ANOTHER CALLENDER-THOMAS TURNER OF VIRGINIA
Philip Foner's introduction:
Paine sent the following defense of Jefferson to John Fellows who was to forward it to James Cheetham for inclusion in the columns of the American Citizen. "I have not signed it either with my name or signature (Common Sense)' he wrote to Fellows, ''because I found myself obliged, in order to make such scoundrels feel a little smart, to get somewhat out of my usual manner of writing, but there are some sentiments had some expressions that will be supposed to be in my style, and I have no objection to that supposition, but I do not wish Mr. Jefferson to be obliged to know it is from me." Significantly enough, Paine chose as his pen-name for this article, "A Spark from the Altar of '76," a term he had used in 1802. (See Letter I to Citizens of the U.S.)
The article appeared in two parts in the American Citizen of July 23, 24, 1805. Cheetham, however, deleted one section from Paine's manuscript, for Paine writes to Fellows on July 31, 1805: "I see that Cheetham has left out the part respecting Hamilton and Mrs. Reynolds but for my own part I wish it had been in. Had the story never been publicly told I would not have been the first to tell it; but Hamilton has told it himself and therefore it was no secret. But my motive in introducing it was because it was applicable to the subject I was upon, and to show the revilers of Mr. Jefferson that while they are affecting a morality of horror at an unproved and unfounded story about Mr. Jefferson they had better look at home. . . ." (See letter to Fellows)
This article, which contains some of Paine's spiciest writing, has never been reprinted since 1805, and never before included in any collection of Paine's writings. This is hardly surprising, since it would be difficult, without first having access to Paine's letter to Fellows, to know that he had written the article.
FEDERALISM and blackguardism are synonymous terms. A man of Virginia who signs himself Thomas Turner (if any body knows him) has written a letter to some nobody or other in Massachusetts (if any body knows such a person) for the purpose of defaming Mr. Jefferson. The letter has been published in that repository of filth, the Repertory, printed somewhere in the federal purlieus of Yanky-town.
As I sometimes amuse myself with dissecting impostors and hypocrites and putting the parts together again in their proper form, I have thrown away an hour or two, having nothing else at that time to do, in examining the component parts of this putrid production of Thomas Turner.
There is not a worse character in life than that of a mischief-making blackhearted man. It is a disposition that leads to every thing that disturbs the peace of society. It works under ground like a mole, and having thrown up its little mole-hills of dirt, blows them with its pestifrous breath into mountains. This is evidently the character of this co-partner of Callender, Thomas Turner. Who he is the Lord knows, for his name is not known in the list of patriots. If one may hazard a guess at him from the jaundiced complexion of his letter, and the circumstances of the case, he is some petty-fogging attorney like that hypocritical dabbler in dirt Hulbert, of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and that they are correspondents, or in other words, two skunks who stink in concert; for Hulbert's speech, and Turner's letter are alike.
I will now examine the charges he brings in his letter against Mr. Jefferson, and show, that while they prove the vile disposition of the writer, they amount to nothing against Mr. Jefferson, but on the contrary add to the opinion the public have of his integrity. The first charge is as follows:
"At the time Petersburgh (Virginia) was occupied by the British troops under the command of the Generals Phillips and Arnold" (observe, reader, the qualified toryism of the man, for it is by little inadvertencies that great scoundrels are first discovered). "At the time, says he, Petersburgh was occupied by the British troops under the command of Generals Phillips and Arnold!' A man who had the proper feelings of an American would have said, "at the time Petersburgh was occupied by the enemy under the command of the British general Phillips and the traitor Arnold"; but this did not suit Turner's creed; "Mr. Jefferson, says he, who was then Governor of the state, did participate in the partial consternation (it was undoubtedly partial, for the tories were not in any consternation about it), and did abandon the seat of government. This is the first charge.
Now, if the circumstances of the times, of which Mr. Jefferson was himself the Judge, and not this runagate, rendered it proper for him, as Governor of the state, to remove from Richmond he did what was his duty to do, and in so doing he did right. In the year '76 Congress sat at Philadelphia, and according to Turner's phrase and inference Philadelphia was then the seat of government, and Congress ought not to have abandoned it. But when the enemy penetrated the Jersies and approached towards the Delaware, Congress removed to Baltimore; the next year they removed to Lancaster, and from thence to Yorktown in Pennsylvania. It is nonsense to talk about a seat of government when a count[r]y is invaded. The seat of government then is wherever government sit. Perhaps in a village; perhaps in the open air. Pray how much does Pitt and Dundas give this ignoramus for making a public fool of himself?
