Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from DeWitt Clinton, 26 November 1803

From DeWitt Clinton

New York 26 Novr. 1803.


I take the liberty of recalling to your mind the appointing Pierre C. Van Wyck a Commissioner of Bankruptcy vice Mr. Sandford District Atty. who has or will resign

The enclosed papers were put into my hands by a friend for perusal—and as they disclose some extraordinary proceedings I have thought it a duty I owe to you to transmit them for your perusal at a leisure moment—In doing this I do not mean to enter into the merits of the subject or to interfere in any other shape than to solicit your application of a corrective to an evil if any should be found to exist—Mr Wolstonecraft is a Citizen of this state.

A certain gentleman was to leave this place yesterday Morning—He has been very active in procuring information as to his probable success for Governor at the next election—This I believe is his intention at present altho’ it is certain that if the present Govr. will consent to be a candidate he will prevail by an immense majority. Upon this subject I am sorry to inform you that I recd. a confidential letter from him mentioning his intention to decline: as this is known to nobody but one or two intimate friends1 and as it is of great consequence that he should not persist in this determination, I am in hopes that he may be prevailed upon to change it. Perhaps a letter from you may be of singular service

I am most respectfully Your most obedt servt.

DeWitt Clinton

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the U.S.”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Nov. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found.

recalling to your mind: see Clinton to TJ, 7 Sep.

Evidently the enclosed papers concerned charges brought against Lieutenant Charles Wollstonecraft, the younger brother of Mary Wollstonecraft, who was stationed at Fort Jay on Governor’s Island in New York harbor. Major George Ingersoll, the commander at Fort Jay, charged Wollstonecraft with disobedience of orders and neglect of duty, citing, along with other examples, his failure to act as judge advocate to a general court-martial. Ingersoll also charged Wollstonecraft with “scandalous & infamous conduct,” including attempts to undermine the confidence and authority of his commanding officer by addressing embarrassing notes to Ingersoll and defaming his character in front of visiting officers. The lieutenant was also charged with entertaining prostitutes while acting as commanding officer at the garrison, “living in common with one of them for some time.” Wollstonecraft brought countercharges, accusing Ingersoll of profiting by selling milk in the garrison. In September, Dearborn directed Thomas H. Cushing, adjutant general and inspector of the army, to bring both men to trial by court-martial. The court found Wollstonecraft guilty and reprimanded him for disrespect to his commanding officer. Wollstonecraft was promoted to captain in 1806 and to major in 1813. Ingersoll submitted his resignation in late 1804 instead of accepting a transfer to New Orleans (Memoirs of Gen. Joseph Gardner Swift, LL.D., U.S.A., First Graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, Chief Engineer U.S.A. from 1812 to 1818. 1800-1865 [Worcester, Mass., 1890], 41-4; Jacob Kingsbury, Orderly Book, 16 Mch. 1804, NHi: Jacob Kingsbury Papers; 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 , 1:411, 414, 415, 434, 479; 2:23, 27, 480, 508; Dearborn to Cushing, 14 Sep., 13 Oct.; Dearborn to Wollstonecraft, 24 Dec. 1803, all in Lb in DNA: RG 107: MLS; Washington Federalist, 28 Dec. 1803; Boston Columbian Centinel, 7 Jan. 1804).

certain gentleman: Aaron Burr. The confidential letter from George Clinton to his nephew was dated 26 Nov. The governor declared that the factors that had previously influenced his decision to run for office no longer existed. Because the “Cause of Republicanism” was so well established “as not to require any new sacrifice,” he intended to decline a bid for reelection (Craig Hanyan, De Witt Clinton: Years of Molding, 1769-1807 [New York, 1988], 278-9, 314n).

1Preceding six words interlined.

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