… a certain description of persons are so industrious in misconstruing & misrepresenting every word from my pen, that I must pray you, after reading this, to destroy it, that no accident happening to it may furnish matter for new slanders.
To James Cheetham, January 17, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thin-skinned leaders are wary of adding fuel to the fire.
Cheetham asked Jefferson’s help in procuring a certain 1794 document for a history he was writing of that period. The President gave his thoughts on the matter, including reference to another source published in 1796 which contained a verbatim account of the document’s contents.
The document’s subject might arouse controversy, even nine years later. Jefferson hated controversy, though plenty came his way. He could be very thin-skinned at times and insisted Cheetham destroy this letter after reading it, to deprive his political enemies of any more material. Still, Jefferson kept his own copy of the letter, as he did with all his correspondence.