Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Austin, Jr., 28 June 1803

To Benjamin Austin, Jr.

Washington June 28. 1803.


I have to acknowledge the reciept, some time ago, of a volume from you, the papers of which I had before read as they appeared under the signature of Old South, and had read with uncommon satisfaction. a sacred devotion to the natural rights of man, and to the principles of representative government which offers the fairest chance of preserving them, with an intrepidity bidding defiance to every thing which was not reason, had already marked the author as one of the valuable advocates of human nature.   it is with pleasure I offer my portion of the tribute due for your pure & disinterested exertions in the general behalf, and, with my thanks for the volume sent, I tender you the assurances of my high esteem & respect

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Benjamin Austin esq.”

Benjamin Austin, Jr. (1752–1820), Boston-born Republican and brother of Jonathan Loring Austin, published a series of 13 letters in 1786 in the Boston Independent Chronicle and later included many of them in a pamphlet, Observations on the Pernicious Practice of the Law. Writing under the pseudonym “Honestus,” he argued for simplification of the legal process by a greater reliance on judges and juries than on lawyers. In 1787, 1789 to 1794, and 1796, he served in the Massachusetts Senate where he had been an outspoken advocate of New England fisheries and influenced TJ’s own report on the subject in 1791. Although part of the colonial Massachusetts mercantile elite, Austin espoused Jeffersonian republicanism and allied himself with the urban artisan population, advocating in newspaper essays written under the pseudonym “Old South” for such reforms as rotation in office and elimination of the national debt. In a recess appointment in 1803, TJ named Austin commissioner of loans for Massachusetts (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; 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 , 1:476; Vol. 19:148–51, Vol. 38:124, 126n).

a volume from you: Austin’s Constitutional Republicanism, in Opposition to Fallacious Federalism; as Published Occasionally in the Independent Chronicle, Under the Signature of Old-South (Boston, 1803; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3534).

Index Entries