MONROE, James (1751-1836), President. Autograph letter signed ("Jas. Monroe"), as Governor of Virginia, TO JAMES MADISON, Richmond, 14 January 1802. 2 pages, 4to, mends to creases and small loss in lower left corner, catching a portion of two words.
MONROE ATTACKS THE "WEAK AND UNWORTHY CHARACTERS" AMONG THE "FORMER GENTRY" OF THE FEDERALISTS
A strong political letter from Monroe to Madison, praising Jefferson's conduct in office and drawing harsh distinctions with his Federalist predecessors. He begins by saying how pleased he is that Madison liked his message to the Virginia state legislature, in which Monroe lauded Jefferson's non-partisan approach to federal appointments. "It is in the powers of the President & Executives of the States who are republican, to open a course to the people which has heretofore been obscured by a cloud, or if seen, branded as jacobinic. This may be done without even looking at the weak and unworthy characters who have gone before, and who perverted the trust reposed in them to very different purposes. I have little doubt that that cause will be better understood and become more popular daily."
"The President has acquitted himself well. This indeed was a very extng. communication from his place, as the course of proceeding resulting from it must be in the Congress. The former gentry will find themselves in a strange dilemma[,] compelled to admit abuses, by sanctioning reforms which they cannot oppose; guilt becomes afflicting even to the most guilty when it is detected & exposed."
Monroe hopes that Jefferson's non-partisanship will not only put a stop to Federalist patronage but cool down the tone of political life generally. In the tumultuous 1790s, with the French Revolution throwing American politics into tumult, the Federalists painted Jefferson and his supporters as wild disciples of guillotine-style democracy, while to the Jeffersonians, the ruling party were all closet monarchists. Echoes of those passions appear in this letter ("jacobinic," "former gentry"). The second page of the letter discusses the merits of one candidate for a federal post, a Mr. Purviance: "...His mind is an enlarged one, his judgment sound. In certain cases he might overrate difficulties and want enterprise, but few men would be less apt to want prudence or to take a wrong course when he did act..."