Turner's second charge is of the same character with his first; malignant and impotent. "The sequel, says he, of Mr. Jefferson's conduct after the assembly returned to Charlotteville, and on the approach of Col. Tarlton to that place (so then the Assembly also had abandoned Richmond), stands attested by thousands of witnesses and can never be forgotten by those of his country-men who respect the character of a firm and virtuous public officer, and who abhor that of a dastardly traitor to the trust reposed in him." On reading this terrible introductory passage of alarm one would expect that some most enormous crime was to be announced, nothing less than that Governor Jefferson, like General Arnold, had come over to the enemy. No such thing, but directly the contrary. "Mr. Jefferson's retreat (says Turner) or rather flight from Monticello (Mr. Jefferson's residence in Virginia) on the information that Tarlton had penetrated the country, and was advancing to Charlotteville; was effected with such hurried abruptness as to produce a fall from his horse and a dislocation of the shoulder." (Now if any one was a traitor in this affair it must have been the horse for having thrown his rider and dislocated his shoulder, that the forces who were after him might be able to come up with him.) In this situation (continues Turner, that is, with his shoulder dislocated) "Mr. Jefferson proceeded about 60 miles south to the county of Bedford whence he forwarded his resignation to the Assembly, who had, in the mean time, removed to Staunton (so the Assembly has also retreated) and who thereupon, that is, on Mr. Jefferson's resignation, elected General Nelson Governor." Turner having told this most wonderful tale concludes it by assuring his brother skunk of Massachusetts, that "these circumstances are substantially and literally true."
Now, would any one but a half-witted malignant torified Paltroon, one who has not sense enough to know how to do mischief, have told this story for the purpose of defaming Mr. Jefferson when even from his own manner of telling it, it shows Mr. Jefferson's patriotism and integrity. The state of Virginia being then invaded, it was most proper that a military man should be at the head of its affairs, and Mr. Jefferson had never made the study and use of arms his profession; and besides this, the dislocation of his shoulder had rendered him unfit for any thing of active life. In this state of things he did what an honest patriot ought to do, that is, make room for another person by sending in his resignation-a mere skunk, such as Turner has proved himself to be, would have acted a different part. He would have gone over to the "British troops," or if he could not do this, would have shut himself up in his chamber, or kept his bed, done nothing, continued drawing his salary as Governor in the mean time, and perhaps charged the state with the surgeon's bill, on the plea that he received his injury in the public service of his country and ought to have a pension settled on him for life, and if they did not do this he would join Gen. Arnold and make Virginia smart for it. Thus much for Turner's second charge.
His third charge relates to some pecuniary assistance Mr. Jefferson gave to Callender in his distress. The charge is introduced by the following preamble.
"Mr. Jefferson's encouragement of Callender and his rewarding that miscreant for the blackest effusions of the blackest calumny that ever escaped the envenomed pen of a villain, are circumstances, as well known in Richmond, and as capable of positive proof, as is the circumstances of his having delivered an inaugural speech or any thing else of the most public notoriety." This paragraph is in the highest style of envenomed blackguardism; and it is first necessary to know to what publication of Callender Turner applies this language, for it is by knowing this, that we come at the political character of Turner and of the gang to which he belongs.
Callender began his career in this country by publishing a work on the atrocities of the English system of government, and the ruinous measures copied from thence and adopted in this country during the wretched administration of John Adams. The work has some merit both as to matter and composition; but it has no merit with a tory nor with any conspirator concerned in the treasonable project of bringing over a foreign royal blackguard to be king of America. It is to this work of Callender that Turner applies his abuse. We now know what Turner is.
As to Callender, the case is, that under the character of a distressed patriot of some talents, though he turned out to be a scoundrel, afterwards, he made his case known to Mr. Jefferson who assisted him, according to Turner's account, with fifty dollars at one time, and fifty more afterwards. All this is to Mr. Jefferson's credit. But such miscreants as Turner, viewing every thing through the perverting fog of toryism, make good, evil; and evil, good; for the work that Callender was then publishing was against toryism. Turner, as if in proving the public spirited benevolence of Mr. Jefferson was proving something against him, assures us, fool-like, that is true, and appeals to Mr. Davis of Richmond as evidence that Mr. Jefferson did actually assist Callender, that is, when he was publishing his work against toryism, with an hundred dollars.
