Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin W. Crowninshield, 30 January 1816

To Benjamin W. Crowninshield

Monticello Jan. 30. 16.


Mr Thomas Mann Randolph, the son of a neighbor and relation of mine is desirous of entering the naval service, and I am requested by his father to sollicit a midshipman’s warrant for him. I have known the young gentleman from his birth and can assure you he is of perfectly correct morals and demeanor, and of an amiable disposition. he is about 18. years of age, and had made some proficiency in classical education, when an offer of employment in a counting house at Baltimore carried him to that place where he now is. should he be so fortunate as to obtain his wish I will request the favor of you to send his warrant to himself, addressed to Thomas Mann Randolph at Baltimore, to the care of George Stevenson esq. merchant at that place.

Having had the happiness of an intimate acquaintance with your deceased brother and a great and affectionate esteem for him, I avail myself with pleasure of this occasion of expressing it, and of adding assurances to yourself of my high respect and consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (on deposit NcU: Maurice Family Papers); addressed: “The honble Mr Crownenshield Secretary of the Navy Washington”; postmarked Milton, 31 Jan.; endorsed by a clerk: “1229 Thomas M. Randolph Midsn File.” PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of John F. Oliveira Fernandes to TJ, 18 Jan. 1816; mutilated at seal, with missing text rewritten by TJ; endorsed by TJ.

Benjamin Williams Crowninshield (1772–1851), businessman and public official, belonged to a family of merchant-seamen in his native Salem, Massachusetts. He was a partner in his father’s firm, George Crowninshield & Sons and its successors, a business that prospered during the War of 1812 but dissolved in 1817. Crowninshield was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1811 and to the state senate the following year. President James Madison appointed him secretary of the navy late in 1814. Although at first declining the position, Crowninshield soon consented and remained in office until his resignation in 1818. Thereafter he returned to his business pursuits, having been elected president of the Merchants Bank of Salem in 1811. Crowninshield became a director of the Second Bank of the United States in 1822 and remained connected to that institution until its charter expired in 1836. He reentered the political arena with election to the Massachusetts House in 1821, and he sat in the United States House of Representatives, 1823–31, where he aligned himself politically with John Quincy Adams. In 1833 Crowninshield served one final term in the Massachusetts House before retiring to Boston, where he died (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 ; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:595, 597, 3:142 [16, 19 Dec. 1814, 27 Nov. 1818]; Boston New-England Palladium, 26 July 1811; Salem Gazette, 22 Jan. 1822; New-Bedford Mercury, 26 Feb. 1836; Boston Daily Atlas, 4 Feb. 1851).

In a letter written to Martha Jefferson Randolph from Washington, 17 Feb. [1816], Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) commented on seeing Thomas Mann Randolph (1798–1835), the son of Thomas Eston Randolph, who had come to that city seeking a midshipman’s warrant. She noted that although Randolph had other letters of recommendation, Crowninshield told him that “Mr Jefferson’s is sufficient” and promised to award the young man the next vacancy (RC in ViU: Coolidge Correspondence; partially dated).

Crowninshield’s deceased brother Jacob Crowninshield, who declined TJ’s nomination in 1805 to serve as secretary of the navy, sat in the United States House of Representatives from 1803 until his death in 1808 (DAB).

Index Entries

  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); travels of search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; as secretary of the navy search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; family of search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; identified search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; letters to search
  • Crowninshield, Jacob; as U.S. representative from Mass. search
  • Crowninshield, Jacob; TJ expresses esteem for search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation from search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; applications to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation from TJ search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); correspondence of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Eston (TJ’s cousin); and naval appointment for son search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1798–1835) (son of TJ’s cousin Thomas Eston Randolph); naval appointment for search
  • Stevenson, George Pitt; merchant search