James Madison Papers

To James Madison from “H.” [John H. Douglass], 22 April 1809

From “H.” [John H. Douglass]


New York 22nd. April 1809.

Dr. Sir,

The double conduct of De Witt Clinton has so far weakened the republican party in this State, as to render the election extreemly doubtful.1 Many of his old friends with Cheetham were so far drawn out of the ranks, that they cannot get in Again & now despise him more than the federal party.2 The Honble. Mathew Lyon Esqr.3 is doing us much injury. He is exposing De Witts intrigues relative to the Presidentcy &c &c—openly declairs him the most perfiduous political scoundrel that he was ever connected with, profoundly skilled in all the combinations of treachery and fraud, Lyon is using all the arts he is capable of to induce his countrymen to vote the federal Ticket, I am this moment informd that your Proclamation has arrivd relative to settlement of our affairs with England. I apprehend that it is too late to save the election—however if the federalists triumph in this State now—it will be for one year only—and the Clintons will fall with them.

Captain Wiley of Fort Columbus has suggested to me & I believe he has to Dr. Eustis, the Necessaty of appointing a Medical Gentleman of respectable standing, to be stationed in the City of New York, who should Attend all recruiting parties in the City, both Military & Marine, and detachments on this Island & act as consulting Physician & Surgeon to Fort Columbus & the other small posts—Also to inspect all Medecine put up in this City for the Army &c.

It would no doubt be a very great service to the public to make the appointment in question, now each recruiting Officer employs any Physician he pleases & the expences mount up to four times the pay of a regular appointed one.

Should you be of opinion that the appointment would be advantageous to the Public, you will greatly oblige a friend by suggesting to Dr. Eustis the name of Dr. John H. Douglass late Health commissioner of this City—removed by De Witt Clinton. Dr. D. is known to Dr. Eustis as the Physician of Colo Burr & Colo. W. S. Smith, when Burr was the Orniment of our party.

Dr. Eustis has also known him in consultation at Mrs. Lorings New York. Should Dr. Eustis make any enquiry of Captain Wiley on the subject, I make no doubt the Captn. would present his name as he has informed me that the Surgeons Mate at the Fort is not in his confidence &c &c. Yours Sincerely


RC (NN). Docketed “Anonymous” by JM, who added, “see letters from the same.”

1The New York Republican party split over the presidential election of 1808. DeWitt Clinton, then serving as a state senator and mayor of New York City, supported the presidential candidacy of his uncle, George Clinton. Six out of nineteen New York electors voted for George Clinton as a presidential candidate, but he was reelected as vice-president and served under JM until his death in 1812. With New York Republicans in disarray, the Federalists won major gains in the May 1809 elections to the state legislature (DeAlva Stanwood Alexander, A Political History of the State of New York [3 vols.; New York, 1906–23], 1:166–68; JM to Jefferson, 30 May 1809 and n. 2).

2James Cheetham emigrated from England in 1798 and edited the American Citizen and the Republican Watch-Tower in New York, 1801–10. DeWitt Clinton briefly opposed the Embargo, and Cheetham (a Clintonian, anti-Burr Republican) followed his lead. Clinton soon reversed his position, and Cheetham broke with his former patron (Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820 [2 vols.; Worcester, Mass., 1947], 2:1391; Alexander, Political History of New York, 1:163–65).

3Matthew Lyon became a Republican hero when, as a Vermont congressman, he was jailed under the Sedition Act, 1798–99. He served as a congressman from Kentucky, 1803–11, and supported George Clinton in the presidential election of 1808 (Cunningham, Circular Letters of Congressmen, 2:599).

4John Hancock Douglass was a New York physician and pharmacist who served as commissioner of the city health office, member of the city board of health, and trustee of the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1807–11. This is the last of twenty letters Douglass wrote to JM, signed variously “H.,” “Hancock,” or “J. H. D.” JM kept anonymous letters in a separate file and probably sifted through them during his retirement, for on one of Douglass’s letters he wrote: “These and the following under the signature of H. never noticed, nor any clue to the writer other than in dates of Feby. 22. & Apl. 22. 1809. / Dr. Douglass” (C. H. J. Douglas, A Collection of Family Records, with Biographical Sketches … of Various Families Bearing the Name Douglas [Providence, R.I., 1879], pp. 82–83, 138–39; Milton Halsey Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni, 1754–1857 [New York, 1936], p. 57; “J. H. D.” to JM, 4 Feb. 1809 [NN]).

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