Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Ritchie, 7 January 1822

To Thomas Ritchie

Monto Jan. 7. 22.

Dr Sir

I see with much concern in your paper of the 3d that they are endeavoring to compromit me on the subject of the next President. the informn said to come from a1 gent. from Columbia is totally unfounded, & you will observe that the Augusta Chronicle cited also as giving an acct of the same Caucus says not a word of any letter from me. for all of the gentlemen named as subjects of the future2 election I have the highest esteem and should much regret that they should suppose me to take any part in it. I entirely and decidedly withdraw myself from all intermeddling in3 matters of this nature. you will oblige me by inserting in your paper4 some such contradiction as below, in a form not importing5 to come directly from myself. it is the more necessary as you seem to have given credit to it if the word ‘incorrect’ be not an error of the press for ‘correct’6 I salute you with frdshp & resp.

Dft (DLC); on verso of portion of reused address cover to TJ; subjoined to Dft of enclosure; at foot of text: “Mr Thos Ritchie”; endorsed by TJ.

compromit: “embroil” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

On 3 Jan. 1822 the Richmond Enquirer reprinted the following article from the Petersburg Intelligencer: “We have conversed with a gentleman recently from Columbia, the seat of Government of South Carolina, who has informed us that the day before he left that town, the Members of the Legislature met in Caucus to nominate a fit candidate to fill the high office of President of the U. States upon the retirement of Mr. Monroe. Letters from various quarters of the Union, and from a number of our most distinguished public characters, were laid before the meeting, and particularly one from Mr. Jefferson was read, all pointing to the same object, viz. the nomination of William Lowndes of South Carolina as a gentleman possessing all the proper qualifications, and being most likely to unite the suffrages of the great Republican Party. Mr. Lowndes was nominated by the meeting as the most suitable candidate for the office of President of the U. States at the next election. This is the substance of the information we have received.” The Richmond Enquirer followed this with an item from the 24 Dec. 1821 Augusta Chronicle & Georgia Gazette: “We are informed by a gentleman, direct from Columbia, S. C. that a caucus was held on Wednesday last, for the purpose of nominating a Candidate for the Presidency. The notification was expressed in such general terms, and the object so little understood, that only 60 of the members of the Legislature met; and from these Mr. Lowndes received a majority of votes. The next day, however, another portion of them assembled, as the friends of Mr. Calhoun, and protested against the order and proceedings of the meeting.”

Immediately preceding these pieces in the Richmond Enquirer, the editors commented that “We should be disposed to suspect the correctness of the subsequent article from the last Petersburg Intelligencer, if it were not for the paragraph which we subjoin from the Augusta Chronicle of the 24th ult. Coming together from distinct quarters, these articles serve in some measure to prop each other. As it is, we suspect the first one is not altogether incorrect—Mr. Jefferson’s letter for example.—The Columbia and Charleston papers breathe not a syllable about any part of this matter.” When it printed TJ’s enclosure to the above letter on 10 Jan. 1822, the Richmond Enquirer concluded by correcting its error: “By an error of the press, the word ‘incorrect’ was put for ‘correct’ in the article we penned on this subject. We never believed for one moment that Mr. J. intermeddled in matters of this nature.”

On 5 Jan. 1822 the Richmond Enquirer reprinted from the Petersburg Intelligencer a correction explaining that letters had not actually been read at the South Carolina caucus, nor had the authors of such letters been named. Rather, “Our informant heard it mentioned in private circles next day, that Mr. Jefferson sanctioned the nomination of Mr. Lowndes.”

1Preceding five words interlined in place of “of the.”

2Word interlined.

3TJ here canceled “personal.”

4Preceding three words interlined.

5Word interlined in place of “assuming.”

6Sentence interlined.

Index Entries

  • Augusta Chronicle & Georgia Gazette (newspaper) search
  • Calhoun, John Caldwell; presidential prospects of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; anonymous publications by search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; spurious letter allegedly from search
  • Lowndes, William; allegedly endorsed for president by TJ search
  • Lowndes, William; presidential prospects of search
  • newspapers; Augusta Chronicle & Georgia Gazette search
  • newspapers; Petersburg Intelligencer search
  • Petersburg Intelligencer (newspaper) search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); and election of1824 search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); and TJ’s alleged presidential endorsement search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); T. Ritchie as editor of search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); TJ submits items to search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; as editor ofRichmond Enquirer search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; letters to search
  • South Carolina; presidential caucus in search
  • United States; elections in search