Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel Smith (of Maryland) to Thomas Jefferson, 2 August 1820

From Samuel Smith (of Maryland)

Baltimore 2 August 1820

Dr sir

The total ruin in which my private fortune is involved, and my inability for1 want of Capital to pursue any probable means of support for my family induced me to give my Consent to become a Candidate for the Speakers Chair—The Views of N. Carolina who first mentioned the subject to me were bottomed on the Idea, that it would be unwise for the South to irritate the East by the Choice of a Speaker south of Potomack, and equally unwise to take a Speaker from among those who were active in favor of the Missouri question. they, therefore thought it advisable to fix on me, as from a State not obnoxious to either great division,—The Southern Candidate will be Mr Nelson, the Eastern Mr Taylor of N. York,—the division of the Southern Votes between Mr Nelson and me may give Mr Taylor a majority on the first Vote. if my number should be such as to induce my friends to withdraw my name the Contest will thus be between Mr Nelson and Mr Taylor, and will probably be in favor of the latter. it will thus be determined by Votes founded on the Missouri question.—If however the Contest should be between Mr Taylor and me, and if I should be supported by Virginia there would be little doubt of my succeeding.—I know not any person who Could influence Mr Nelson, and I doubt much whether any ought to make the attempt, if any person could I presume Mr Madison might—I fear the Contest for Speaker between East and South will Call up the unpleasant question of Slavery and no Slavery again.

I have been a sincere supporter of the present Administration, because I have thought little wrong had been done, and because I thought the President meant to do right—Some expenditures had been commenced proper in themselves, but not Convenient in the present State of our Affairs—I believe they are postponed for a time when our finances will be in a better State

I have thought (perhaps vainly) that I Could render essential service in Spain. that nation was our best Customer formerly for flour, until it imposed a prohibitory duty.—To induce its removal will require more commercial knowledge than is usually sent on foreign missions—I know that Merchants have Scarcely2 ever been sent by any nation to the Courts of Europe, but may not this be one of the prejudices of the World, if So—ought we not to be superior to them,—I however think it highly probable that the new Order of things in Spain may induce the President to continue Mr Forsyth. I have the honor to be

with the sincerest attachment

your most Obedt servt

S. Smith

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Baltimore, 3 Aug.; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Aug. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to James Madison, 13 Aug. 1820.

The occupant of the speakers chair in the United States House of Representatives received a per diem twice as large as that of an ordinary member (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:404 [22 Jan. 1818]). The southern candidate for the speakership was ultimately William Lowndes, of South Carolina, not Hugh Nelson, of Virginia. After twenty-two ballots, on 15 Nov. 1820 John W. Taylor (mr taylor of n. york) was elected Speaker, with Smith finishing a distant third (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 14:7; John S. Pancake, Samuel Smith and the Politics of Business: 1752–1839 [1972], 155).

the new order of things: large-scale uprisings throughout Spain in the early months of 1820 had induced Ferdinand VII to restore the nation’s 1812 constitution, which promoted the concept of popular sovereignty and restricted monarchical power through an elected parliament (Paul W. Schroeder, Metternich’s Diplomacy at Its Zenith, 1820–1823 [1962], 25–6).

1Manuscript: “fo,” reworked from “to.”

2Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Ferdinand VII, king of Spain; and Spanish revolution of1820 search
  • flour; exportation of search
  • Forsyth, John; as minister plenipotentiary to Spain search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and Missouri question search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; Speaker of search
  • Lowndes, William; as candidate for Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Missouri question; and Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • Monroe, James; presidency of search
  • Nelson, Hugh; as candidate for Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • slavery; and Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); and J. Monroe search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); as candidate for Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); family of search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); financial situation of search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); letters from search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); seeks diplomatic appointment search
  • Spain; and U.S. search
  • Spain; commercial policies of search
  • Spain; constitution of search
  • Spain; Cortes of search
  • Spain; revolution in search
  • taxes; on imports search
  • Taylor, John W.; as candidate for Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • United States; and Spain search