Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 11 August 1803

From Albert Gallatin

New York 11th August 1803

Dear Sir

I arrived here after a long & tedious journey & found the yellow fever in the city: I did not stay in it & am in the country two miles from town.

I must confess that I do not see the necessity of writing the intended letter to Duane. Unforeseen circumstances may produce alterations in your present view of the subject, & if you should hereafter think proper to act on a plan somewhat different from that you now consider as the best, a commitment would prove unpleasant. Nor is it probable that abstract reasoning, or even a statement of facts already known to them, will make converts of men under the influence of passions or governed by self interest. Either a schism will take place, in which case the leaders of those men would divide from us, or time and the good sense of the people will of themselves cure the evil. I have reason to believe that the last will happen & that the number of malcontents is not very considerable & will diminish.

Should you however conclude to write, I think Duane greatly preferable to Scott. Clay is his intimate friend & the only man of superior weight & talents who appears to be closely united with Leib & Duane. Clay will during the course of next session become intimately connected with ourselves & the majority of Congress; he will I am confident be perfectly reconciled to us & feel the necessity, when all the important measures shall meet with his approbation, not to divide on account of some slight difference of opinion in points of trifling comparative importance: and it is highly probable that Duane, who may be misled by vanity & by his associates, but whose sincere republicanism I cannot permit myself to doubt, will adhere to us, when his best friend shall have taken a decided part. Although I do not consider a commitment to him eligible, it appears vastly preferable to one to Scott.

If a letter shall be written, I think that, if possible, it should be much shorter than your draft, & have perhaps less the appearance of apology. The irresistible argument, to men disposed to listen to argument, appears to me to be, the perfect approbation given by the republicans to all the leading measures of Government, & the inference that men who are disposed, under those circumstances, to asperse administration, seem to avow that the hard struggle of so many years was not for the purpose of securing our republican institutions & of giving a proper direction to the operations of Government, but for the sake of a few paltry offices—offices not of a political & discretionary nature, but mere inferior administrative offices of profit.+

The information I have received respecting E. Livingston is still more decisive than what I had at Washington: the enclosed copy of a letter from Mr Osgood will show that he is also a delinquent on suits brought by order of the Supervisor: Mr Gelston informs me that he has not yet paid the whole of the balance which he acknowledges to be due by him; and he adds that he feels a conviction that the return made by Livingston is untrue & of course the balance in his hands much larger than what he acknowledges. It is only by personal application to the persons indebted on bonds put in suit that the true state of his accounts can be ascertained: this will be done & can be done only by a successor in office. I have sent word to DeWitt Clinton who is on Long Island to try to come to me to day or to morrow: at all events the commission to N. Sanford will be delivered in the course of this week.

I enclose the answer of Oliver Phelps recommending Robert Lee as collector of Niagara. If you shall approve and are still of opinion that the son of General Irvine is the proper person to be appointed surveyor of the port of Buffaloe Creek which is to be annexed, as a port of delivery to the District of Niagara, the commissions may be issued; but I do not recollect young Irvine’s christian name. The denominations of office will be

Collector of the District of Niagara

Surveyor of the port of Buffaloe Creek

and each of them must have another commission vizt.

Inspector of the revenue for the port of Niagara

 Do do Buffaloe creek.

It is also necessary that you should determine on the application of T. Reddick for the office of Register of the land office at Mobile, being the same for which E. Kirby has a blank commission. Will you be good enough to inform me whenever he (Mr Kirby), Robert Williams, &          Nicholas of Kentucky shall have expressed their determination to accept the offices of commissioners, as it is necessary for me to transmit to them some instructions & to make the arrangements for the payment of their salary.

At the request of Doctr. Hunter of Philadelphia I enclose his application which may hereafter deserve attention.

The Bank of the U. States has immediately & chearfully expressed its readiness to lend us the 1,785,000 dollars wanted to complete the intended payment of the american debts assumed by the Treaty with France.

Mr Lyman of Massachusetts is a determined applicant for the Government of Louisiana. As an early, decided, active & persecuted republican he has great claims; but his pretensions are high & he is not accommodating.

