From Leonard Jewett
Athens State of Ohio July 28th 1809
You will probably think it very extraordinary in an individual unknown to you, to take the Liberty of addressing a Letter to you—Nothing but the importance of the enquiry, & the Confidence I have in your Judgement, to answr it would ever have induced me to take the Liberty—The Subject on which I crave your Opinion is simply this—
Have the Judges of our high Judicial Courts the right of declaring a Law unconstitutional Null & Void, whenever the Law is manifestly at Variance with the Constitution?—1
This question Sir, has agitated our State for two or three years, & still threatens us with unpleasant forebodings—It has divided the Republicans into two Contending parties a thing much to be deprecated, at the present Moment,—We have hitherto had a very remarkable and uprecedented unanimity of Sentement prevailing on the subject of Politics, & I very much fear that a division will take place, unless some salutary antidote can be found—Having been several years a member of the Ohio Legislature, I felt very anxious to have your Opinion, which Sir if you will be so good as to give me, I shall ever consider it as a distinguished mark of your favor—
RC (CSmH: JF-BA); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Aug. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.
Leonard Jewett (1770–1816), a native of Littleton County, Massachusetts, received medical training in Boston, worked in a New York hospital, moved to Ohio in 1802, and settled in the town of Athens by 1805. Jewett served in the Ohio state senate, 1806–11, and was a military surgeon during the War of 1812 (Charles M. Walker, History of Athens County, Ohio , 272–4).
1. For emphasis Jewett or someone else rendered this sentence in a distinctive style.