Thomas Jefferson Papers

William A. Burwell to Thomas Jefferson, 16 February 1810

From William A. Burwell

Washington February 16th 1810

Dr Sir,

Your letter in answer to my enquiries relative to the medal Voted Genl Lee by Congress has been some time since received & will be used, by the President in the manner he thinks proper; The impression made on my mind in that part of it which authorises me to use it as I find proper, connected with what has previously passed upon the Subject, was, that I had embarked in an enquiry which had been satisfactorily answer’d on former occasions, & that I had used arguments which implied a want of confidence in your former declarations; If I had entertained the smallest suspicion of what has passed about this subject I should have been the last man in the world to write you;—but I declare most solemly I was totally ignorant, & if I supposed young Mr Lee was not equally so, should feel injured in being his instrument in an application under circumstances which must necessarily make it offensive; The character of young Lee, & his general correctness induce me to think he has been misled by the intelligence of his Father—I cannot suppose for a moment you could imagine me capable of using a letter from you to your prejudice, every motive of affection & every feeling of gratitude for your constant & uniform kindness to me, would forbid such an inclination; It has been my Sincere desire on the contrary to bear testimony on all occasions to the purity of your heart, & the disinterestedness of your conduct—

You may probably have seen the indications in the public prints of the unfortunate feuds which have arisen among the members of the Cabinet; they have been anxiously suppressed by those who wish well to the Republican party; but I fear they have become serious, & cannot be much longer restraind by those who feel the importance of harmony— I know that efforts have been made, & that they are as yet unavailing; I incline very strongly to the opinion that federalists have had the principal agency in promoting this division, or at least men who are hostile to the Administration the various letters publishd particularly in the (Va) argus, have been ascribed to Colvin, who is said to write under the patronage & with the approbation of the Secretary of State—this suspicion so unreasonable has nevertheless Seizd on the mind of Mr G. whose feelings have been operated upon by a just Sensibility1 for his character & reputation which has been thus wantonly & wickedly assail’d— I think all the mischief we are about to experience owes its origin to the intemperance & Zeal of Mr Giles in forming Mr Mns Cabinet—he has never ceased to attack Mr G. & during the present winter has indulged himself in expressions, which a man of less Sense would have suppressd—would it not be well for you to apprise Mr Mn of this subject? state to him the grounds of Mr G. dissatisfaction—& urge him to remove them, by obtaining an explicit disavowal from the Secry of state of any knowledge or countenance to the attacks gainst Mr G—n—

present my respects to your family & believe me Dr Sir most sincerely Your friend

W. A Burwell

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Milton Virginia”; stamped and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 18 Feb. 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

On 2 Feb. 1810 the Richmond Virginia Argus published an open letter to John Randolph of Roanoke by “Camillus” asserting that Albert Gallatin had used his position as secretary of the treasury “to speculate in the funds for his individual benefit,” acquire public lands, and amass a private fortune of $200,000 over the preceding eight years. The piece was generally attributed to John B. colvin, an employee of Secretary of State Robert Smith. On 14 Mar. 1810 the Washington National Intelligencer published Smith’s explicit disavowal of any knowledge of, participation in, or support for the attacks on Gallatin by him or anyone in his department.

1Manuscript: “Sensisibility.”

Index Entries

  • Burwell, William Armistead; and feuds among Republicans search
  • Burwell, William Armistead; and H. Lee’s medal search
  • Burwell, William Armistead; letters from search
  • Colvin, John B.; political writings attributed to search
  • Congress, U.S.; and H. Lee’s medal search
  • Federalist party; blamed for Republican discord search
  • Gallatin, Albert; as secretary of the treasury search
  • Gallatin, Albert; opposes R. Smith search
  • Giles, William Branch; and A. Gallatin search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; attempts to reconcile Republican friends search
  • Lee, Henry (1756–1818); medal voted for search
  • Lee, Henry (1787–1837); and father’s medal search
  • Madison, James; and feuds among Republicans search
  • Madison, James; and H. Lee’s medal search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); and Gallatin-Smith feud search
  • newspapers; Richmond Virginia Argus search
  • patronage; misuse of search
  • Randolph, John (of Roanoke); open letter to mentioned search
  • Republican party; members of feud search
  • Richmond, Va.; Argus search
  • Smith, Robert; opposes A. Gallatin search