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MY DEAR FRIEND, Your favor of the 12th ultimo having arrived during an excursion into Albemarle, I did not receive it till my return on yesterday. I lose not a nroment in thanking you for it, particularly for the very friendly paragraph in the publication in Fenno's paper. As I do not get his paper here, it was by accident I first saw this extraordinary manoeuvre of calumny, the quarter, the motive, and the object of which speak of themselves. As it respects Mr. Jefferson, I have no doubt that it will be of serv.e both to him and the public, if it should lead to such an investigation of his political opinions and character as may be expected. With respect to myself, the consequence, in a public view, is of little account. In any view, there could not have been a charge founded on a grosserv.erversion of facts, and, consequently, against which I could feel myself more invulnerable.
That I wished and recommended Mr. Freneau to be appointed to his present Clerkship is certain. But the Department of State was not the only, nor, as I recollect, the first one, to which I mentioned his name and character. I was governed in these recommendations by an acquaintance of long standing, by a respect for his talents, and by a knowledge of his merit and sufferings in the course of the Revolution. Had I been less abstemious in my practice from solicitations in behalf of my friends, I should probably have been more early in thinking of Mr. F. The truth is, that my application, when made, did not originate with myself. It was suggested by another gentleman,* who could feel no motive but a disposition to patronize merit, and who wished me to co-operate with him. That, with others of Mr. Freneau's particular acquaintances, I wished and advised him to establish a press at Philadelphia, instead of one meditated by him in New Jersey, is also certain. I advised the change because I thought his interest would be advanced by it, and because, as a friend, I was desirous that his interest should be advanced. This was my primary and governing motive. That, as a consequential one, I entertained hopes that a free paper meant for general circulation, and edited by a man of genius of republican principles, and a friend to the Constitution, would be some antidote to the doctrines and discourses circulated in favour of Monarchy and Aristocracy, and would be an acceptable vehicle of public information in many places not sufficiently supplied with it, this, also, is a certain truth; but it is a truth which I never could be tempted to conceal, or wish to be concealed. If there be a temptation in the case, it would be to make a merit of it.
But that the establishment of Mr. Freneau's press was wished in order to sap the Constitution, and that I forwarded the measure, or that my agency negociated it, by an illicit or improper connection between the functions of a translating clerk in a public Office and those of an Editor of a Gazette, these are charges which ought to be as impotent as they are malicious. The first is surely incredible, if any charge could be so; and the 'second is, I hope, at least improbable, and not to be credited, until unequivocal proof shall be substituted for anonymous and virulent asserv.ons.
When I first saw the publication, I was half disposed to meet it with a note to the printer, with my name subscribed. I was thrown into suspense, however, by reflecting that as I was not named, and was only incidentally brought into view, such a step might be precipitate, if not improper, in case the principal should not concur in such a mode of vindication. 2. That I was not enough acquainted with the turn the thing might take, and the light in which it might be viewed on the spot. 3. That in a case the least doubtful, prudence would not rush into the newspapers. These considerations have been since sanctioned by the opinion of two or three judicious and neutral friends whom I have consulted. The part finally proper, however,' remains to be decided, and on that I shall always be thankful for the ideas of my friends most in a condition to judge.
* General H. Lee.
- James Madison