[You requested] letters of introduction to England & France for your son, & a passport. the passport is now inclosed… [As to] my furnishing such letters on any occasion. it was decided to be unadviseable & improper, & I have adhered rigorously to the rule then laid down … with respect to the pecuniary [financial] aid desired in the contingency of his wanting it, this could not possibly be taken from any public funds … prudent precautions taken by your son would prevent his having occasion for this recurrence …
To Robert Gamble, June 15, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders are often imposed upon with impossible requests.
For his 23 year old son, Gamble asked Jefferson for a passport and letters of introduction to government officials in England and France. The passport was simple and granted. The letters were not. Jefferson cited experience learned early in office that it simply wasn’t approrpiate for the President to write such letters. Wanting to be helpful, he did agree to mention the son in his private correspondence.
Presumptuously, Gamble also asked if up to $500 could be made available from some government official should his son have need of it. Jefferson turned him down cold and suggested Gamble’s son should conduct himself in such a manner that he wouldn’t need financial help.
In subsequent correspondence on the same subject, Jefferson revealed that Gamble was a Federalist (a political opponent), had been bankrupt twice, and had two sisters “married to two most estimable republicans.” This request was a mixed-bag for the President!
Gamble’s letter was written June 11, saying his son’s ship was sailing in 10 days. Jefferson received the request on the 14th and responded the next day. When he could, Jefferson was diligent to help.