Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Jones, 18 June 1803

To Meriwether Jones

Washington June 18. 1803.

Dear Sir

Altho’ I have made it a point to disregard the various calumnies by which the federalists have endeavored to wound republicanism through me, yet when a respectable man, as Gabriel Jones, comes forward and sets his name to facts candidly stated & calculated the more to raise false impressions as his facts are not Sound, I have thought it would not be amiss that a just statement should be made, in order to satisfy candid minds. I have therefore made the inclosed, thinking I could not do better than commit it to your friendship, to publish it in such form, with such alterations or abridgments as you think proper. whether too as an anonymous communication, or with a feigned name, or as the editor’s own observations is left to yourself as you are sufficiently apprised of the utter impropriety of it’s being in any form which should engage me in that field, or if you think it better to suppress it, I leave it to your judgment. There is no fact in it but what is stated by mr Jones, and the historical references are known to every one, and may most of them be verified by the journals of Congress or proceedings of the Virginia legislature. I pray you to accept assurances of my great esteem & best wishes.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. I will thank you to destroy the original & this letter.

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. Meriwether Jones.” Recorded in SJL with notation “G. Jones.”

Meriwether Jones (1766–1806), a nephew of Martha Wayles Jefferson by marriage, was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Hanover County in 1792 and 1794. After leaving elected office, Jones became involved in partisan newspaper battles. He established two newspapers in Richmond, the strongly Republican Examiner from 1798 to 1803, and the short-lived Press in 1800, as well as the Norfolk Commercial Register from 1802 to 1803. Jones challenged Federalist printers and, according to his obituary, “frequently superintended his press with his pistols within his reach.” Jones became public printer for Virginia in December 1798, but resigned in March 1804 when TJ named him state loan commissioner, a position he held until his death (Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 188, 196; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:1124, 1139, 1141; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States…to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:464, 465; Federal Gazette & Baltimore Daily Advertiser, 16 Apr. 1800; Richmond Enquirer, 22 Aug. 1806; New York Republican Watch-Tower, 2 Sep. 1806; Vol. 31:163–5n, 290n). For the 1802 newspaper war that erupted between Jones and his former employee James T. Callender, see Vol. 38:37–8n.

sets his name to facts: Gabriel Jones had a statement dated 17 Mch. 1803 printed in the Virginia Gazette regarding a loan he made to TJ in 1773 that was repaid in what he deemed to be depreciated currency (see notes to Enclosure printed below).

Jones decided to publish TJ’s account, with only slight variation, in the Richmond Examiner, 25 June 1803. It was reprinted in the National Intelligencer on 1 July 1803. anonymous communication: in the newspapers the article was signed “Timoleon,” alluding to the Greek statesman and general. For TJ’s use of the press as an anonymous presidential mouthpiece, see Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power, Party Operations, 1801–1809 [Chapel Hill, 1963], 255–60.

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