Thomas Jefferson Papers

William January to Thomas Jefferson, with Postscript by William Blagrove, 30 March 1819

From William January, with Postscript by William Blagrove

Washn City Mar 30. 1819


My conscience is very much perplexed on the question following—Having been Sworn, according to law as a clerk1 to Support the constitution of the United States, I am at a loss to decide, whether that Support is expected to be negative, or positive: If negative, that is to Say, that no more is expected of me than to refrain personally from doing it any injury, disregarding the injuries that others may attempt to inflict thereon, as foreign to my own obligations: or, positively, by using every means in my power to avert the evils by which the constitution may be assailed. The first course appears most Safe, Selfish, politic, but not most patriotic: The latter most difficult, dangerous & turbulent—moreover the clerks who had taken this mode with the Gen. P. Office have been dismissed, disgraced & ruined. Your candid advice would much Serve me in this dilemma, in which I cannot lay my mind open to any one So freely as yourself.—

A letter directed to Wm January Alexa post Office will reach me.—

Having been favored with a perusal of the foregoing, and entertaining, as I have ever done, the highest veneration for the character and opinions of the illustrious Statesman to whom this letter is addressed, I have obtained permission to state here, that I have been a fellow sufferer with the writer from a similar cause—to wit—the stating of facts to a Committee of Congress; and if the Hon. Mr Jefferson shall think proper to notice this appeal, I should feel honored by the circumstance of his addressing his answer to

His faithful follower, and most ardent well w[isher?]
 Wm Blagrove
Late Second Clerk of the }
 Navy Department.

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); written on a sheet folded to form four pages, with January’s letter on pp. 1–2, Blagrove’s postscript on p. 3, and address on p. 4; torn at seal; addressed by January: “Tho. Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Washington, 31 Mar.; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “January & Blagrove” received 4 Apr. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

Early in 1816 several clerks at the General Post Office (gen. p. office) in Washington, D.C., charged their colleagues with having “been in the practice of selling drafts upon Deputy Postmasters for premiums which have not been passed to the credit of the department on the books.” In the aftermath of the controversy, three of the chief accusers were dismissed from office (Alexandria Gazette, Commercial and Political, 1 Feb., 3 May 1816).

In 1818 Navy Department clerk William Blagrove testified before a committee of congress that a superior, Benjamin Homans, had loaned out $10,000 in departmental funds and also kept for the use of his own family a horse purchased by the department. Homans denied any impropriety and stated that Blagrove’s “malignity,” “ingratitude,” and “lamentable turpitude of character” had caused him to lose confidence in his subordinate (Report Of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives, of the United States, instructed … to inquire whether any and what clerks or other officers in either of the Departments, or in any office at the seat of government, have conducted themselves improperly in their official duties [(Washington, 1818)], esp. pp. 27, 34, 38).

1Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Blagrove, William; as Navy Department clerk search
  • Blagrove, William; letters from search
  • Constitution, U.S.; civil servants’ duty to defend search
  • Homans, Benjamin; as Navy Department chief clerk search
  • horses; purchased by U.S. Navy search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and select committee on clerks search
  • January, William; as postal clerk search
  • January, William; letter from search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; accusations against employees of search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; clerks at search
  • Post Office, U.S.; accusations against employees of search
  • Post Office, U.S.; clerks at search