Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Smith Thompson, 19 August 1821

To Smith Thompson

Monticello Aug. 19. 21.


A friend of mine, mr Gibson of Richmond is desirous of obtaining a Midshipman’s warrant for his son, a youth of about 14. years of age of a robust constitution, and a predilection for that line of life which may give hopes of a zealous pursuit of it. with the son I am not personally acquainted, but have no doubt that satisfactory vouchers may be exhibited of his character and qualification.   with mr Gibson himself I have had an intimate intercourse of 30. years and bear witness with pleasure to his excellent character. he is indeed one of the most esteemed persons of Richmond, and will carry with him all the good will and friendly wishes of that place for the success of his application. to my friendship for him it would be a great personal gratification if my testimony to his merit should contribute any thing towards obtaining for him that share of your favor which you think you may with justice bestow. I pray you to accept assurances of my high esteem & consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Joseph Rubinfine, West Palm Beach, Fla., 2014). PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of David Gelston to TJ, 2 Sept. 1820; mutilated at seal; endorsed by TJ as a letter to “Thompson Secy Navy” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to Patrick Gibson, 19 Aug. [1821].

Smith Thompson (1768–1843), jurist and public official, was born in Dutchess County, New York. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1788 and taught for a year in Troy, New York, before moving to Poughkeepsie. Thompson continued to teach there while he studied law. After qualifying for the bar in 1792 he began to practice law, first briefly in Troy and then from 1793 in Poughkeepsie. Thompson’s marriage into New York’s powerful Livingston family benefitted him politically. He served a term in the New York State Assembly, 1800 to 1801, was a delegate to a state constitutional convention in the latter year, and was appointed an associate justice to the state supreme court early in 1802, becoming chief justice in 1814. In 1818 President James Monroe appointed Thompson secretary of the navy, a position he held until Monroe appointed him an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1823. Although Thompson initially delayed while he assessed his chances of running for president, he accepted and sat on the court from 1823 until his death. He wrote eighty-five majority opinions for the Supreme Court, five concurring opinions, and eleven dissents, sometimes differing from John Marshall by supporting state authority in economic matters in the absence of congressional directives. Beginning in 1813 Thompson was a regent of the University of the State of New York. He served as a vice president of the American Bible Society, 1816–27, and he ran unsuccessfully against fellow Republican Martin Van Buren for governor of New York in 1828. Thompson died in Poughkeepsie (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1784–90, pp. 296–303; Donald Malcolm Roper, Mr. Justice Thompson and the Constitution [1987]; DLC: Thompson Papers; NHi: Thompson Papers; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:142, 150, 343, 344 [27, 30 Nov. 1818, 8, 9 Dec. 1823]; New York Evening Post, 20 Dec. 1843; Peleg W. Chandler and Stephen H. Phillips, eds., The Law Reporter [1839–48], 6:432; gravestone inscription in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery).

Index Entries

  • Gibson, Alexander; seeks appointment search
  • Gibson, Patrick; seeks appointment for son search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation from search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; applications to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation from TJ search
  • Thompson, Smith; and appointments search
  • Thompson, Smith; identified search
  • Thompson, Smith; letter to search