Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Nicholas to Thomas Jefferson, 25 November 1819

From John Nicholas

Novr 25th 1819—

Dear Sir,

I thank you for your frank & kind answer to my former letter & request.—That “sweetning ingredient to the remaining dregs of life—the peace & good will of all your fellow citizens”—as you thus most beautifully express it, & seem to wish for; is what you are entitled to in your own peaceful retreat & declining years; particularly under so benevolent a tender of the olive branch, on your own part, to “those who differ from you,” on closing so long a life.

There are, indeed, differences of opinion, on most subjects, it must be owned, inseperable from the various structure & formation of different minds, which no honest conscience can alter, control, or make bend to any “circumstances,” or inclinations even. These, however, ought to be exercised with a due regard to all the moral principles of truth, justice, & discretion, at all times & on all occasions.

That particular details on most subjects, are liable to obliteration in a decaying memory, is very easily conceived by one who experiences, as I do, the strong effects of the same human frailty. I lament it the more in you on this occasion, on one particular account; viz. the treasonable correspondence alluded to in my Memorial, & the attempt made by Arnold to induce me by two long & ingenious letters to abandon our patriot cause, as he had done, & join the enemy; which letters I sent to you, & you directed me to hold no corrispondence with him. These letters were afterwards sent to General Nelson, & in the hurry & long separation of our different movements, were unfortunately lost to me.

There were several publications in the Virginia Gazette & Enquirer on these heads about Sepr or Octor 1805, which would probably refresh your memory. Could you obtain those files, & write me again by Mail to Richmond on these particular heads, I should esteem it a great favor.

Wishing you all that peace & good will you Seem to wish for from others in your latter days, & a happy & tranquil termination to a long life; believe me, Dear Sir, respectfully,

Your most obedient humble Servt

John Nicholas

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 26 Nov. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

The Richmond enquirer published a six-part “Vindication of Mr. Jefferson,” 23, 27, 30 Aug., 6, 13, 27 Sept. 1805. It answered a variety of criticisms of TJ’s character, with special emphasis on his performance as Virginia’s Revolutionary War governor. This was followed by at least two essays entitled “A Real Defence of Mr. Jefferson, Against the injurious slanders of a late pretended vindication of him, addressed to the Editor of the Enquirer.” In the first, the anonymous author, possibly Nicholas himself, claimed firsthand knowledge of TJ’s governorship and suggested that, realizing he was out of his depth in that office, TJ had wisely relinquished it to abler hands. The second considered charges that TJ conducted a criminal and treacherous correspondence with Benedict Arnold. It countered by citing an unlocated exchange of letters with “a certain American officer” in which TJ concluded “with a recommendation, or request to the officer, to hold no further communication with so base and traitorous a wretch, for whom he expressed the most entire abhorrence that could possibly be felt” (Richmond Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser, 2, 12 Oct. 1805).

Index Entries

  • Arnold, Benedict; treasonous activities of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as governor of Va. search
  • Nelson, Thomas; Revolutionary War service of search
  • newspapers; RichmondVirginia Gazette and General Advertiser search
  • Nicholas, John (ca.1758–1836); letters from search
  • Nicholas, John (ca.1758–1836); Memorial to Virginia General Assembly search
  • Nicholas, John (ca.1758–1836); Revolutionary War service of search
  • Revolutionary War; compensation claims search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints vindications of TJ search
  • Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (Richmond newspaper) search