Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hezekiah Niles to Thomas Jefferson, 1 October 1811

From Hezekiah Niles

[1 Oct. 1811]

[Ed. Note: In SJL on 6 Oct. 1811 TJ recorded receipt of a letter written five days earlier in Baltimore by “R. Niles.” TJ’s reply to Niles of 14 Oct. 1811 is also recorded in SJL. While neither of these letters has come to light, their contents can be conjectured. On 29 Oct. 1813 TJ sent Hezekiah Niles, the editor of the Baltimore Weekly Register, $15 for a “3. years subscription” to his journal. On 22 Mar. 1815 he forwarded a further $10, which, as he noted in his memorandum book, “pays up” his account “to Sep. 1816.” The letters covering these payments are recorded in SJL but have not been found. Neither has Niles’s reply to TJ of 17 Nov. 1813, which is recorded in SJL as received from Baltimore on 13 Dec. 1813. However, TJ’s record of these payments and his subsequent acknowledgment that he owned a complete set (TJ to Niles, 26 June 1815) proves that he had been taking Niles’s journal from its inception in September 1811. Furthermore, “H. Niles” can easily be mistaken for “R. Niles” in the editor’s signature. The extant evidence therefore suggests that Niles’s letter of 1 Oct. 1811 asked TJ to subscribe to his new journal and that TJ agreed to do so in his 14 Oct. 1811 response (MB, 2:1294, 1307).]

Hezekiah Niles (1777–1839), journalist, was a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania. At age seventeen he was apprenticed to Benjamin Johnson, a printer, bookbinder, and bookseller in Philadelphia. Niles soon established a reputation as an efficient typesetter in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. He moved to Baltimore in 1805 and there edited the Baltimore Evening Post, 1805–11, and the Weekly Register, 1811–36 (Niles’ Weekly Register from 1814). The Register rejected advertising and undertook to be less a periodical than a national reference work on politics and current events. It had a wide circulation and counted TJ, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson among its patrons, with TJ maintaining his subscription until his death. A passionate nationalist, Niles favored political isolationism, economic protectionism, and gradual emancipation and opposed states’ rights and nullification, although he scrupulously accorded space to opposing viewpoints in his papers. He also served as Wilmington’s town clerk, sat on the Baltimore city council, and was a leader of the Baltimore Typographical Society (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:81, 230–1; TJ to Niles, 22 Aug. 1817, 6 May 1826; Niles’ National Register, 6, 13 Apr. 1839; Baltimore Sun, 3 Apr. 1839).

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  • newspapers; Baltimore Weekly Register search
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  • Niles, Hezekiah; and Baltimore Weekly Register (Niles’ Weekly Register) search
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