Thomas Jefferson Papers

Leonard Jewett to Thomas Jefferson, 28 July 1809

From Leonard Jewett

Athens State of Ohio July 28th 1809

Dr Sir

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—

I am Sir your Obdt humble Servant

Leonard Jewett

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 [1869], 272–4).

1For emphasis Jewett or someone else rendered this sentence in a distinctive style.

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