Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 48 To the Victor the Spoils

JEFFERSON had barely seated himself in his office when the Republican clamor for the political fleshpots rose to overwhelming proportions. Some importunity came from Delaware, particularly at the seemingly inexplicable retention in office of Allan McLane. How could the faithful be expected to know that Jefferson had assured Congressman Bayard that McLane would not be disturbed? New Jersey similarly resented the fact that so many good Federalists remained snug in their stations. In Pennsylvania, Governor McKean was doing his own house cleaning; but in the process stirred up a factional fight among the victors. New York posed the biggest headache of all; for the Republican party there was split into three irreconcilable groups who hated one another more than they hated the defeated Federalists. These were the Clintonians, the powerful middle group of the Livingstons, and the followers of Burr. Here, for reasons which will be made clear later, Jefferson was determined to yield but little to the pressure for removals, and to favor two of the groups against the third. Only in Connecticut did he consider the local situation to require a general sweep of all Federalists. "Their legislature now sitting are removing every republican even from the commissions of the peace and the lowest offices. There then we will retaliate," he remarked grimly.1

The opportunity came very soon. David Austin, the Collector of New Haven, had died in the waning days of Adams's administration. The outgoing President promptly appointed one Elizur Goodrich, a zealous Federalist, in his place. The Republicans called on Jefferson to rectify the injustice; and he obliged by removing Goodrich and replacing him with Samuel Bishop, an equally zealous Republican.

But Bishop was old--seventy-seven, in fact--feeble in mind and body, and possessed of no qualifications for the position that the merchants of New Haven could discern. Whereupon they drafted a Remonstrance, addressed to Jefferson, in which they used strong language about the removal of Goodrich and the elevation of the incompetent Bishop. In the course of their argument, they pointed to the assurances contained in Jefferson's Inaugural that there would be no removals on political grounds alone, and inquired whether those assurances had been meant to be observed.

The New Haven Remonstrance gave Jefferson the opportunity for which he had been eagerly waiting. The soothing phrases of the Inaugural

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