[This is most probably the same Davis, for birds of a feather will flock together, that circulated a forgery done by Donald Frazer, a Scotch schoolmaster in William Street, N. York, and entitled "The Recantation of Thomas Payne." The case is concisely as follows:-Mr. Paine was not in America when it was done, and Frazer hearing after Mr. Paine's return that he intended to prosecute him for the forgery, put on a face of brass and went to Mr. P. last winter and New York to make his confession which he did in the following manner, several persons being present: "Sir, said Frazer, I came over to this country in the war to fight the rebels; but I was put in prison; and when I got out, wanting something to do, I set up for a fencing master; but a Frenchman came and set up against me, and he soon showed that I was no fencing master. Then, sir, I turned Clergyman and set out to preach, but there were others that out-preached me and I had to give up preaching. After several adventures I became a School-master; at last a lucky thought came in my head to turn author, and write your Recantation; and I got more money by it than I did by preaching and fencing, for I cleared between seventy and eighty dollars. The work had not much sale in New York for the people soon knew it was not yours. But I sent four hundred copies to my friend Davis in Virginia and he sold them all as your genuine work."] If Turner's Davis is the same as Donald Frazer's Davis, there is a pretty gang of them.
This much for Turner's third charge. The baseness of this man consists in a villainous misrepresentation of every circumstance he relates. Mr. Jefferson's quitting Richmond, when the state was invaded (for the legislature also quitted it) and his quitting afterwards his own house (for the legislature at the same time quitted Charlotteville) are stated by this man as crimes; whereas they were necessary precautions to preserve the official papers and orders of the government from falling into the hands of the enemy; and Mr. Jefferson's resignation of the office of Governor after the dislocation of his shoulder, to make room for General Nelson, was disinterested patriotism. The assistance also given to Callender, at the time it was done, and for the purpose for which it was done, that of enabling him to get out his work against toryism, was a praise worthy act-Callender afterwards turned a scoundrel and then expiated his crime by drowning himself; and the world, Turner, will be rid of another scoundrel if thou wilt go and do so likewise.
In the former number I showed the villainous misrepresentations of this co-partner of Callender, Thomas Turner of Virginia, in the three first calumnious charges he brings in his letter, against Mr. Jefferson. Before I proceed further I will make some remarks respecting that letter.
In the first place it does not appear that he intended it should. He wrote it to set somebody else on; for he says in the conclusion of his letter, "If you (the person to whom it was written) find occasion you are at liberty to make use of my name in this business (that is in the business of blackguarding Mr. Jefferson) but if not necessary I have no particular inclination to appear in it" The inference from this is, you may use my name verbally, by word of mouth, but not publish my letter.
The letter, as far as circumstances justify the conjecture, was written to that hypocritical imposter Hulbert, of Sheffield in Massachusetts, for Hulbert's speech in the legislature of that once respectable state is a detail of all the blackguardism in this letter. The person, however, to whom it was written is evidently the person who sent it for publication in the Repertory. He speaks of himself in the first person, the self-important pronoun I, but without letting the reader know who I is, and he introduces the letter with a preface of his own, beginning with the following sentence-"The various charges which have been advanced against Mr. Jefferson, and which, from a complete conviction of their truth I pledged myself to support, instead of silencing the head-strong advocates of the distinguished profligate (the writer of this deserves to have his head broke) have produced nothing but a torrent of personal abuse." He has good luck that it did not produce a personal horse-whipping.
We find by this doleful confession that Hulbert's unprincipled speech and infamous abuse of Mr. Jefferson has recoiled upon himself, and that to lessen the severity of the stroke he turns traitor to his prompter, Turner, and publishes his letter, which he calls a communication from Thomas Turner, Esq. of Virginia, "A gentleman of very respectable character and whose veracity will not be questioned." It would make even a surly Diogenes laugh to hear two scoundrels vouching for each other's veracity. I now return to an examination of Turner's letter.
Turner's fourth calumny is a tale about Mrs. Walker, who, if now living, must be upwards of sixty years of age; a tale, of which the public knows no fact, and is possessed of no evidence. The tale, however, is badly told, and swelled with such improbabilities as to render it distortedly ridiculous like a mite in a microscope. We have heard of a ten years siege of Troy; but who ever heard of a ten years siege to seduce?-and what is equally as wonderful, that a woman should keep it a secret ten years. "Ten years (says Turner and then repeats it in capitals) TEN YEARS, was Mr. Jefferson repeatedly and assiduously making attempts which were as repeatedly and with horror repelled." There could not be much horror in the case or it would have killed any woman in less than a tenth part of that time.
Neither will it be easy to find any ten years of Mr. Jefferson's life that could be thus devoted. It could not be within the last thirty years; for he drew up the Declaration of Independence in '76 and Congress was then at Philadelphia. He was Governor of Virginia when it was invaded, and Turner himself has shown he had then no stationary residence and had quitted his own plantation. After the war he went as minister to France; returned about the year '88 and was secretary of state at Philadelphia. When John Adams was President Mr. Jefferson was Vice-President at Washington and since that time President. Where, then, is this ten years to be placed? If liars ought to have good memories, manufacturers of Romance ought at least to consul possibilities.
