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Scathing comments about Callender...



Item # 685598

September 01, 1802

AURORA GENERAL ADVERTISER, Frankford, Sept. 1, 1802

* President Thomas Jefferson
* James Callender squabble


Note that this issue was published in nearby Frankford to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia.
This is a significant issue on the James Calendar/Thomas Jefferson controversy (see information at the bottom). After having been denied a lucrative federal position by Jefferson, having spent 9 months in jail in support of him, Callendar became vicious towards the Democrat-Republicans whom he previously supported. One website provides specifics, and includes the following text:
"...The Republican press responded, printing exposés of Callender’s own troubled life. On 25 August 1802 the Aurora wrote that while Callender’s wife had been dying of syphilis and their children were starving, he had been 'having his usual pint of brandy at breakfast.'...".
The above content is paraphrased in this issue. Inside has a 2 1/2 column letter: "To J. T. Callender" signed by the publisher of the Aurora, W. D. (William Duane).
The letter is vicious in its attack on Callender. A few bits include:
"You deceived me in publishing my first letter. There are some creatures which like the chameleon appear to be created only for deception, for you have again deceived me by not publishing the succeeding letter, as you had pledged yourself to do...it is already said that trepidation and lassitude more than common have affected your mind and body, since these letters have appeared; and that double libations of brandy have not been as successful as you have heretofore boasted in restoring you from the state of idiocy to the tone of mind necessary for your mode of writing. It is certain that your lucubrations sink lower in every respect...You have drawn down upon yourself this public exposition by attacking indiscriminately with reckless and prodigal contumely, not only every man who has extended relief to you, when surrounded by accumulated wretchedness, but on every man admired or loved for his talents or his virtues in society...".
Then further on is: "...Why did you not go farther, and tell the public how my family were maintained and how my children--why did you not go farther, and tell the public how my family were maintained, and how my children--why did you not compare my conduct with yours--and the state of your family with mine--the contrast would have been as painful to you, as grateful to me. While I was supporting my family by laborious employment from sun-rise to midnight--you wasted a life of laziness in prostitution and intemperance--from the exertions of my mind, and the labor of my hands, I drew sustenance for a young family--from the pockets of the generous and the charitable you procured the greater part of the funds upon which you rioted in intoxication, while your wife lay overwhelmed in wretchedness, and your children abandoned to want, and the horrible example of your domestic vices..." plus much more. An incredible letter.
Four pages, nice condition.

The content noted above requires a backdrop of knowledge on one of the more interesting figures in early American politics.
James Callender was one of America's earliest "scandalmongers". A political journalist, his writings were often controversial.  He curried favor with Republican interests early on, landing a job with Benjamin Franklin Bache’s newspaper, the Aurora General Advertiser.  Firing darts at Federalists like Washington, Adams, and Hamilton made him good friends with Republicans like Jefferson.  In fact, Jefferson called Callender “a man of genius”.
He became a central figure in the press wars between the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties. Pleased with Callender's attacks on his rivals Hamilton & Adams, Jefferson viewed him as journalistic ally, even supporting Callender financially.
But Callender's attack on President Adams had him jailed under the Sedition Act. But after Jefferson won the presidency he pardoned Callender, who then solicited employment as a postmaster which he felt was owed him by Jefferson. Jefferson denied it.
Callender then began publishing existing rumors claiming President Jefferson had children with slave Sally Hemings.

Category: Pre-Civil War