Thomas Jefferson Papers

Augustus B. Woodward to Thomas Jefferson, 25 April 1809

From Augustus B. Woodward

Philadelphia, April 25. 1809.

I have the honor to transmit to you, Sir, a work on the Executive of the United States. In every constitution formed in America, during the æra of the revolution, a council was attached to the executive. It is even a part of the British constitution. The federal constitution is the first without it. It is certainly of less importance in the State governments, than in that of the Union. You are yourself aware, Sir, of the extreme severity of the executive duties. To lessen that severity, without abandoning the advantages of a single executive magistrate, would be desirable. The difficulty of constituting a republican executive, of energy and vigor, without a resort to the monarchical principle of a1 supremacy in one individual, qualified however2 by the elective right, limitation of period, and a veto in one branch of the legislative body, has deterred from the attempt. I do not flatter myself that I have been so happy as to have attained the correct medium in the propositions I have made; but I am certain, Sir, that the clearest refutation of all the principles I have advanced is to be found in your example. My thoughts often follow you to your retirement. It is one which monarchs may envy, and when the most distinguished of them are consigned to oblivion, your name Sir will be grateful to the American ear; and your steady fame reach distant times, and extend to remote countries.

A. B. Woodward.

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esq. Monticello. Virginia”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Apr. 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Considerations on the Executive Government of the United States of America (Flatbush, N.Y., 1809).

Augustus Elias Brevoort Woodward (1774–1827), jurist and political writer, first met TJ in 1795 at Monticello, where he was disappointed by the lack of warmth exhibited by TJ, who treated him as “an entire stranger.” TJ did eventually appoint Woodward judge of the Michigan Territory, a position he held until 1824, and he subsequently became a territorial judge in Florida. Woodward compiled the first publication of Michigan laws in 1806, but his tenure was marked by his opposition to Governor William Hull and a lack of popular support. He wrote on a variety of political and scientific topics, was a civic planner, and helped to found the University of Michigan (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Frank B. Woodford, Mr. Jefferson’s Disciple: A Life of Justice Woodward [1953]; Augustus B. Woodward, “Notes on my Visit to Mr. Jefferson,” 29 July 1796 [typescript in MiD: Augustus B. Woodward Papers]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:483–4 [26 Feb., 1 Mar. 1805]).

Woodward sent a second copy of the enclosed work to TJ with a brief covering letter on 15 May 1809 (RC in DLC; endorsed by TJ as received 24 May 1809 from New York and so recorded in SJL).

1Word interlined in place of “an absolute.”

2Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Considerations on the Executive Government of the United States of America (Woodward) search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Woodward, Augustus E. B. search
  • United States; A. B. Woodward on government of search
  • Woodward, Augustus Elias Brevoort; Considerations on the Executive Government of the United States of America search
  • Woodward, Augustus Elias Brevoort; identified search
  • Woodward, Augustus Elias Brevoort; letters from search
  • Woodward, Augustus Elias Brevoort; letters from accounted for search
  • Woodward, Augustus Elias Brevoort; visits Monticello search