Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jonas Humbert to Thomas Jefferson, 18 August 1816

From Jonas Humbert

New York Augt 18th 1816

Respected Sir

I doubt not your goodness will Readily find an excuse for the liberty taken by a stranger in addressing a few lines to your friendly attention: but particularly so when the contents of this Communication is impartially considered.

Permit me to Say, respected Sir, that it is many years since I became conversant with your sentiments on public concerns, and I have often been pleased, as well as instructed, in noting those Republican maxims and sentiments which have uniformly characterised the whole career of your public life. Happy shall we be in future times if our chiefs shall pursue the example you are going to leave your country; and I sincerely hope and pray that your exit from transitory Scenes1 may be abundantly Compensated with those Joys which spring from the prospect of a glorious immortalitty.

My political principles have alway been Republican, and by birth I am an American. In 1800. amongst others, in our ranks, I was warmly interested in the election of Mr Jefferson: our Success gave me high satisfaction, as I was confident your best efforts would be exerted to maintain our Republican System in all its purity. When our foreign concerns became critical and it was thought prudent to lay an Embargo Mr Jefferson will well recollect how much contention there was concerning that measure and other’s connected in the general administration. In this City, you will have perceived a spirit of opposition to yourself and the government that was highly incompatible with republican principles. A Strong interest was attempted to be made in our own ranks against administration Connected with the nomination of Mr Madison;—and, Mr Jefferson will well recollect the hostile character and calumniating spirit of the “American Citizen”; he and his abettors charged you with being under the “dictation” of the french Emperor; these charges were made with all the malevolence of the bitterest anglo-federalists. At that period I was a member of the Republican general Committee. Here I was connected with men who had been your warm advocates in 1800.2 I listened, and marked their conversation: how they should be So soon altered in their opinions concerning Mr Jefferson was a matter of some surprise to me. A difference of sentiment on a public act I did not think any Crime, but to hear you so shamefully impeached and treated with so much contempt, by these men, as well as that press, made me, somewhat indignant. Honor, Duty, as well as Justice, prompted me to espouse your Cause in the Committee: I was told such conduct would make a rend in the party. I wanted to know if a life of upwards of forty years devoted to the cause of republicanism and interests of our Country was now to be trampled under foot with as little3 Ceremony as we should pay to existence of a lilly-put. At that time I held a situation which gave me a genteel living, about twenty three to twenty five hundred dollars a year: however, such were my impressions of the rectitude of administration that I was determined to use my best efforts to vindicate the government.

In this place there was no paper friendly to the government except the “Public Advertiser”; the Editors were young men and inexperienced: there were Some persons capable with a pen, but hesitated, others dreaded the violence and biting sarcasm of the “Citizen,” who lacerated the government, and imputed to you and Mr Madison conduct and motives, as though you was disposed to immolate the honor of our Country at the shrine of a foreign despot. I told the Editors of the “Public Advertiser” I would commence against the Citizen if they would publish my pieces. I belive My Essays were the first that could claim any Notice for systematic defence of the administration: I was Sensible of the power of my antagonist, but the cause of truth, and a firm conviction of the Rectitude of government, inspired me with confidence. Those misguided Republicans smarted under the lash—their unprincipled editor began to loose his influence, and then, and not till then did any one dare to come out in defence of administration. These effusions were4 honored with some Considerabl[e] attention in different parts of the Union, but they cost me the loss of the Situation I held. Such is the spirit of intollerence. I was well known to have been always uniform in politics, by those who cut me off, and I am certain If I had not written in defence of administration that I should Not have been disturbed. I will mention here the honorable testimony in favour of my humble efforts, by Some of the heads of “Department” while at Table in Washington, in a conversation had with one of the Editors of the “Public Advertiser” Mr Geo. White. He was asked if Mr Emmet of this city, Counseller at law, was not the writer of Certain Numbers? he told, Mr Madison, No: the interogatory was continued—who then?—, the answer was given. I have informed the President of my treatment, and had the matter substantiated by respectable gentlemen, who have known me many years, and certify’d my moral character and efforts previous to, as well as during the late war. Mr Munroe has their testimonies if they have not been witheld by some of the clerks.

I have solicited a situation now vacant—that of Marshall of this District; and if Mr Jefferson could Render me a favour, by a line to the President it will lay me under the strongest obligations. If the President shall see the testimonies, and he considers how shamefully I was treated, I think he will be inclined to do something for an injured man.

I have the honor, Sir to Subscribe my Self your Sincere friend and obedient Servant

Jonas Humbert

RC (DLC); edge trimmed; at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received from “Humbal Jonas” on 28 Aug. 1816 and so recorded (as from “Humbul Jonas”) in SJL.

