Thomas Jefferson Papers

Christopher Ellery to Thomas Jefferson, 22 February 1820

From Christopher Ellery

Providence, R.I. Feby 22d 1820.


The death of my Uncle, William Ellery, one of those who signed the memorable declaration of independence which flowed from your pen, and who was Collector of the Customs for the port of Newport, has caused some movement in our little state among the friends of the gentlemen who are considered as likely to succeed him. Several among them who recommend me to the President as a fit successor, have spoken & written to me, urging my addressing you on the occasion and soliciting your kind offices in my favor with the government. To some of these I have answered, “that I could not overcome my repugnance to writing, myself, for myself,”1 and have said, “why do you not write”?   Now, I fear and indeed have reason to believe, that one of these, my correspondents, has answered my question by sketching for your eye a picture of past circumstances, present situation, and future prospects relating to me, which, being surcharged, becomes a caricature. Therefore have I taken my own pen to ask, in more simple terms, that you will be so obliging as to endeavour to recall to your recollection the knowledge you have formerly had of me, and that you will communicate to Mr Monroe what you can thus call to mind which may tend towards the attainment of the object desired. It grieves me to invite you thus to move, possibly, without the limits which you have prescribed for restraining your steps; nor should I give such invitation, but that there seems to exist on all hands an idea that you must be friendly to me,—that your influence is, necessarily, all powerful with the President,—and that you will use it willingly for my advantage, when urged so to do,—especially when to the public the result is likely to be beneficial.

For every favor I shall be grateful, and with wishes that you may live, and enjoy life, many years, I remain,

most respectfully, Yr mo Ob. servant

Christ. Ellery

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Mar. 1820 and so recorded in SJL.

Christopher Ellery (1768–1840), attorney and public official, graduated from Yale College (later Yale University) in 1787, studied law, and entered practice in Newport, Rhode Island. He served as clerk of the Superior Court for Newport County, 1794–98, and as a justice of the peace for at least five years beginning in 1794. Ellery was elected to fill a vacant United States Senate seat and served from 1801 until 1805. TJ corresponded frequently with him concerning political appointments, and late in 1805 he appointed him commissioner of loans for Rhode Island. In 1820 President James Monroe appointed Ellery customs collector for the Newport district, a position from which he resigned in 1834. He died in Middletown, Rhode Island (Dexter, Yale Biographies description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 4:523, 540; Joseph Jencks Smith, comp., Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1647–1800 [1900]; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , esp. 34:195–6; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:7, 10, 3:205, 206 [20, 23 Dec. 1805, 5 Apr. 1820]; DNA: RG 29, CS, R.I., Providence, 1820; Newport Mercury, 5 Dec. 1840; gravestone inscription in Island Cemetery, Newport).

1Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Declaration of Independence; signers of search
  • Ellery, Christopher; identified search
  • Ellery, Christopher; letter from search
  • Ellery, Christopher; seeks appointment search
  • Ellery, William; death of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • Newport, R.I.; collector at search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search