Thomas Jefferson Papers

Elbridge Gerry to Thomas Jefferson, 1 May 1812

From Elbridge Gerry

Cambridge 1st May 1812

My dear Sir,

I thank you for the pamphlet this day received, respecting “the intrusion of Edward Livingston”; & for your polite & friendly manner of transmitting it. The publick is much indebted to you on this, & on numerous other occasions, for performances; to which few are equal, & still fewer have a disposition.

The opportunity now presented, is highly appretiated; as it enables me to revive those sentiments of esteem & respect, which have taken too deep root, to be eradicated. Indeed the times demand a renewal of friendship, on the part of the remaining Aborigines of the revolution & their cooperation for destroying every vestige of foreign influence.

We are in anxious expectation of the final decision of the national Government, on the present state of our political affairs. My ideas on this subject, were expressed to the Legislature at their last1 session, in the speech which I have the honor to enclose. That, & a message on the subject of libels, published in the Boston News papers, in regard to which it may be said Quorum pars magna fui,”2 may amuse you in a leisure moment—The letter for Monsr Derbigney must have been sent to me by mistake

Accept, my dear Sir, my best wishes for your health & welfare, & be assured I remain with every sentiment of esteem & respect—Yours very sincerely

E Gerry

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “His Excellency Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 May 1812 and so recorded in SJL. Dupl (DLC); at head of text: “duplicate”; unsigned; on verso of RC of Gerry to TJ, 12 June 1812; enclosed in James Madison to TJ, 22 June 1812. Enclosures: (1) Gerry, Speech of His Excellency the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to both Houses of the Legislature, at the session commencing on the second Wednesday in January, 1812 (Boston, 1812; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3407), exhorting state lawmakers to forego divisiveness and support the United States government in resisting British attempts to “degrade these States to the level of colonies” (p. 10); submitting to the legislature printed copies of President James Madison’s 14 Nov. 1811 message to the United States Congress; lambasting Great Britain for continuing to enforce its Orders in Council,sabotaging United States commerce and nonimportation acts, and seizing and impressing American seamen; accusing “royalists” in America, including certain printers and writers, of betraying the government; contending that British provocations will increase if the United States fails to take action; stating that America can supply itself with the goods it needs; reporting that the Massachusetts treasury remains strong, but that additional firearms are needed; and revealing that he has recently “received several anonymous threats of assassination, for having supported the national government” (p. 19). (2) Gerry, Message from His Excellency the Governor. February 27, 1812 (Boston, 1812; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3408), reporting on the 1811–12 investigation he authorized to examine Boston newspapers’ defamatory editorials; explaining that those seeking protection from and redress for libelous behavior must currently rely on “inconsistent and contradictory” English common-law provisions; urging state lawmakers to pass legislation establishing guidelines for settling such disputes while also safeguarding fair criticism of nonelective officials, such as judges; and stating that out of 238 libel investigations, bills of indictment were brought against only ten newspaper editors and publishers, two of whom received jail sentences and both of whom he pardoned. (3) TJ to Derbigny, 20 Apr. 1812.

quorum pars magna fui: “In which I played a large part.”

1Word interlined.

2Omitted closing quotation mark supplied from Dupl.

Index Entries

  • Boston, Mass.; newspapers search
  • Gerry, Elbridge (1744–1814); letters from search
  • Gerry, Elbridge (1744–1814); Message from his Excellency the Governor search
  • Gerry, Elbridge (1744–1814); Speech of His Excellency the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts search
  • Gerry, Elbridge (1744–1814); TJ sends batture pamphlet to search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • impressment; of American seamen search
  • libel; E. Gerry’s message on search
  • Madison, James; messages to Congress search
  • Message from his Excellency the Governor (Gerry); sent to TJ search
  • Revolutionary War; mentioned search
  • Speech of His Excellency the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Gerry); sent to TJ search
  • The Proceedings of the Government of the United States, in maintaining the Public Right to the Beach of the Missisipi, Adjacent to New-Orleans, against the Intrusion of Edward Livingston (Thomas Jefferson); TJ distributes remaining copies search