Jonas Humbert (1764–1847), baker and political writer, was a native of New Jersey. By 1775 he was a resident of New York City, and after several years of apprenticeship he established his own bakery by 1787. Humbert was the city’s inspector of flour, 1809–10, until accusations of extortion led to his dismissal. He wrote several articles on the subject of flour, and he was a member of the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts, in the State of New-York. Humbert was active in the local Republican party and in 1808, along with two other officers, sent TJ a letter of support from the Tammany Society, or Columbian Order, of which he was secretary, 1807–09. In the latter year he ran unsuccessfully on the “Madisonian” ticket for sixth-ward councilman, and in 1830 he was a failed candidate for lieutenant governor on the Agrarian Party ticket (David C. Franks, New-York Directory [1787], 18; Longworth’s New York Directory description begins Longworth’s American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory, New York, 1796–1842 (title varies; cited by year of publication) description ends [1807]: 79, 216; [1809]: 215; Tammany Society of New York to TJ, [11 Jan. 1808] [DLC]; Gustavus Myers, The History of Tammany Hall, rev. ed. [1917], 23–5, 60; New York Mercantile Advertiser, 9 June 1809; New York Public Advertiser, 21 Nov. 1809, 9 Apr. 1810, 22 May 1811; New-York Evening Post, 25 Nov. 1809; New York Columbian, 27 Nov. 1809; Humbert, “A Paper On the Importance of regulating the Inspection of Flour, &c. in the State of New-York,” “Communication On the Utility and Advantage of Ventilating and Storing Grain,” and “Observations On the Culture of Wheat, and the Manufacture of Flour, in the State of New-York,” in Transactions of the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts, in the State of New-York 3 [1814]: 178–86, 261; 4, pt. 1 [1816]: 38, 55–61; 4, pt. 2 [1819]: 33–49; New-York Morning Herald, 8 Sept. 1830; New York Evening Post, 3 June 1847).

The publisher of the New York american citizen was James Cheetham, who referred to Humbert as “Diodorus Dough-Head” while accusing him of misconduct. Originally a strong Republican who supported TJ, Cheetham opposed the election of James Madison in 1808 (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:608–9; New York American Citizen, 31 Oct. 1808; Noble E. Cunningham Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power: Party Operations, 1801–1809 [1963], 119–21, 237; Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, Madison and Jefferson [2010], 371, 413, 458–9). Jacob Frank and George White were the editors of the New York Public Advertiser in 1808 (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:682–3).

In an 8 July 1811 letter to President Madison, Humbert emphasized his loyalty to the Republican party, complained of mistreatment by his political foes, and described his published pieces: “I wrote five of the first Numbers over the Signature of ‘Diodorus Siculus’ the whole Series Nineteen: after which I continued defending the administration, in ‘Zenophon’ Six Numbers, and other detached pieces” (DLC: Madison Papers). For Humbert’s “Diodorus Siculus” and “Zenophon” essays, see Public Advertiser, 12–14, 17, 21 May, 22 July, 1–2 Aug., 7, 19, 28 Sept. 1808. The testimonies in support of Humbert’s unsuccessful effort to become federal marshal for the district of New York included Humbert to James Monroe, 2, 19, 24 July, Humbert to Madison, 24 July, 1 Aug., James R. Mullany to Monroe, 24 July, and a recommendation by Henry J. Feltus, Cave Jones, and James McKeon, 25 July 1816 (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17).

1Manuscript: “Scences.”

2Manuscript: “1810.”

3Manuscript: “littee.”

4Manuscript: “where.”

Index Entries

  • American Citizen (New York newspaper) search
  • Cheetham, James; as editor ofAmerican Citizen search
  • Embargo Act (1807); opposition to search
  • Emmet, Thomas Addis; mentioned search
  • Federalist party; in N.Y. search
  • Federalist party; media of search
  • Frank, Jacob (newspaper editor) search
  • Humbert, Jonas; identified search
  • Humbert, Jonas; letter from search
  • Humbert, Jonas; political views of search
  • Humbert, Jonas; seeks federal appointment search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; administration criticized search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; administration supported search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and1808election search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); applications to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); criticized search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); mentioned search
  • Monroe, James; as secretary of state search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; mentioned search
  • newspapers; Federalist search
  • newspapers; New YorkAmerican Citizen search
  • newspapers; New YorkPublic Advertiser search
  • newspapers; politics of search
  • newspapers; Republican search
  • New York (city); American Citizen search
  • New York (city); Federalists in search
  • New York (city); Public Advertiser search
  • New York (city); Republicans in search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Public Advertiser (New York newspaper); editors of search
  • Public Advertiser (New York newspaper); supports Republican party search
  • Republican party; and newspapers search
  • Republican party; of New York City and County search
  • White, George (newspaper editor) search