But, says Turner, I have seen the original correspondence between Mr. Walker and Mr. Jefferson. Perhaps what he saw, if he saw any, was as original and as genuine as the forged recantation of Thomas Paine. But admitting it to be what he calls it, what does his seeing it amount to? He has not given a single verbatim extract from it, which he certainly would have done if he had seen it, and if the correspondence had contained what he insinuates. Instead of this, he makes Mr. Jefferson express a sentiment that is highly honorable, for he makes him to say (I suppose he means in a letter to Mr. Walker) that "he shall never cease to revere and attest the purity of Mrs. Walter's character." This, though malignantly intended by Turner, redounds to Mr. Jefferson's honor; for there is not a case in the social circle of life in which a man appears more a man, or more a man of honor, than when he vindicates the reputation of a woman unjustly accused or censured on his account. But Turner seems to have no other idea of a woman than as an animal, and to be insensible and incapable of that chaste and sentimental respect a man may conceive for a woman on account of her virtues and excellencies. He must therefore be unfit to be trusted with the society of any woman of character. This story, hackneyed as it is, has the appearance of being fabricated from some trifling circumstance, or some mistake, or to have originated in some family dispute with which the public has no concern, and all that we discover by it, is the malignant, unjust and hateful spite of faction. The story will never lose Mr. Jefferson a friend, or a vote; but the malicious misrepresentations with which it is told may gain him many.
As a general rule, we may take it for granted, and that with as few exceptions as any general rule will admit of, that private character is the foundation of public character, and that where public character is uniformly honorable and upright, and that for a great length of time, the private character will be found the same. The country has had experience of Mr. Jefferson for thirty years in the various situations of member of Congress, foreign minister, secretary of state, vice-president, and President, in all which the breath of detraction has not dared to approach him. With this public testimony of fact in his favor the villainous detraction of private individual libellers recoil on themselves.
Turner comes next to another tale, a tale about a black, or rather, he says, a mulatto Sally, for he seems not to know which it is, nor any thing about it; but he says "it is unquestionably true," and as he might say this of any story however false, it serves to show that he would say something if he could.
Turner's last calumny is about some money that Mr. Jefferson, when he commenced the practice of the law, borrowed on bond of a Mr. Gabriel Jones. Turner does not tell us the sum, but I have somewhere seen it stated to be fifty pounds, Virginia currency, about one hundred and sixty-seven dollars (no great bond, for it looks more like usury than friendship). This debt, Turner says, Mr. Jefferson paid in paper money: "I think, says Turner, in the year 1779." Perhaps it was in '78, or '77, or '76. "Mr. Jones, says Turner, indignant at such treatment, and appreciating the transaction by its merits, enclosed the bond to Mr. Jefferson accompanied with the paper money tendered and such remarks as the nature of the case was calculated to suggest." (Turner does not tell us what those remarks were, which show[s] he knows nothing about them, or if he does know, that it does not suit his purpose to tell them.) "The consequence," says Turner, "was, a full discharge of the debt in specie."
This is stated as a charge against Mr. Jefferson; whereas it is one of the most honorable instances that can be produced, and I believe the only one, of the payment of a debt at that time, and the friends of Mr. Jefferson are highly gratified that the maliciousness of his enemies has made it known. This Thomas Turner must be some stupid upstart that knows nothing of the times he writes about. Continental paper money was then a legal tender, and were tender of it made for a debt due and the tender refused, the debt was cancelled and could not be recovered by law. Mr. Jefferson did not avail himself of the law, though thousands did, but paid the debt in specie, even after his bond was returned, and when no law could compel him to pay it in any kind of money- Thus much for the sixth and last calumny of Thomas Turner of Virginia, the stupid correspondent of Hulbert, the hypocritical legislator of Sheffield, in Massachusetts.
I have now gone, calmly and deliberately through all the charges and calumnies raised against Mr. Jefferson; but I have not done it for the purpose of defending him. I have done it to expose the baseness of the federal faction, and to hold it up to public detestation. Mr. Jefferson's conduct needs no defense. He has heard, with undisturbed composure, the ravings of this unprincipled faction, and residing his character on its own merits the public voice of his country has rewarded him with honor.
It is, perhaps, a bold sentiment but it is a true one, that a just man, when attached, should not defend himself. His conduct will do it for him, and Time will put his detractors under his feet.
A SPARK FROM THE ALTAR OF '76.
End of the second, and last, number for the present