Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Gamble, 25 October 1803

From James Gamble

Philadelphia Octr. 25th. 1803


In taking the liberty of transmitting a private letter to the President of the United States, I wished that I had nothing of my personal interest to mention, and that it were dictated only to discharge the duty of my private homage to the best friend to our Country, This we all cherish by native inclination and to the other, every one of us must at last feel much indebted, with confidence however I thought I might humbly request from your Excellency, the favour of being considered as a Candidate for the office of Surveyor or Naval Officer of the Port of Philadelphia, My long residence in this port, a long Experiance in Navigation, and my numerous Mercantile Connections, together with the approbation of my fellow Citizens in all our political Contests, all these Circumstances have Suggested to me that your favour of such appointment would not perhaps be much imbittered for me by the stings of envy, Those Offices, I know were long ago filled up, nor do I presume to Suggest Changes, or wish for any beyound What can be in the eventual rotation of the Public servants or accidental events in life, and what is thought proper by the Wisdom of the Executive. but in Justice to myself and to my family it is perhaps a duty to Aspire to distant or future advantages, as much as I was happy in the discharge of the duties of a good Citizen. Still happier do I feel at present, in having the Oppertunity of Subscribing my w[ish] and my prayer for the prolongation of your life and the Glory of your Administration, with

Profound respect I am your Excellency’s Most Obt. Servt

James Gamble

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); frayed at margin; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Prest. of the U. States”; endorsement partially torn away but recorded in SJL as received 29 Oct. and “to be Survr. or Navl. Off. Phila.”

James Gamble (d. 1813), a Philadelphia merchant at 200 Spruce Street, began his career as a ship captain. On 20 Nov. 1800, Gamble was elected chairman and William Duane secretary of a Republican meeting at the state house, where resolutions were passed advocating a joint rather than concurrent vote in the general assembly to give the Republican-dominated house power to select the state’s 15 presidential electors. In 1801, Gamble won election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and in 1802 to the senate. In the growing Republican factionalism in Philadelphia, Gamble alienated Duane and Michael Leib, the radical or Democratic Republicans, and sided with Thomas McKean and Alexander J. Dallas, the more conservative Constitutional Republicans or Quids. As a state senator in 1805, he voted against the Republican-led impeachment and trial of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices. When McKean appointed Gamble an auctioneer for the city of Philadelphia later in the year, Duane charged it was because he “voted for the acquittal of the judges.” Gamble’s business partners included Caspar Rehn, an active Republican, and John McIlhenney. McKean appointed Gamble to a vacancy on the Board of Health in 1808 (Philadelphia Aurora, 19, 22 Nov. 1800, 1 Oct. 1804, 9, 16 Nov. 1805; Philadelphia Gazette & Daily Advertiser, 14 Oct. 1801, 16 Nov. 1802; Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 15 Oct. 1801, 21 Aug., 18 Sep. 1805, 20 Sep. 1813, 27 Apr. 1814; Philadelphia Evening Post, 19 May 1804; Philadelphia United States Gazette, 18 Sep. 1805, 26 Aug. 1807; James Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory for 1806 [Philadelphia, n.d.], s.v. “Gamble, James,” “Gamble and Rehn,” “Gamble and M’Ilhenney”; Andrew Shankman, Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism & Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania [Lawrence, Kan., 2004], 96-103, 131-5; Sanford W. Higginbotham, The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics 1800–1816 [Harrisburg, 1952], 77-105; Harry Marlin Tinkcom, The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania 1790-1801: A Study in National Stimulus and Local Response [Harrisburg, 1950], 250; Vol. 32:307-10).

For an earlier recommendation in favor of Gamble as naval officer at Philadelphia, see Vol. 35:57n.

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