Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Hay to Thomas Jefferson, 14 April 1821

From George Hay

Washington. April 14. 1821.


I yesterday received a note from Mr Thompson Secretary of the navy, containing the inclosed extract from a New York paper. The object of this note is to ascertain, thro’ me, whether you “made the declaration attributed to you” and to obtain “your answer in Such a shape, that it may be made public in order to counteract the effect it was intended to have in the State of N. Y.”

To excuse the trespass which I am now Committing, I ought to explain to you the circumstances which led to it. I yesterday met Mr Thompson and Mr Calhoun, as they were descending the Steps of the President’s house. The former immediately exhibited the inclosed, & asked me whether I thought it possible, that you could have uttered the opinion imputed to you. I affirmed at once that it was impossible; being persuaded that you had never taken the trouble to go thro’ the report of the joint Committee, a work of Seventy printed pages, now forwarded to you, and that if you had, your Conclusion would have been directly opposite to that ascribed to you. Mr Thompson said that not having the honor of a personal acquaintance with you, he could not take the liberty of troubling you on this Subject: and asked me, whether the relation in which I stood towards you would authorise me to—interfere. I told him that I thought, that I might ask the question, and that I was very Sure you would answer it, without hesitation. Soon afterwards I received the note and extract above mentioned—

As the election in N. Y takes place on the last tuesday in this month, an answer, if it shall be your pleasure to give one, Should be given without delay.

I took the liberty to Suggest, by way of accounting for the Error now in Circulation, that the opinion which both you and Gov. Randolph had expressed, if any you had expressed, probably1 related to State rights generally, and not to the Specific charge exhibited by Gov. Clinton against the genl government, and constituting the Subject of the report of the joint Committee.

As I am about to return to Virginia, and Shall probably, leave Washington, before the arrival of your letter, I shall leave instructions with the P.Mr here, to deliver to Mr Thompson any letter from you, addressed to me, reaching the post office within2 the next ten days.

I am, Sir, with the highest respect Yr mo: ob. Se

Geo: Hay—

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 19 Apr. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Mathew Carey, 19 June 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson. Late President U.S. Monticello Albemarle Coty Virginia”; franked; postmarked Washington, 14 Apr.

The inclosed extract was a clipping from the Washington Gazette of 12 Apr. 1821, which in turn was extracted from the New-York Columbian, 7 Apr. 1821 (DLC: TJ Papers, 220:39272; attached with red sealing wax to PoC of TJ to Hay, 20 Apr. 1821). It reads (opening double quotation mark editorially altered to single; omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied): “The following statement is made in the New York Columbian of Saturday evening last. The part which relates to Mr. Jefferson is particularly interesting; it has not, we must presume, or ought not to have been hazarded, without a certainty of its correctness.
 ‘Every great politician in the United States, speaks in terms of unequivocal approbation of the conduct of Governor Clinton in coming out boldly as the champion of state rights, and in warning his fellow citizens of the dangerous and alarming conduct of officers of the general government in interfering with our State elections.
 The venerable Thomas Jefferson, a name very dear to the republicans of the north, has very recently expressed his cordial and warm approbation of the conduct of Mr. Clinton in the whole of this affair, and has also expressed his conviction that the case was fully made out by the documents. Mr. Randolph, the late Governor of Virginia, has also expressed his decided approbation of the conduct of Mr. Clinton, and says it is an example which ought to be followed by every Governor in the Union.
 Other gentlemen of the old republican school of ’98 and 1800, and of the highest respectability, have also warmly and decidedly approved of the Governor of our State.’” Thomas Mann Randolph soon denied this report about his and TJ’s expressed support for DeWitt Clinton’s conduct as “wholly without foundation,” although “I concur with Mr Jefferson very heartily in admiring Governor Clintons talents and learning” (Randolph to Nicholas P. Trist, 6 May 1821 [NcU: NPT]).

The report of the joint committee also now forwarded was the Report of the Joint Committee of the Senate and Assembly, In relation to the Message of the Governor of the 18th of January last, implicating the conduct of sundry individuals holding offices under the General Government. With the Documents Accompanying The Same (Albany, 1821). The specific charge exhibited by gov. clinton against the genl government was an assertion by DeWitt Clinton that members of James Monroe’s administration and other high-level political leaders, including United States senator Martin Van Buren, had used federal patronage to influence the outcome of a recent election in New York and thereby violated the sovereignty of that state’s government. The joint legislative committee concluded that “the accusation made by his excellency the governor, against the officers of the general government, charging them with interfering, as an ‘organized and disciplined corps,’ in our elections, and of violating the ‘purity and independence of our local government,’ has not been substantiated, and is wholly unfounded” (p. 24).

1Word interlined.

2Manuscript: “with.”

Index Entries

  • Calhoun, John Caldwell; as secretary of war search
  • Clinton, DeWitt; TJ’s purported support of search
  • Hay, George; and TJ’s purported support for D. Clinton search
  • Hay, George; letters from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; state versus federal authority search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); presidency of search
  • newspapers; New YorkColumbian search
  • newspapers; Washington Gazette search
  • New York (state); elections in search
  • New York (state); newspapers search
  • New York (state); Report of the Joint Committee of the Senate and Assembly, In relation to the Message of the Governor of the 18th of January last, implicating the conduct of sundry individuals holding offices under the General Government search
  • New-York Columbian (newspaper) search
  • patronage; misuse of search
  • President’s House (Washington); mentioned search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); and purported support for D. Clinton search
  • Report of the Joint Committee of the Senate and Assembly, In relation to the Message of the Governor of the 18th of January last, implicating the conduct of sundry individuals holding offices under the General Government search
  • Republican party; unity within search
  • Thompson, Smith; and TJ’s purported support of D. Clinton search
  • United States; state versus federal authority search
  • Van Buren, Martin; as U.S. senator search
  • Washington Gazette (newspaper) search