Thomas Jefferson Papers

James T. Austin to Thomas Jefferson, 12 July 1811

From James T. Austin

Boston 12. July 1811.

A citizen who holds in most exalted respect the illustrious character of the late President of the United States begs leave to enclose a pamphlet, written with a view of supporting the laws & constitution of the Country—and seizes this only occassion in his life of expressing the most devoted admiration of

James T Austin.—

RC (DLC); dateline beneath signature; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 28 July 1811 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: “Leolin” [Austin], Resistance to Laws of the United States; considered in four letters to the Honorable Harrison Gray Otis, Esq. Late President of the Senate of Massachusetts (Boston, 1811; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3404; with presentation copy at DLC containing Austin’s inscription on title page: “Thomas Jefferson with the respects Of the Author”), denouncing resolutions made at a Federalist caucus held at Fanueil Hall in Boston on 31 Mar. 1811, including one which declared that the reimposition of commercial nonintercourse with Great Britain, its colonies, and its dependencies would lead “to the ruin or impoverishment of some of the most industrious and meritorious citizens of the United States—and that the only means short of an appeal to force to prevent such a calamity, (which heaven avert) is the election of such men to the various offices in the State Government as will oppose by peaceable but firm measures the execution of laws which if persisted in, MUST AND WILL BE RESISTED!!” (p. 4); criticizing especially caucus leader Harrison Gray Otis for condoning this implicit threat of force; arguing that most Americans would dismiss as ludicrous the idea of resisting a federal statute through violence, yet insisting that any such threat tended to undermine the Constitution and the Union; and concluding (p. 24) that Otis had brought upon himself the “DISGRACE AND RUIN OF PREMEDITATED REBELLION.”

James Trecothick Austin (1784–1870), attorney and author, received an A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1802, was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1805, and married a daughter of Elbridge Gerry the following year. He was attorney for Suffolk County, 1807–32, and state attorney general, 1832–43. Austin also saw service as a director of the state prison, a member of Harvard’s governing board, an agent to report on the boundary disputes enumerated in the fourth article of the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, a delegate to a state constitutional convention in 1820, and a state senator. A strong Republican, he later became a Whig and opposed the antislavery movement. Austin edited a literary magazine, 1806–08, wrote articles for the Boston Patriot (in which the above enclosure first appeared), the Christian Examiner, and the Law Reporter, and composed a two-volume biography of his father-in-law, 1828–29. In 1860 Austin owned real estate worth $50,000 and personal property valued at $30,000 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:42, 43 [8, 11 Apr. 1816]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Mass., Watertown, 1860; Boston Daily Journal, 9 May 1870).

Index Entries

  • Austin, James Trecothick; identified search
  • Austin, James Trecothick; letters from search
  • Austin, James Trecothick; Resistance to the Laws of the United States (“Leolin”) search
  • Austin, James Trecothick; sends pamphlet to TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Otis, Harrison Gray; criticism of search
  • Resistance to Laws of the United States (“Leolin” [Austin]) search