Tag Archives: James Callender

I wish I had never heard of this guy!

I am really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender. it presents human nature in a hideous form: it gives me concern because I percieve that relief, which was afforded him on mere motives of charity, may be viewed under the aspect of employing him as a writer…
soon after I was elected to the government, Callender came on here, wishing to be made postmaster at Richmond. I knew him to be totally unfit for it: and however ready I was to aid him with my own charities (and I then gave him 50. D.) I did not think the public offices confided to me to give away as charities. he took it in mortal offence, & from that moment has been hauling off to his former enemies the federalists.
To James Monroe, July 15, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Charitable leaders know sincere motives can backfire.
In the mid-1790s, Jefferson first learned of James Callender by reputation, a Scottish immigrant and political writer of some standing who was persecuted by England. Jefferson approved of Callender’s work and gave him money to buy more of his writing. Subsequent anti-British writing did not measure up, but he turned his pen against the Federalist administration, earning Jefferson’s encouragement and support. Eventually, Callender was jailed under President Adams’ Sedition Act. Jefferson contributed more small amounts to his support and to pay his fine.

When Jefferson became President, Callender demanded the job as Postmaster at Richmond, VA, as his reward for attacking the political opposition. Jefferson refused him as “totally unfit” for the job and gave him $50 as personal charity, but political appointments were not his to give away as government charity. Callender took “mortal offense” and turned his poisoned pen against Jefferson.

Callender threatened Jefferson with the release of damaging information unless he was named Postmaster. Jefferson claimed he had nothing to fear. Later in 1802, Callender published allegations that the President had fathered children by one of his slaves, later identified as Sally Hemings.

A year after this letter, Callender, who was given to alcohol, fell into the James River and drowned in water three feet deep.

“Your (Thomas Jefferson’s) presentation entitled “The History of Refrigeration”
was well received … Again, a heartfelt thank you …
Conferences and Seminars Manager, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
If Mr. Jefferson can wax eloquent on refrigeration, he can speak to your interests, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What evil lurks in the hearts of men?*

I must ask the favor of you to call on mr Callender & to inform him that I have recieved his letter; that his fine will be remitted, but that as it requires the presence of the head of the department, it cannot be done till his arrival, which will be in a very few days. the moment he is here & qualified, it shall be dispatched.
To George Jefferson, March 4, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Not all of a leader’s supporters are friends.
Jefferson encouraged political writer James Callender to promote the Republican cause in the 1800 election, for which he was fined and jailed under President Adams’ Sedition Act. Upon release, he agitated for the return of his $200 fine. Jefferson promised the refund once procedural hurdles were satisfied. The delay rankled the irritable Callender, who took it as a personal affront.

Callender began to lobby for the job of postmaster in Richmond, VA, as recompense for what he had suffered at the hands of the Federalists. That lobbying eventually became near extortion, threatening President Jefferson with certain “facts” in his (Callender’s) possession if the job was not given to him. Jefferson did see to an eventual refund of the fine, but he ignored Callender’s threats.

Even more offended, James Callender published allegations of a sexual relationship between Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings. Callender’s attacks continued until July of 1803, when he drowned in three feet of water in the James River. The official cause was accidental, a result of intoxication.

According to the Founders Archives web site, this letter is the first one written by Thomas Jefferson on the day of his inauguration as President.

Callender’s allegations would plague Jefferson throughout his life and are given credence by some yet today.

*A famous line from Walter Gibson’s 1930s radio series, “The Shadow.”
 “Some of the comments we received … Very entertaining.
A good way to close out. Fun and Fitting, and Wow! What a Finish!”

Professional Event Services/Rural Cellular Association, Boston, MA
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