Thomas Jefferson Papers

Alexander McRae to Thomas Jefferson, 21 October 1809

From Alexander McRae

Richmond, 21st Oct., 1809

Dear Sir,

IT IS but a poor return I make for the friendship you have shewn to me, when I put you on your guard against a scoundrel.

If your leisure had permitted, it was my intention this day, in the course of conversation, to have communicated the information I shall now give you, and I would yet prefer a verbal communication, because it might be more full and satisfactory, than it can now be, writing as I do in great haste, but that will be impossible, as, at day-break tomorrow morning I shall be obliged to go on my way to Petersburg.

I think it my duty to guard you against the insidiousness and perfidy of the Sycophant and Hypocrite William W. Hening, the brother in law of the noted Henry Banks. I think it the more my duty, because I observed to-day, the obsequiousness and apparent good will, with which he approached you on the Porticoe of the Swan-tavern: He was pale however, and he trembled, for he saw that I was present, and he knew that I could and ought to disclose what would sink him forever in your estimation.

During the summer 1808, speaking of your administration, W. W. Hening said to me in presence of John Heth of the Council, that some of your appointments were worse than those made by either of your Predecessors, and by way of example he mentioned two. The first was, the appointment of Mr. Trist to some office at Natchez, made as he said, “to get rid of a Hanger-on.” The second was the appointment of Doctor Bache: Concerning this latter appointment he observed, “that Doctor Bache was insolvent, and that Mr. Randolph your son in law was bound as his security for £1000. or more, which he would have been obliged to pay without the possibility of being reimbursed, but that you found it convenient to give the Doctor a lucrative Office.” He added, “that he cared not a damn who might know this to be his opinion, for he had proclaimed it at a tavern in Charlottesville, and he doubted not it had been immediately conveyed to you, (then at Monticello) and that consequently he had been put down on the black-book.”

Let this man say what he may, his calumnies can never merit your attention, further than as they may serve to guard you against him. It is for that purpose only, that I have troubled you with this communication, for my contempt and execration of his character are such, as to deprive me of any other motive for making the communication.

Believe me, Sir, while I may not have been the foremost among those who have given praise, you have no fellow-citizen who more highly admires the general course of your administration than I do. I do indeed believe it to be the best with which God ever blessed the People of any Country, and for the great good you have done, you shall always have my best prayer for your health and happiness.

Al: McRae

N. B. I stated the fact I have now communicated in the presence of four Republican members of the State Legislature, Messrs. Sebrell and Curry of the Senate, and Messrs. Yerby and Sherman of the House of Delegates, where John Heth also was present, and he affirmed the statement to be correct.

A: McR.

Printed in Jefferson Correspondence, Bixby description begins Worthington C. Ford, ed., Thomas Jefferson Correspondence Printed from the Originals in the Collections of William K. Bixby, 1916 description ends , 187–9; endorsement given as “Recd. Oct. 21.” and so recorded in SJL.

McRae abused henry banks in an earlier letter (McRae to TJ, 14 Feb. 1809 [DLC]). Hore Browse trist was the deceased son of TJ’s friend Elizabeth Trist (note to Elizabeth Trist to TJ, 22 Mar. 1809).

In June 1802 TJ appointed William bache, a grandson of Benjamin Franklin, to establish a marine hospital in Spanish-controlled New Orleans. In October of the same year Bache mortgaged Thomas Mann randolph his Albemarle County property called Franklin, and he departed for New Orleans in April 1803. Despite the failure of his New Orleans mission, Bache secured an appointment from TJ as surveyor and inspector for the port of Philadelphia in 1804 (Jane Flaherty Wells, “Thomas Jefferson’s Neighbors: Hore Browse Trist of ‘Birdwood’ and Dr. William Bache of ‘Franklin,’” MACH description begins Magazine of Albemarle County History, 1940– description ends 47 [1989]: 1–13; W. E. Rooney, “Thomas Jefferson and the New Orleans Marine Hospital,” Journal of Southern History 22 [1956]: 167–82; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:471, 473 [12, 20 Nov. 1804]; Albemarle Co. Deed Book, 14:389–91).

Index Entries

  • Bache, William; appointment search
  • Banks, Henry; attacked by A. McRae search
  • Banks, Henry; mentioned search
  • Currie, Ellison search
  • Hening, William Waller; criticized by A. McRae search
  • Heth, John search
  • McRae, Alexander; and H. Banks search
  • McRae, Alexander; criticizes W. W. Hening search
  • McRae, Alexander; letters from search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); buys land from W. Bache search
  • Sebrell, Nicholas search
  • Shearman (Sherman), Martin search
  • Swan Tavern (Richmond); TJ lodges at search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1775–1804); collector at New Orleans search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1775–1804); W. W. Hening on search
  • Yerby, William search