Granger, Postmaster General, was his political “eyes and ears”, gathering information and keeping Jefferson daily informed of important matters during his presidency.
Connecticut politician Gideon Granger was a loyal supporter of Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. Using the pseudonyms Algernon Sidney and Epaminondas, many of his writings defending Jeffersonian principles were published in widely read pamphlets. President John Adams was popular in his native New England carried the entire region, so Granger’s...
Connecticut politician Gideon Granger was a loyal supporter of Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. Using the pseudonyms Algernon Sidney and Epaminondas, many of his writings defending Jeffersonian principles were published in widely read pamphlets. President John Adams was popular in his native New England carried the entire region, so Granger’s advocacy of Jefferson, his carrying Jefferson’s banner there, were perceived as valuable assets by Jefferson. After assuming the presidency, Jefferson sought both to reward Granger and to make use of his rather considerable political connections and information-gatherings skills. On October 7, 1801, he wrote Granger saying that the positions of auditor or treasurer within the Treasury Department might be coming open and he had Granger in mind. However, Jefferson was maneuvering between appointees and available positions, and he determined that Granger would be better placed in the position of Postmaster General. So just a week after his first letter, Jefferson again wrote Granger, this time specifically tendering him that office, even while steering him away from a Treasury posting.
Autograph Letter Signed, Washington, October 14, 1801, to Granger, offering him the Postmaster General’s position. “Since my letter of this day sevenight [October 7], the question as to the public offices has taken a turn different from what was then expected. Neither of the two then named [Auditor or Treasurer] is to be vacant, but instead thereof the Postmaster general’s place. This being of equal grade, emolument, and importance, I propose it to your acceptance with the same satisfaction of either of the others. Perhaps you will consider it more eligible than the treasury, as that would have obliged you to call on your friends to become your sureties for 150,000 D[ollars], that being the sum fixed by law. Judging of the feelings of others by my own, this would not have been pleasant. Let me hear from you immediately, while the same reserve as to the others is kept up. Health and affectionate respect.” Jefferson here references the practice of requiring the Treasurer of the United States to post a bond.
Granger was hesitant to leave Connecticut and wrote Jefferson a series of letters explaining why he should be excused from taking a position in Washington. However, on October 27, he sent the President a letter saying that he had been advised that it would “give aid to the cause” were he to agree, and in light of that, he was giving his “unconditional acceptance” to the appointment.
Jefferson made extensive use of Granger’s services through both his terms, and his successor, James Madison, kept Granger on as well. Historian Henry Adams, fourth in line from John, John Quincy and Charles Francis Adams, wrote a nine-volume study of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, which was published in 1891. “Of all members of the Government,” he stated, “the most active politician was Gideon Granger, the Postmaster-General, whose ‘intimacy with some of those in the secret,’ as Jefferson afterward testified, gave him ‘opportunities of searching into their proceedings.’ Every day during this period Granger made a confidential report to the President; and at the President’s request Granger warned De Witt Clinton of Burr’s intrigues with the Federalists. What passed in Rufus King’s library and in Burr’s private room seemed known at once by Granger, and was reported within a few days to Jefferson, who received the news with his innate optimism, warranted by experience.”
Our research of auction records for over thirty years uncovers only one other Jefferson Autograph Letter Signed as President offering a major position in his government.
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