Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin Romaine to Thomas Jefferson, 23 June 1813

From Benjamin Romaine

New York 23rd June 1813.

Most respected Sir,

As I have taken the liberty of using several of your Sentiments, in composing the enclosed Address,—the further freedom has been assumed of transmiting a Copy to you.

Sir,—I also am one of the remaining survivers of our revolutionary war—was five years in the service (from the age of Sixteen to its close) in the New Jersey militia. During that time, was twice wounded, and once a prisoner.

In our flourishing Society of Tammany, we are about altering all our Indian forms, and changing the paraphernalia. The times call for such alteration. The tenor of the Address will show the spirit of the institution amongst us.—you will, perhaps, recollect my name in an address to you, on the subject of honorary membership.

With the highest consideration and respect I have the honor to be your Obedient Servt

Bjn Romaine

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Montecello Virginia”; franked; postmarked New York, 26 June; endorsed by TJ as received 30 June 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Romaine, Tammany Society, No. 1, Twenty Fourth Anniversary Address … 12th May, 1813 (New York, 1813), declaring that the Tammany Society had been named for a “renowned native chief” who had been a friend to early settlers and who “embraced their religion, and principles of civilization” (p. 3); that the society was founded before “party distinction had obtained a characteristic existence; and has never failed to oppose faction, and irregular personal aggrandizement at the expence of the peace and happiness of the people” (p. 4); that despite opposition it will continue to promote liberty and virtue; that the United States is “the only free representative commonwealth” in the world; that no American should believe that external enemies or internal factions are capable of destroying the “sacred charter of Union” (p. 5); that “every lover of his country” should support the current war (p. 8); that New York mayor DeWitt Clinton has revived a dangerous factional spirit of “Anti-federalism” (pp. 9–14); that freedom of speech and the press must be maintained, citing TJ as an authority; and that “genuine federalism” can now be described as “UNION OF THE STATES;—FREE TRADE AND SAILOR’S RIGHTS” (p. 16).

Benjamin Romaine (1762–1844), politician and author, served as a sergeant in the Revolutionary War and operated a school in New York City from 1790 to about 1798, numbering Washington Irving among his students. In 1798 he became city collector. He was removed from office in 1806 for involvement in a fraudulent land acquisition, but he escaped prosecution and served as a city assessor in 1809 and 1810. Romaine was prominent in the Tammany Society of New York and held the office of grand sachem in 1809 and 1813. In this role he headed an effort to build a tomb for American seamen who died on British prison ships in New York’s Wallabout Bay during the Revolution. Romaine was deputy quartermaster general with the rank of major in the United States Army, 1814–15. His several pamphlets included Observations, Reasons and Facts, Disproving Importation, and also, all Specific Personal Contagion in Yellow Fever, from any Local Origin, except that which arises from the common changes of the Atmosphere (New York, 1823) and State Sovereignty, and a Certain Dissolution of the Union (1832), in which he opposed John C. Calhoun’s position on Nullification (DNA: RG 15, SRRWPBLW; William Cullen Bryant, A Discourse on the Life, Character and Genius of Washington Irving [1860], 11; New-York Directory and Register [New York, 1790], 85; Longworth’s New-York Directory [1798]; Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784–1831 [1917–30], esp. 2:472, 4:302, 319, 5:561, 6:383; Gustavus Myers, The History of Tammany Hall [1917], 22, 23, 25, 33, 34, 61; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:475, 501 [17, 28 Feb. 1814]; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:844; Cleveland Herald, 8 Feb. 1844).

Concerned lest it appear to be indifferent to the wartime suffering of settlers on the American frontier, in 1813 the Tammany Society of New York abandoned its practice of wearing indian garb and markings during its annual parades. Romaine supported the change, which led some members to resign (Myers, Tammany Hall, 34). In 1808 he had signed a letter in which the society expressed support for TJ’s administration and the Embargo (Romaine, William Mooney and Jonas Humbert to TJ, [11 Jan. 1808] [DLC]). Shortly thereafter a Tammany committee extended TJ honorary membership (Samuel Cowdrey, Mooney, and Judah Hammond to TJ, 25 Jan. 1808 [DLC]).

Index Entries

  • Clinton, DeWitt; and party politics search
  • Embargo Act (1807); support for search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • New York (state); Tammany societies of search
  • Romaine, Benjamin; identified search
  • Romaine, Benjamin; letters from search
  • Romaine, Benjamin; Tammany Society, No. 1, Twenty Fourth Anniversary Address search
  • Tammany societies; and wearing Indian garb search
  • Tammany societies; of N.Y. search
  • Tammany societies; TJ elected member of search
  • Tammany Society, No. 1, Twenty Fourth Anniversary Address (Romaine) search
  • War of1812; orations supporting search