Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Polk, 15 November 1803

From William Polk

Somerset County Maryland
Novbr. the. 15 1803


The warm Attachment1 I feel to your Person and Principles, as displayed in your Administration I hope will be Accepted as my excuse for troubling you with this Address—

I have lately seen an Address signed by a Number of Gentlemen Residing in Worcester County Maryland directed to the Secretary of the Treasury, Soliciting the Removal of William Selby the present Collector of the district of Snow hill from Office, and Recommending John Cutler Esqr to fill his place.—I beg leave to State to you Sir, That I am intimately acquainted with all the Gentlemen who have signed that address, and know them to be of Unblemished Reputation, warmly attached to the present Administration, and the measures persued by them, And I firmly believe the facts Stated by them are true.—I beg leave further to State that I am well acquainted with Mr. Selby, and know him to be as implacable, and Riveted an Enemy, to the present Administration, as any in the United States, Agreeably to his Abilities, which indeed must be Confest are Very Small, but are Nevertheless Constantly employed when he thinks he Can have the least influence in Rendering Odious every Salutory Public measure—

Should you think it proper to displace him, I have no hesitation in Recommending Mr. Cutler to fill the place, I believe him to be a man of Integrity well furnished to fill the office with advantage to the Public, and Honor to himself—

May you Continue long And be amply Supported in pursuing measures such as hath hitherto blest your Country and endeared you to every true american

I am my Good Sir with sentiments of the greatest esteem for and Veneration of your Talents and Virtues

William Polk Chief Justice of

The 4th. Maryland district—

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 29 Nov. and “Cutler John to be Collectr. distr. of Snohill v. Willm Selby for active federalism &c” and so recorded in SJL, where it is connected by a brace with that from Joseph H. Nicholson of 29 Nov.

Son of Elizabeth Gillis and David Polk, a planter in Somerset County, Maryland, William Polk (1752-1812) became an attorney. He represented Somerset County in the state’s lower house in 1777 and again in 1797. In 1801, John F. Mercer introduced Polk to the president as a steadfast Republican in a Federalist stronghold on the Eastern Shore. Polk was appointed chief justice of Maryland’s Fourth Judicial District in 1802, a position he held until his death. In 1806, he also began serving as judge of the court of appeals (Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson, eds., A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, 2 vols. [Baltimore, 1979-85], 1:76; 2:654-5; Baltimore Republican; or, Anti-Democrat, 6 Feb. 1802; Baltimore Federal Gazette, 11 Dec. 1812; Vol. 36:225-6).

i have lately seen an address: 13 residents of the port of Snow Hill, including Joshua Pudeaux, Samuel A. Harper, Matthew Hopkins, Edward Robins, and James B. Robins, signed an undated address to Gallatin. They noted that according to law, the collector for the district was to reside at Snow Hill, but William Selby, the present collector, lived five or six miles away. Calling first at Snow Hill and then at his residence, masters and owners of vessels were “either altogether disappointed, or met with considerable Delay in transacting their Business.” Selby always hired deputies who were opposed to the administration and the person he frequently appointed lived at least 12 miles from the inlet where vessels usually received their cargo. The subscribers recommended John Cutler as a man of integrity and character who resided at Snow Hill, served as a justice of the peace, and was “fully qualified to the Discharge of the Duties.” Republicans in the district would welcome his appointment (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR).

On 8 Nov., Polk wrote the Treasury secretary, endorsing the call from Snow Hill residents for Selby’s removal. Polk asserted, “I have no question but the man ought to be Removed upon every Principle.” He endorsed Cutler as “a man of Integrity and abilities far superior to the present Collector And friendly to the present administration” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ: “Cutler John to be Collector of Snowhill. Polk to mr Gallatin”).

1MS: “Attachmen.”

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