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[AUTOGRAPH LETTER, SIGNED, FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JAMES L. EDWARDS OF BOSTON, REFUSING DEMANDS FOR PAYMENT FROM A NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER]
Monticello, 1811. Pen and ink on paper. Quarto. Clean, partial split along one fold, old 1/16-inch archival repairs to three corners, else fine. Cover leaf with modest soiling, traces of seal. An interesting Jefferson letter in which he rebuffs a request for payment of a thousand dollars by the editor of the SAVANNAH REPUBLICAN newspaper. He stridently objects to the payment demand, and seeks to defend his honor and reputation in setting his correspondent straight. Jefferson subscribed to a number of newspapers while he was president, including the SAVANNAH REPUBLICAN. He cancelled almost all of these subscriptions, including that for the ...REPUBLICAN, when he left office at the beginning of 1809, taking care to pay all his outstanding bills. It appears from this letter that Norman McLean, one-time editor of the ...REPUBLICAN, promised his successor, James Edwards, that he would pay Edwards money he owed him once he collected $1000 owed McLean by Jefferson. Edwards wrote to Jefferson on Aug. 20, 1811 asking for the money that Jefferson owed McLean. In the present letter Jefferson stridently objects to the request and insists that his account with McLean is settled. A review of Jefferson's memorandum and account books corroborates Jefferson's claim. McLean was seemingly trying to forestall Edwards' requests for payment by claiming that Jefferson still owed him money, and that he would pay Edwards when he was paid by Jefferson. Jefferson writes: "Sir, "Your letter of August 20th has truly surprised me. In that it is said that, for certain services performed by Mr. James Lyon and Mr. Samuel Morse, formerly editors of the Savannah Republican, I promised them the sum of 1000 D. This, Sir, is totally unfounded. I never promised to any printer on earth the sum of 1000 D., nor any other sum, for certain services performed, or for any services which that expression would imply. I have had no accounts with printers but for their newspapers, for which I have paid always the ordinary price and no more. I have occasionally joined in moderate contributions to printers, as I have done to other descriptions of persons, distressed or persecuted, not by promise, but the actual payment of what I contributed. When Mr. Morse went to Savannah, he called on me and told me he meant to publish a paper there, for which I subscribed, and paid him the year in advance. I continued to take it from his successors, Everett & McLean, and Everett & Evans, and paid for it at different epochs up to December 31, 1808, when I withdrew my subscription. You say McLean informed you 'he had some expectation of getting the money, as he had received a letter from me on the subject.' If such a letter exists under my name, it is a forgery. I never wrote but a single letter to him; that was of the 28th of January, 1810, and was on the subject of the last payment made for his newspaper, and on no other subject; and I have two receipts of his, (the last dated March 9, 1809) of payments for his paper, both stating to be in full of all demands, and a letter of the 17th of April, 1810, in reply to mine, manifestly showing he had no demand against me of any other nature. The promise is said to have been made to Morse & Lyon. Were Mr. Morse living, I should appeal to him with confidence, as I believe him to have been a very honest man. Mr. Lyon I suppose to be living, and will, I am sure, acquit me of any such transaction as that alleged. The truth, then, being that I never made the promise suggested, nor any one of a like nature to any printer or other person whatever, every principle of justice and of self-respect requires that I should not listen to any such demand." Jefferson sent James Lyon a copy of the letter the same day: "You will perceive at once its swindling object. My confidence in your character leaves me without a doubt of your honest aid in repelling this base and bold attempt to fix on me practices to which no honors or powers in this world would ever have induced me to stoop. I have solicited none, intrigued for none." Jefferson died severely in debt, and he was plagued by money problems throughout his life. He was no doubt sensitive to the problem of his outstanding accounts and, as this letter shows, overly sensitive to demands for money which he did not owe. An evocative letter.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2015-11-18           Check availability:      Biblio    

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