JEFFERSON, Thomas, President. Autograph letter signed ("Th:Jefferson") as President, to John F. Mercer (1759-1821), Washington, D.C., 31 October 1801. 1 page, 4to, tiny chip at lower corner. [With]: Integral address leaf with panel in Jefferson's hand, bearing AUTOGRAPH FREE FRANK: "free Th: Jefferson," circular "Washington 2 Nov." Postmark and small "FREE" stamp, seal hole, small tear. Dark blue morocco protective case, richly gilt upper cover, blue silk linings.
JEFFERSON AND MADISON POSTPONE A "JACOBINICAL" VISIT TO THE STATE OF MARYLAND, IN DEFERENCE TO THE APPROACHING ELECTIONS (IN WHICH MERCER WAS A CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR)
The President, in office for a scant seven months, acknowledges Mercer's letter and explains why a planned visit to his Maryland estate (Cedar Park, in Anne Arundel County) has been postponed, for fear that it might unduly influence the approaching elections: "the promised visit to you had not escaped us; on the contrary, Mr. Madison & myself conferring on the subject, it had been agreed that I should write to you to know when Mrs. Mercer and yourself would be at home. On further consideration however it occurred to us that such a jacobinical visit made at this time might have an influence of a character we could not foresee on the election which comes on the ensuing week at Annapolis. We observe how much the tories had tortured & perverted our own accidental visits in Virginia, and concluded it would be better to postpone the pleasure till it can do you no mischief. Claiming therefore the benefit of the French adage that 'tout ce qui differé n'est pas perdu' we reserve ourselves for a more favorable moment. Present my respectful compliments to Mrs. Mercer."
Mercer, who had briefly studied law with Jefferson before moving to Maryland, had served in Congress and in various state offices. At the date of this letter, though, he was the Republican candidate for Governor of Maryland. Elected a few days after this letter, he served a one-year term, then was re-elected: "during his incumbency a constitutional amendment providing for manhood suffrage and vote by ballot was adopted, but Mercer appears to have had no special part in bringing this action about" (DAB). In later years, Mercer broke ranks with the Republicans and allied himself with the Federalists, whom Jefferson here excoriates for having distorted and mis-interpreted his visits to friends and allies in Virginia, just before the last Presidential election.