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Jefferson’s Response to the New Haven Merchants’ Remonstrance, and his First Inaugural Address
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[THOMAS JEFFERSON, WILLIAM CRANCH]. Pamphlet. An Examination of The President’s Reply to the New-Haven Remonstrance; with …the President’s Inaugural Speech, The Remonstrance and Reply … a List of Removals from Office and New Appointments. 1801. New York: George F. Hopkins. FIRST EDITION. Octavo. 69pp.

Inventory #21286       Price: $900

“Of the various Executive duties, no one excites more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow citizens in the hands of honest men, with understandings sufficient for their station…In the case of Samuel Bishop however, the subject of your remonstrance, time was taken, information was sought, and such obtained as could leave no room for doubt of his fitness. From private sources it was learnt that his understanding was sound, his integrity pure, his character unstained …The will of the nation, manifested by their various elections, calls for an administration of government according with the opinions of those elected; if, for the fulfilment of that will, displacements are necessary,  with whom can they so justly begin as with persons appointed in the last moments of an administration, not for it’s own aid, but to begin a career at the same time with their successors, by whom they had never been approved, and who could scarcely expect from them a cordial cooperation? I lament sincerely that unessential differences of opinion should ever have been deemed sufficient to interdict half the society from the rights & the blessings of self-government; to proscribe them asunworthy of every trust.  It would have been to me a circumstance of great relief had I found a moderate participation of office in the hands of the Majority. I would gladly have left to time & accident to raise them to their just share, but their total exclusion calls for prompter correctives.”

Historical Background

Jefferson’s ascension to the presidency in 1801 marked the first time in American history that power was transferred from one political party to another.  The peaceful transition removed fears of a counterrevolution, a welcome reassurance after the rancorous, drawn-out election of 1800.   Jefferson’s first “Inaugural Address” (which is printed in this pamphlet), with its famous call to unity (“We are all Federalists; We are all Republicans”); was received with some optimism, though many Federalists remained skeptical.  One of the earliest actions of his administration seemed to bear out the Federalist’s cynicism.  Reacting against the Federalist bias of Adams and Washington in appointing federal officers, Jefferson began replacing Federalist appointees with his own Republican nominees.  Jefferson was thorough in this process, replacing officers even in comparatively humble positions.  One of the men removed by his administration was a popular customs official, Elizur Goodrich, at the port of New Haven.  The reaction of the city’s merchants was swift but respectful.  Presuming, at least on paper, Jefferson’s ignorance of local circumstances, they requested Goodrich’s reinstatement.  Jefferson’s somewhat patronizing reply, which denied the merchant’s request while developing a reply that seemed to presume their ignorance of constitutional matters, was criticized by both Federalists and some Republicans, who lamented what they saw as Jefferson’s betrayal of his principles.

Excerpt:

Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address:

 “…though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable…the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind; let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty, and even life itself, are but dreary things. And let us reflect, that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little, if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions…every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans; we are all federalists.  If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve the Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it…”


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