James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 13 February 1814

To Thomas Jefferson

Washington Feby. 13. 1814

Dear Sir

You will have noticed the propositions in the H. of Reps which tend to lift the veil which has so long covered the operations of the post off. Dept.1 They grew out of the disposition of Granger to appoint Leib to the vacant post office in Phila. in opposition to the known aversion of the City & of the whole State; & to the recommendation of the Pen: delegation in Congs.2 Having actually made the appointment, contrary to my sentiments also, which he asked & recd, much excitement prevails agst. him, and he is of course sparing no means, to ward the effects of it.3

Among other misfeasances charged on him, is his continuance, or probably reappointment, of Tayloe, since his residence in this City, as postmaster of a little office near his seat in Virga., no otherwise of importance than as it gives the post master the privilege of franking, which is said to amount to more than the income of the office, and which is exercised by the non-resident officer.4 The exhibition of this abuse to the public, is anxiously dreaded, by G: and as a chance to prevent it, a very extraordinary conversation has been held by him with a particular friend of mine with a view doubtless, that it might be communicated to me & perhaps to others of your friends.

Instead of denying or justifying the abuses he stated that whilst Docr. Jones was a candidate for Congs. a Baptist Preacher, who electioneered for him, enjoyed a contract for carrying the mail; that Tayloe who became an under-bidder for the contract, was about to oust the Preacher; and that the only expedient to save & satisfy the electioneering friend of the Docr. was to buy off Tayloe, by giving him the post office, which was brought about by Docr. Jones with your sanction; that the present obnoxious arrangement had that origin; and if enquiry is pushed on him he must come out with the whole story.

It would be superfluous to make remarks on the turpitude of character here developed. I have thought it proper to hint it to you, as a caution agst. any snare that may be laid for you by artful letters, and that you may recollect any circumstances which have been perverted for so wicked a purpose.

I have nothing to add to the contents of the enclosed Newspaper. Affectionate respects

James Madison

Prest U.S.

RC (owned by Roger W. Barrett, Chicago, Ill., 1958).

1On 7 Jan. 1814 Charles Jared Ingersoll introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for the appointment of a committee “to inquire into the expediency of revising the laws regulating the General Post Office Establishment of the United States.” Ingersoll particularly objected to the current practice of allowing the postmaster general to appoint subordinates without presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. The resolution passed, and on 11 Jan. the committee reported a bill subjecting all postmaster appointments to presidential and Senate approval. On 5 Feb., however, Ingersoll moved a second resolution, requesting detailed information on Post Office personnel, expenses, and practices in order to begin a “radical reform” of the department, which passage of the bill would not have achieved. The resolution was tabled but ordered to be printed, and on 8 Mar. Ingersoll reported a second bill regulating not only Post Office appointments but also the department’s accounting and franking practices. On 16 Apr., two days before the House adjourned, consideration of the bill was postponed until the next session (Annals of Congress, description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends 13th Cong., 2d sess., 861, 864–66, 889, 1243, 1245–47, 1836–38, 2024–25).

3Postmaster general Gideon Granger favored the antiadministration Republicans in the Senate and had promised the Philadelphia postmastership to Michael Leib, a member of that group, who was not likely to be reelected. Following Leib’s appointment, JM informed Granger that he would be replaced. The president nominated Return Jonathan Meigs Jr. to be postmaster general on 25 Feb. 1814, saying nothing as to Granger’s status. On 7 Mar. the Senate failed by one vote to pass a resolution intended to force JM to state that Granger had been dismissed. Meigs’s appointment was confirmed on 17 Mar. (Brant, Madison, description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis, 1941–61). description ends 6:243–44; Senate Exec. Proceedings, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends 2:498–99, 504, 511).

4In 1813 John Tayloe was postmaster of the Richmond Court House post office (Table of Post Offices in the United States; With the Names of the Post-Masters, the Counties and States in Which They Are Situated, and the Distances from Washington City [Washington, 1813; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 30380], 61).

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