Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin Galloway to Thomas Jefferson, 12 September 1811

From Benjamin Galloway

Hagers Town Washington County Md Septr 12th 1811—


The recent appearance, in a public paper, of a letter reported to have been written and transmitted by you to the Earl of Buchan, some years ago, has it may with truth be affirmed, astounded your political adversaries in this quarter; nor are they of the most1 scrupulous Cast. It has compleatly thrown them on their Beam Ends: nor will their shattered Barques from present appearances, be speedily refitted for active service—The shot was a most unexpected one: judiciously aimed, and struck first between wind and water—The character of that noble Lord, by whose instrumentality, friendship and love of justice, the important fact was communicated, is too firmly established in the judgment and knowledge of impartial men, to be shaken, by any of the vile means so generally employed to effect party purposes. An attempt was made by a few, to deny the authenticity of said letter: but, soon discovering that such assertion obtained no credit with the generality of citizens; they now content themselves by admitting said letter to be authentic, and gratify their evil disposition towards you, by declaring it to be an additional proof of your want of sincerity— I am disposed to indulge a fond hope, that the lately published address of the House Holders of the City of Westminster, to the Prince Regent, will have the effect of darting the rays of political illumination into the mind and heart of the nation, with a rapidity like unto an Electric Shock—I learn by a letter lately received from my much valued friend, Mr G Duval, that, a British Fleet is daily expected on our Coast, commanded by Sir Joseph Yorke, and, report announces the arrival of considerable reinforcement of British Regulars in Canada: headed by a distinguished military character—Prominent appearances, I much lament, justify suspicion, that common sense and common honesty being at variance with British Claims and Pretensions the “ultima ratio regum” is determined on. Indeed, Mr Foster is generally reported and believed to have thrown out such an hint: If so: it furnishes another proof of the verity and soundness of the observation in your first communication as P US, to wit “feel power, and forget right.” I pray, that their present provokingly offensive attitude, may be intended, in terrorem only: but, should it prove otherwise: (their tender mercies have so often eventuated in cruelty) one of two events will probably follow: The subjugation of Great Britain by France: or a Civil War, among themselves, may reasonably be expected to happen. The condition of the British Empire is most unquestionably at this moment portentous indeed! and may involve the European world in incalculable distress. That, we have among us a band of desperate, worthless non-Contents, who stand prepared to aid and assist in any mad project, designed against our happy constitution, I am thorough convinced: Vigilance, Therefore, is the indispensable duty of all good citizens—

Your esteemed favour of the second of last month, was duly received: in return for which, permit me to make an offering of my sincere acknowledgments. It was indeed short: but, to the point, and highly consolatory to my feelings

We have just passed through2 an hard struggle for Electors of State Senators. we have as you will have been informed, ere this reaches your hands, been succesful. The calculation as to the Strength of parties in the Electoral Body, is twenty two to eighteen Electors. so far, so good: but, the Magnum Opus, is yet to be accomplished: Will the Electors, in Truth, select for that important branch of our State Legislature, Men of wisdom, virtue and experience? or will (procul, O,) party rage, or the “civium ardor prava jubentiumbe again triumphant? I must confess, I have my fears alive: That the Electoral Body will select fifteen Zealous characters, I doubt not! but, I am apprehensive, that the qualifications enumerated in our State Constitution, vidt Wisdom, Virtue & Experience will most probably be viewed and held by too many of that body, as mere secondary objects, when they make the selection of characters. I hope, I may have taken up and given entertainment to an enormous Idea quo ad hoc: but, I have, Sir, seen so many instances in our State, where passion was not so unequivocally substituted for reason, as it now seems to be in the choice of public agents; that I much question, whether we shall be blessed with such a body of Men in our Senate, as the party who have the choice, could easily furnish. The Times most indubitably call for Zeal: but, that quality may be pernicious, if not associated with Wisdom, Virtue and Experience.—But “De republicâ nil desperandum est!3 The Electors meet at Annapolis on Monday next—

