Tag Archives: Half seas over

How do you keep track of all that stuff?

… If Sir you can … lay your Hands on that Letter (I am told, you have for many years been in the practice of preserving all Letters written to you on the Subject of Politicks) …
From Benjamin Galloway to Thomas Jefferson, July 19, 1803

I shall be extremely obliged to you Sir; if you will cause to be inclosed to me at Annapolis by next Mail; an authenticated Copy of the Letter I requested a favour of you to supply me with, in my address to you dated July 19th last—
From Benjamin Gallaway to Thomas Jefferson, October 11, 1803

I recieved yesterday your favor [request] of the 11th. and immediately proceeded to search for the letter … as every letter I recieve is filed away alphabetically, the search is short & easily practicable. I then turned to my letter list, for I note in a particular list the name & date of letters as I recieve them daily … and find no letter from you within that period, & think therefore I may safely say I recieved none within that period … & am sorry I have nothing else to offer in compliance with your desire.
To Benjamin Galloway, October 14, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
If leaders don’t have it, they can’t give it.
Galloway was embroiled in a political dispute in Maryland. He questioned a bill to revise the state’s courts and in turn, his fellow republicans questioned his judgment and fitness for public duty. Galloway claimed to have written a letter to Jefferson in 1800 that would aid greatly in his defense. He wrote two impassioned requests to the President seeking a copy of that letter.

Jefferson had an effective way of cataloging his voluminous correspondence. Upon receipt, he filed letters alphabetically. He also kept a daily “letter list,” where he recorded the same information chronologically.

Jefferson found only one letter from Galloway, recorded in both places in 1797. There was no correspondence in 1800, and he was unable to help.

There’s an interesting tidbit in one of Galloway’s letters, the phrase “half seas over.” He used it to describe Maryland Attorney General Luther Martin, a sharp republican critic. It means intoxicated.

“I know there will be other opportunities for us
to utilize your excellent skills.”
Executive Director, The Missouri Bar
Employ Mr. Jefferson’s excellent skills on behalf of your members!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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