Thomas Jefferson Papers

Tench Coxe to Thomas Jefferson, 11 November 1820

From Tench Coxe

Philadelphia Nov. 11. 1820.

Dear Sir

You are one of the last persons to whom it is necessary to observe how comfortable are the exchanges of the heart among those, who are united in principles at once virtuous and vital. I feel all that belong to such circumstances in the perusal of your letter of the 13th ulto. It is true that I aspired to be the fellow laboror (juvenile and modest) with superior men. I have been amply repaid by my belief that I helped to save our country, and its cause from menaced evils, and to promote its interests and dishonored fame at home and abroad. Amidst the injuries I have sustained from the weakness, avarice & jealousies of false or infirm brethren, and from opponents, who suffered in their conflicts with our friends and myself, I have never ceased to devote more than my leisure hours to the public interests political, moral & œconomical. In the volume of Murray & Co’s Phila edition of Reess London Cyclopædia, which contains the “U. States” you will see my views of our country of the 4th July 1818. It was meant to insinuate and record many things in the light we have viewed them from 1774 to 1818. The enquiry, which it contains into the national character of the people of the United states was intended as a little summary of “Vindiciæ Americanæ.” I think its enthusiasm, which I confess as a weakness on subjects of the heart, would gratify you in one of your calmest moods of moral philosophy.

I am now meditating “a manual of agriculture.” Our family has been concerned in the landed interests of this country about 150 years. I have a love of its soil not only natural, but hereditary. This is one of my apologies for presuming treat of subject that many may suppose I have not observed from the time of my readings of Virgils Georgics, in our grammar School. But I have indulged myself with success on the cotton, on the vine, which to us Pennsylvanians are not indigenous, and I hope to compile and compose a better manual than we yet have for the rising generation of cultivators and for the uninstructed, unreflecting, and unsystemazied part of the practical and adult. There is another reason. I abandoned my profession in the year 1790, because I deemed it improper in me and unfavorable to our young reformed government that I as a public officer, possessed of political information & secrets & with many opportunities of influence, should be engaged in commerce. I am therefore without a profession, and entirely out of office, with a family of eight unmarried children all above 20. I some times receive a compensation for those services with my pen which I always gave to the public & the press, without price in our1 time. If 1 or 200 copies were presented to me by a liberal printer, I gave them to eminent men, and public libraries to circulate their contents.

At the moment of receiving your letter I was meditating an application, from necessity, to Mr Monroe. A law of last Session vacates all the offices throughout the Union, of certain descriptions, which have been held by the incumbents four years or more. Mr Monroe2 has overcome the old rivals (Messrs G. & DeW. C.)3 of yourself, Mr Madison & himself in our Pennsa election & extensively elsewhere. I have requested his consideration for some vacancy & particularly for one held by a person who has no claims upon the country civil or military; revolutionary or subsequent, but owes his appointment only to a connexion with a gentleman, once in office, & who has so conducted our first pecuniary institution as to make a fortune of 40,000 Drs and to ruin the energy & credit of our bank at home and abroad. That or some other appointment I wish for my old age, for my family, for sufferings in mind, person, estate and every thing pertaining to comfort, and for the duties I trust I am prepared to perform and the volunteer services I should be in the old habit of rendering. The office is one which I once asked, and which Mr Madison gave me, but the war destroyed its emoluments. The naval office of this port is that I mean, or any other. If the remembrance and consideration of all you have known me to suffer and execute appear to justify an early interposition, in an emergent case, (with Mr Madisons cooperation) by letters to the President, & members of the Senate it would relieve me from a scene of distress past, present & imminent which I should be pained to narrate. As the transmission of this letter to Mr Madison by you would save time, and enable him to act, I authorize its communication. Any office would be equal to me, but the 2d in the customs, the Nav. offe, in which my mercantile and œconomical practice & vending would be of most value to my country, I would prefer to the 1st or any other.

I have just finished a series of papers for the national intelligencer under the signature of Greene upon the subject of the Northern temper & conduct upon the subject of the Missouri question and too hasty emancipation. I feel, to the bottom of my soul, the danger of political, religious & moral fanaticism on that subject. We have had no such topic of just apprehension since the settlement of Independence. I have endeavoured to infuse into the consideration of it as much as possible of truth not considered, and of reason, obscured by passion, prejudice and criminal intrigue.

My letter, too long for your convenience, I hasten to close: but will not promise that I will refrain from others concerning the public interests. I could say much now of wonderful Spain, of Naples, of Portugal and of the extension of the representative principle, and the decline of military and ecclesiastical despotisms. But I respectfully postpone.

I have the honor to be with perfect respect and attachment dear Sir

yr faithful friend & servant.

Tench Coxe

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Nov. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to James Madison, 29 Nov. 1820, and Madison to TJ, 10 Dec. 1820.

The American edition of Abraham Rees, ed., The Cyclopædia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature (Philadelphia, [1805–25?]), included Coxe’s lengthy entry on the United States in volume 39 (Coxe to James Madison, 2 Feb. 1819 [Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:405–7]). At its last session, on 15 May 1820 Congress passed an “Act to limit the term of office of certain officers therein named, and for other purposes” (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 , 3:582).

g. & dew. c.: George Clinton and DeWitt Clinton. In 1813 William Jones, who was then the secretary of the navy and later the president of the Second Bank of the United States, successfully recommended the selection of his connexion and mercantile partner Samuel Clarke to be naval officer at the port of Philadelphia. Around the same time, Coxe turned down James Madison’s offer of the same post due to its inadequate emoluments (Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 7:25, 37–8). A piece signed by “greene” appeared in the Washington Daily National Intelligencer on 13 Nov. 1820.

1Word interlined in place of “my.”

2Manuscript: “Monroes.”

3Parenthetical phrase interlined.

Index Entries

  • agriculture; books on search
  • An Act to limit the term of office of certain officers therein named, and for other purposes (1820) search
  • Bank of the United States, Second; and W. Jones (ca.1761–1831) search
  • books; on agriculture search
  • Clarke, Samuel (ca.1757–1824); as naval officer search
  • Clinton, DeWitt; and party politics search
  • Clinton, George; and party politics search
  • Congress, U.S.; activities of search
  • cotton; as crop search
  • Coxe, Tench; and agriculture search
  • Coxe, Tench; articles by in A. Rees’sCyclopædia search
  • Coxe, Tench; letter from search
  • Coxe, Tench; on Missouri question search
  • Coxe, Tench; seeks federal appointment search
  • Europe; revolutions in search
  • Georgics (Virgil) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Jones, William (ca.1761–1831); and naval position for S. Clarke search
  • Jones, William (ca.1761–1831); as president of Second Bank of U.S. search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and appointments search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and party politics search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and T. Coxe search
  • Missouri question; newspapers discuss search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • Monroe, James; as presidential candidate search
  • Murray, Fairman & Company (Philadelphia firm) search
  • Naples, kingdom of (later Kingdom of the Two Sicilies); revolution in search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); prints essay by “Greene” (T. Coxe) search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; applications to search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; appointments to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Portugal; politics in search
  • Rees, Abraham; The Cyclopædia search
  • Senate, U.S.; and appointments search
  • Spain; politics in search
  • The Cyclopædia (A. Rees) search
  • United States; encyclopedia article on search
  • Virgil; Georgics search
  • viticulture; in U.S. search
  • War of1812; privations caused by search