Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Richard M. Johnson, 26 January 1813

To Richard M. Johnson

Monticello Jan. 26. 13.

Dear Sir

Mr James McKinney of my neighborhood entertains the hope that you are disposed to patronize his wishes to obtain a birth either in the line or staff of the army, and supposes that my testimony in his favor may promote that object. he has for the last twelvemonth been in the direction of some mills of mine as tenant, which has given me an opportunity of being much acquainted with him during that time and we had some intercourse during the year preceding that. I think him an honest man, well acquainted with business. he came recommended by mr John Strode of Culpeper, than whom there is no better judge of character; and I have no doubt he will discharge any1 duties which may be committed to his charge with zeal and fidelity. and I add with truth that it will be gratifying to me if his services can be so employed as to be useful to our country as well as satisfactory to himself. I render to him the just office of my testimony with the greater pleasureas it furnishes me the occasion of tendering to you the sincere assurances of my high esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “the honble Rh. M. Johnson”; endorsed by TJ.

Richard Mentor Johnson (1780–1850), attorney, congressman, and United States vice president, was born in Kentucky, studied law at Transylvania University, and was admitted to the bar in 1802. Two years later he was elected to the Kentucky state legislature. From 1807 until 1819 Johnson served in the United States House of Representatives. A Jeffersonian Republican, he opposed the recharter of the Bank of the United States and supported TJ’s embargo policy. In 1808 Johnson asked TJ for a list of recommended readings in history. He served as colonel of a regiment of mounted riflemen during the War of 1812. At the October 1813 Battle of the Thames, Johnson purportedly killed the Shawnee chief Tecumseh and was himself wounded. Following a brief stint as a state legislator in 1819, he was elected to a vacant seat in the United States Senate, which he held from 1819 until 1829, after which he returned to the House, 1829–37. Throughout his political career Johnson avidly supported Andrew Jackson, whose endorsement insured his 1836 nomination as vice president on the slate with Martin Van Buren. His election was decided in the Senate. After his single term concluded, Johnson returned to the Kentucky state legislature in 1850 and died while in office (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 ; Leland W. Meyer, The Life and Times of Colonel Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky [1932; repr. 1967]; Johnson to TJ, 27 Feb. 1808 [DLC]; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:576; Lexington Kentucky Statesman, 23 Nov. 1850; eulogy by J. C. Mather in United States Magazine, and Democratic Review 28 [1851]: 376–81).

1Word interlined in place of “the.”

Index Entries

  • Bank of the United States; opposition to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation from search
  • Johnson, Richard Mentor; and army position for J. McKinney search
  • Johnson, Richard Mentor; identified search
  • Johnson, Richard Mentor; letters to search
  • McKinney, James; seeks army appointment search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation from TJ search
  • Strode, John; recommends J. McKinney search
  • Tecumseh (Shawnee chief) search