Pax bello potior,” was the leading Star by whose guiding influence, you, Sir, you strenuously endeavoured, to steer the good ship United States, so long as you were honoured with the direction of the governmental Helm: It was my good fortune, most heartily to cooperate with you in that work, as far as the wishes of a very uninfluential citizen could extend, and his feeble efforts, checque the too frequent disposition of some honest, but thoughtless men in one circle, to go to war with a foreign nation.— The ways I have so acted, I have sometimes thought may be owing to the following: my progenitors, both male & female, were members of the religious society of Friends, vulgarly called Quakers: and, my good Father, who though never very closely attached to the forms observed by Friends,4 having in early life been educated in their Tenets, most strictly adhered to their principles! While, with his children, He instilled into them with parental sollicitude, a firm5 conviction, that offensive war, so [. . .], is not justifiable in the eye of God: But, defensive war, he advocated: and, therefore, was not permitted by the Broad Brim Gentry to continue within the pale of their religious society. my maternal Grand-Father, was the Father of Old Benjamin Chew late of 3d Street Philadelphia: who, I presume, you may have had some acquaintance with. Said Samuel, was the Chief Justice of the Three lower counties on Delaware, as may be more authentically known by a perusal of his excellent speech, delivered from the Bench to a Grand Jury of the County of New-Castle, Novr 21. 1741—The speech alluded to, was republished at the commencement of our revolutionary war, and may be seen in a work of that period, entitled “The Pennsilvania Magazine, or American Museum”6 for August 1775—It attracted public attention at that eventful crisis; and, if, Sir, you have it not, and the possession of it, would not be disagreeable to you, I will do myself the pleasure of transmitting to you a copy of it. The republication of it was judged adviseable in 1775—may hap it may soon be equally so. The doctrine attempted and, in my opinion, most ably maintained in said charge, is “The lawfulness of defence against an armed enemy”— in which, he detects, and exposes the assistors and abettors of the negative side of said doctrine, (The great Apologist Barklay &c) by incontestably shewing, and proving “it not only to be without warrant, or colour, either from reason, or revelation; but, in its consequences pernicious to society, and destructive to all civil government” I shall in a few days pass below the Mountains. Mrs Galloway will accompany me: we shall be absent from Hagers Town about four weeks; shall probably visit the City of Washington as we return home: when, I hope Mrs Madison will have reached the Seat of Government: This is only mentioned, in consequence, of that Lady having expressed a wish to see Mrs G last Winter, when I was last at the City—

I am with perfect Esteem & Regard Yours &c

Benjamin Galloway

RC (DLC); one word illegible; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; postmarked Washington, 18 Sept.; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Sept. 1811 and so recorded in SJL.

David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of buchan, quoted TJ’s 10 July 1803 letter to him (DLC) in an address the earl delivered to a group of Americans at Edinburgh on George Washington’s birthday, 22 Feb. 1811. The letter, which appeared in numerous American newspapers during the summer of 1811, expressed disillusionment with the outcome of the French Revolution: “I expect your lordship has been disappointed as I acknowledge I have been in the issue of the convulsions on the other side of the channel (in France). This has certainly lessened the interest which the philanthropist warmly felt in those struggles. Without befriending human liberty, a gigantic force has risen up which seems to threaten the world” (Washington National Intelligencer, 9 July 1811).

The householders of westminster had recently issued an address decrying political corruption and imploring the British prince regent (later George IV) to support the cause of parliamentary reform (New York Public Advertiser, 3 June 1811). ultima ratio regum: “The last argument of kings”; force as the final arbiter of disagreements. Galloway quoted from TJ’s first communication as president, his 1801 inaugural address (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 33:148). in terrorem: as a warning or deterrent.

Galloway’s calculation of the Republican vote in the newly elected forty-man electoral college that chose Maryland’s state senators was correct. It returned fifteen Republican senators and no Federalists, with all the winners receiving twenty-two or twenty-one votes (Hagers-Town Gazette, 24 Sept. 1811).

procul, o: “begone, oh.” civium ardor prava jubentium: “hot-headed citizens urging him to do wrong” (Horace, Odes, III.3.2, in Horace: Odes and Epodes, trans. Niall Rudd, Loeb Classical Library [2004], 146–7). quo ad hoc: “with respect to this” (Black’s Law Dictionary description begins Bryan A. Garner and others, eds., Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th ed., 1999 description ends ). de republicâ nil desperandum est!: “one must in no respect despair of the republic!” pax bello potior: “peace is preferable to war.”

Samuel Chew endorsed self-defense against an armed enemy in a 21 Nov. 1741 speech to the grand jury of New Castle County, Delaware. It was published by Benjamin Franklin as The Speech of Samuel Chew, Esq; … (Philadelphia, 1741), reissued in pamphlet form in 1742 and 1775, and printed in the Pennsylvania Magazine; or, American Monthly Museum 1 [1775]: 346–53.

1Reworked from “least.”

2Manuscript: “thorough.”

3Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

4Galloway here canceled “through life.”

5Manuscript: “frim.”

6Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • American Revolution; and S. Chew’s speech search
  • Barclay, Robert; Quaker theologian search
  • Buchan, David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of; quotes TJ search
  • Canada; British troops in search
  • Chew, Benjamin; family of search
  • Chew, Samuel; The Speech of Samuel Chew, Esq search
  • Foster, Augustus John; British minister to U.S. search
  • France; and Great Britain search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; republishes S. Chew’s speech search
  • Galloway, Benjamin; and elections in Md. search
  • Galloway, Benjamin; letters from search
  • Galloway, Benjamin; quotes TJ’s first inaugural address search
  • Galloway, Henrietta Maria Chew (Benjamin Galloway’s wife) search
  • George, Prince Regent (later George IV, king of Great Britain); as Prince of Wales search
  • Great Britain; and France search
  • Horace; quoted by B. Galloway search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; First Inaugural Address search
  • Madison, Dolley Payne Todd (James Madison’s wife); and Mrs. H. Galloway search
  • Maryland; elections in search
  • Pennsylvania Magazine; or, American Monthly Museum search
  • politics; in Md. search
  • Quakers; B. Galloway on search
  • religion; Quakers search
  • Republican party; electoral successes search
  • Republican party; in Md. search
  • The Speech of Samuel Chew, Esq (Chew) search
  • Yorke, Sir Joseph Sydney; commands naval squadron search