Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel Smith (of Maryland) to Thomas Jefferson, 23 July 1809

From Samuel Smith (of Maryland)

Baltimore 23d July 1809

Dr Sir.

Mr Adams has been So polite as to invite my Son, John Spear Smith to accompany him to Russia as a Member of the legation to Petersburg. the oppy was favorable and I hope may be a mean of rendering him capable of serving his Country at Some future day, in the diplomatic line—He goes at his own Expense—It is a great Object that he should be properly introduced. Will it be too great a liberty for me to ask of you letters of introduction to Petersburg, and Paris? if not, I pray you to send those for Russia by the return of Mail, those for Paris, if inconvenient to you now, may be sent after him—I doubt whether his health will permit him to join Mr Adams at Boston, if not he will proceed by way of Hamburg to St Petersburg—

A Report was put in Circulation in this City by Whispers prior to the last session against my Character of the most malicious kind, which I believe was put to Mr Randolph & induced him1 to bring forward his Committee of investigation a Report from the Treasury Dept was made which was calculated to confirm such report, no application was made to the Navy Dept where correct information might have been obtained—fortunately Mr Smiley One of the Committee called on my Brother & informed him of what was doing—in Consequence all was set right & a new report was made, which was with difficulty received by the house—who originated the tale & by whom propagated I will not2 pain you by telling, but it has had an influence in Maryland that may lose us the October Elections—I pray you to Accept assurances of the sincere friendship of Dr sir, Your Obed servt

S. Smith

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 26 July 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Samuel Smith (1752–1839), soldier, merchant, and politician, was born in Pennsylvania but spent most of his life in Baltimore. During the American Revolution he rose to lieutenant colonel in the Continental army, sustained a wound, and received the thanks of Congress before resigning his army commission in 1779 and beginning to amass a fortune through privateering, commerce, and land speculation. Smith represented Maryland in the United States House of Representatives, 1793–1803 and 1816–22, and in the Senate, 1803–15 and 1822–33. Originally a Federalist, he came to be a strong Republican and played an important role in TJ’s election to the presidency. Smith served briefly as acting secretary of the navy in 1801 and was generally supportive of TJ’s policies, but he led a faction that thwarted President James Madison’s desire to appoint Albert Gallatin secretary of state and opposed Gallatin’s fiscal policies. Smith communicated amicably with TJ throughout the retirement years, but his relationship with Madison was always strained. He led the successful defense of Baltimore against British forces in 1814 and served as the city’s mayor, 1835–38 (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 A. Cassell, Merchant Congressman in the Young Republic: Samuel Smith of Maryland, 1752–1839 [1971]; Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and his Time, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends , 4:487–93).

Smith’s son John Spear Smith was one of three secretaries appointed by John Quincy Adams to his Russian legation early in July 1809 (Worthington C. Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, 1892–99, 10 vols. description ends ed., Writings of John Quincy Adams [1913–17], 3:330–1).

Smith’s term in the Senate expired at the end of the Tenth Congress, and his reelection became uncertain when Republican control of the Maryland Senate and Federalist control of the House of Delegates resulted in a deadlock. Governor Robert Wright gave Smith an interim appointment, with the issue to be decided after the October elections changed the state legislature. The long-standing dispute between Gallatin and Smith received new fuel when Gallatin became convinced that the Smith family firm, S. Smith & Buchanan, had used public funds for private investment by withholding government funds exchanged with the firm of Degen & Purviance in Leghorn, Italy. Gallatin published his findings in Baltimore and Republican representative John randolph of Roanoke convened a committee of investigation to examine the pertinent transactions. Nothing untoward was found, and Gallatin’s official report was preempted when Smith’s brother Robert, the secretary of state and formerly the secretary of the navy, called for a reexamination of records in the Navy Department, which concluded that the Degen & Purviance transactions were legitimate in a report announced in the House on 27 June 1809 (Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, 19, 20, 22, 26 June 1809; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers. description ends , 11th Cong., 1st Sess., 61–73, 448 [24 May, 27 June 1809]; Cassell, Merchant Congressman, 146–51; Raymond Walters Jr., Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat [1957], 224–6; Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison, 1941–61, 6 vols. description ends , 5:22–5, 52–4).

1Reworked from “which induced Mr Randolph.”

2Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Congress, U.S.; investigates S. Smith search
  • Degen & Purviance (Leghorn mercantile firm) search
  • Gallatin, Albert; investigation of Degen & Purviance search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction from search
  • Maryland; legislature of search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; congressional committee investigates search
  • Purviance, Samuel search
  • Randolph, John (of Roanoke); heads congressional committee of investigation search
  • Smilie (Smiley), John search
  • Smith, John Spear; as secretary of legation to Russia search
  • Smith, Robert; investigated by congressional committee search
  • Smith, S., & Buchanan (mercantile firm) search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); and letter of introduction for son search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); identified search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); letters from search
  • Treasury Department, U.S.; report on Degen & Purviance search
  • Wright, Robert; as governor of Md. search