Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 13 February 1814

From James Madison

Washington Feby 13. 1814

Dear Sir

You will have noticed the propositions in the H. of Reps which tend to lift the veil which has So long covered the operations of the post off. Dept. They grew out of the disposition of Granger to appoint Leib to the vacant post office in Phila in opposition to the known aversion of the City & of the whole State; & to the recommendation of the Pen: delegation in Congs. Having actually made the appointment, contrary to my Sentiments also, which he asked & recd much excitement prevails agst him, and he is of course sparing no means, to ward the effects of it.

Among other misfeasances charged on him, is his continuance, or probably reappointment, of Tayloe, since his residence in this City, as post master of a little office near his Seat in Virga, no otherwise of importance than as it gives the post master the privilege of franking, which is said to amount to more than the income of the office, and which is exercised by the non-resident officer. The exhibition of this abuse to the public, is anxiously dreaded, by G. and as a chance to prevent it, a very extraordinary conversation has been held by him with a particular friend of mine with a view doubtless, that it might be communicated to me [& perhaps] to others of your friends.

Instead of denying or justifying the abuses he [stated] that whilst Docr Jones was a Candidate for Congs a [Baptist] Preacher, who electioneered for him, enjoyed a contract [for] carrying the mail; that Tayloe who became [an under-bidder for] the contract, was about to oust the Preacher; and that [the] only expedient to save & satisfy1 the electioneering friend of the Docr [was] to buy off Tayloe, by giving Him the post office, which [was] brought about by Docr Jones with your sanction; that the present obnoxious2 arrangement had that origin; and if the enquiry is pushed on him he must come out with the whole Story.

It would be superfluous to make remarks on the turpitude of character here developed. I have thought it proper to hint it to you, as a caution agst any snare that may be laid for you by artful letters, and that you may recollect any circumstances which have [been perverted] for So wicked a purpose.

I have nothing to add to the contents of the enclosed n[ewspaper.]

Affectionate [respects]
[James Madison]
[Prest U.S.]

RC (photocopy in TJ Editorial Files); photocopy blurred, with illegible words filled in from a 1958 typescript supplied by a former owner of the original, Roger W. Barrett, Chicago. Recorded in SJL as received 18 Feb. 1814. Enclosure not found.

As postmaster general, Gideon Granger had the authority to appoint postmasters without presidential oversight. During his tenure in office he used this privilege to appoint political allies. When the Philadelphia post office became vacant early in 1814, Granger selected Senator Michael leib, who was openly unfriendly to the Madison administration. Madison responded by removing Granger and nominating in his place Return J. Meigs (ca. 1765–1825), who was confirmed as postmaster general on 17 Mar. 1814. Madison’s 25 Feb. nomination of Meigs was his first notification to Congress that Granger had been dismissed. A 7 Mar. 1814 resolution that Madison be asked to “inform the Senate whether the office of Postmaster General be now vacant, and if vacant, in what manner the same became vacant” failed by one vote (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison, 1941–61, 6 vols. description ends , 6:243–5; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:499, 504, 511).

1Preceding two words interlined.

2Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • franking privilege; abuse of search
  • Granger, Gideon; and patronage abuses search
  • Granger, Gideon; as postmaster general search
  • Granger, Gideon; removed from office search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and office of postmaster general search
  • Jones, Walter; G. Granger’s accusations against search
  • Leib, Michael; appointed postmaster of Philadelphia search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Madison, James; and G. Granger search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Meigs, Return Jonathan (ca.1765–1825); as postmaster general search
  • Senate, U.S.; and office of postmaster general search
  • Tayloe, John; as postmaster search