99
99
Jefferson, Thomas, as Third President
Estimate
70,000100,000
JUMP TO LOT
99
Jefferson, Thomas, as Third President
Estimate
70,000100,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York

Jefferson, Thomas, as Third President
Autograph letter signed ("Th:Jefferson"), one page, 4to (10 x  8 in.; 254 x 203 mm), Washington, 31 December 1803, to George Clinton, integral address leaf with free franking signature ("Th:Jefferson Pr. US"); two worm trails in right margin costing 2 words, several fold splits, minor loss from seal tear. Blue moire folding case, teal morocco spine, tan morocco lettering pieces.
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Catalogue Note

Political skullduggery and faction meant to sabotage Jefferson's campaign for his second term. No presidential election since 1800 took place without attempts to damage at least one candidate's reputation by bruiting innuendo and rumor to make him appear unfit for the nation's most exalted office. New York governor George Clinton, after reading in the "scurrilous" pamphlet of "Aristides" the charge that, in 1800 at Burr's house he had make remarks "highly derogatory" of Jefferson's political character, hastened to write the President that this was "base and dishonorable misrepresentation" which was contradicted by the "uniform tenor of [his] conduct." The pamphlet in question was "An Examination of the Various Charges Exhibited Against Aaron Burr," whose author was Willam Peter Van Ness, a United States federal judge and avowed Burrite. Van Ness would serve as Burr's second in the Hamilton-Burr duel a year later.

"The uniform tenor of a man's life furnishes better evidence of what he has said or done on any particular occasion than the word of an enemy and of an enemy too who shews that he prefers the use of falsehoods which suit him to truths which do not,"  responded Jefferson who referred to the pamphlet as "libelous." He found it so false that he "threw it by, as to yourself be assured no contradiction was necessary." The President, having been the victim of a vicious smear campaign during the 1800 canvass, had been long aware of "a design to sow tares between particular republican characters"— he was fully aware of the intentions of the Burrites. Before he heard again from Clinton, Jefferson received a report from a supporter of alleged conversations at the time of the electoral tie in which Burr manifested his expectation of becoming President. At the time, Jefferson ignored his friends Madison and Wythe, who doubted assurances from Burr supporters that he would relinquish one electoral vote (as did the Federalists) to allow Jefferson to win. Burr had warned his supporters that "I should not choose to be trifled with" (quoted by Randall, Thomas Jefferson, p. 545).

"In confidence that you will not be 'weary in well-doing', I tender my wishes that your future days may be as happy as your past ones have been useful ..." Though Jefferson committed himself to nothing, he recognized that Clinton was a friend of his administration, and his closing words are most effusive: " [L]et every man stand to his post, and hazard nothing by change. And when that is done, you and I may retire to the tranquility which our years begin to call for, and revise with satisfaction the efforts of the age we happened to be born in, crowned with compleat success. In the hour of death we shall have the consolation to see established in the land of our fathers the most wonderful work of wisdom and disinterested patriotism..."

Burr's catering to the Federalists for their support had disenamored the Jeffersonians and later in 1804, his killing of Alexander Hamilton in a duel made him a political pariah with the public.  Jefferson went on to win a decisive victory, carrying George Clinton with him as his Vice President.

 

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York