letter on 17 June, explaining that Livingston, the district attorney, had “on various occasions neglected to pay over, the proceeds of impost bonds which he had recovered.” As a consequence, credit had been refused at the custom house to persons who had actually paid their bonds. Livingston had not provided David Gelston, the collector, with “a precise account of the situation of bonds put in suit,” although he had been “repeatedly pressed to state it.” Livingston’s conduct, Gallatin asserted, was due either to “extreme carelessness or to a misapplication of the public monies.” In either case, he could not continue in office. Even if an investigation indicated that what had taken place “was owing to want of arrangement & to neglect; yet, as all bonds remaining unpaid must, by law, be placed in his hands, and as dist. attornies give no security, the same danger would be perpetually incurred & might lead to an ultimate loss of money.” Gallatin invited Clinton to provide the names of two or three lawyers qualified for the office, in whom “a perfect reliance” could be placed as to their “integrity & correctness in money affairs.” Although the office was worth only $1,000 to $1,500, it required “no inconsiderable share of talents” and “a great portion of the attorney’s attention.” Gallatin also proposed that Clinton, if his relationship with Livingston allowed, go to him and explain the situation. The administration wanted to avoid an “explosion,” but public duty demanded that Livingston give “an immediate statement of his accounts & a prompt payment of any balance” in his hands. A “regard to his own character & to his future prospects,” Gallatin observed, “may induce him to do this quietly and without exposing himself to public animadversion; and, provided that the same effect shall be produced, that mode will be the most pleasing to me.” Finally, Gallatin asked Clinton to consult with Gelston, share parts of the letter with him, and advise him on the steps he should take “to bring Mr L. to an account.” Gallatin had already written to the collector “confidentially but very peremptorily, to act immediately” on the subject (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 8:446).

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