I have seen Mr King, but in presence of a third person & could have but a general conversation. In the course of that he incidentally mentioned that the idea of selling Louisiana was, four weeks before the treaty, assimilated at Paris with the sale of Dunkirk by Charles the 2d; and that Mr Livingston had not at that time the least expectation of success. I will return his visit to morrow & may obtain some other information.

With sincere respect & attachment Your obedt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 17 Aug. and “answr. to ward commees—E. Livingston.—Lee Collectr Niagara Irvin Survr. Buffalo port.—Riddick register Mobile bank US. lends money—Lyman Govr N. Orleans” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Oliver Phelps to Gallatin, Canandaigua, 23 July 1803, recommending Robert Lee of Niagara as customs collector; he is a man of “Integrity & Capacity” who will “discharge the Duties of that Office to the Satisfaction of the Government” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Lee Robert to be Collector Niagara”). (2) Michael Baldwin to Gallatin, 18 July (see note to Thomas F. Riddick to TJ, 15 July). (3) George Hunter to TJ, 2 Aug. 1803. Other enclosures not found. Enclosed in TJ to Madison, 18 Aug.

yellow fever in the city: on 11 Aug., the New York Morning Chronicle reported that in the preceding three days 47 new cases had been documented by the Committee of Health and eight more deaths confirmed. A mass evacuation took place, especially along the waterfront where the fever was concentrated. Over one-third of the population fled, reducing the number of inhabitants to fewer than 40,000. By the time the epidemic had run its course, 1,639 cases had led to 606 deaths, far fewer than the 2,086 lives lost in 1798. Mayor Edward Livingston was among those who contracted the fever (John Duffy, A History of Public Health in New York City: 1625-1866 [New York, 1968], 110-11; Sidney I. Pomerantz, New York, An American City, 1783-1803: A Study of Urban Life [New York, 1938], 346).

leonard the store keeper: Dearborn recommended William Linnard, of Philadelphia, as military agent for the middle department, on 9 Apr. 1802. He was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate later in the month (see Vol. 37:194-5, 325, 349).

With TJ’s approval, Gallatin wrote Republican congressman-elect oliver phelps seeking a recommendation for collector at Niagara. son of general irvine: Callender Irvine. Gallatin had informed the president in June that the organization of the district of niagara, approved by Congress in 1799, could no longer be postponed (first letter at Gallatin to TJ, 21 June, and TJ to Gallatin, 22 June).

For the appointment of Robert C. nicholas of kentucky, see Memorandum to James Madison, 12 July.

payment of american debts: as one condition for the acquisition of Louisiana, the United States agreed to pay, during the ensuing year, up to $3,750,000 to American citizens for their claims on France. In his October 1803 report to Congress, Gallatin noted that $2,000,000 had been appropriated and was in the Treasury for “defraying the extraordinary expenses incident to the intercourse with foreign nations.” For the rest of the settlement, he recommended that the president be authorized to borrow up to $1,750,000 at an interest rate not to exceed six percent (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Finance, 2:48-9).

The application of William lyman has not been found, but he wrote Gallatin again on 18 Oct. regarding “the object I so fully communicated to you relative to my self.” Lyman requested that the Treasury secretary relieve him from “a continued State of suspense” and inform him as soon as “the sentiments & determination of the President” were known (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Lyman Wm. to mr Gallatin. for office”). For the administration’s efforts to find a position for Lyman, see Vol. 38:51, 52n, 169n; Vol. 39:149, 151.

The sale of dunkirk to France in 1662 infuriated the British public. Charles II found the port expensive to maintain and difficult to defend, but the general public thought it unpatriotic and mercenary to sell Oliver Cromwell’s greatest foreign acquisition. British merchants feared it once again would be used as a base for privateering (Ronald Hutton, Charles the Second: King of England, Scotland, and Ireland [Oxford, 1989], 184-5; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 5:324-5n).

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

º +There is one mistake in your draft. Leonard the store keeper is appointed by the Secy. of war & not by the President

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