[Partly-printed invitation to William Keteltas, to dine with President Thomas Jefferson]
by JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826)
[Washington, D.C., 1808. 1p., approximately 3¾ x 6¾ inches. Accomplished in manuscript in a secretarial hand. Old folds. Matted. Invitation to dinner at Jefferson's White House. A partially-printed invitation from Thomas Jefferson inviting New York attorney William Keteltas to dine with him at the White House during Jefferson's presidency. Though unsigned and undated, and written in a secretarial hand, it is reasonable to assume that Jefferson invited Keteltas during one of his two terms as president between 1801 and 1809, evidenced by ten letters sent from Keteltas to Jefferson noted in the Jefferson Papers, all of which fall between these dates. Keteltas first wrote to Jefferson on July 4, 1801. Jefferson replied to this first letter on July 17, 1801 (a letter now held by the Library of Congress). In this reply, Jefferson thanks Keteltas "for the sentiments & information.... I always wish to have information from different quarters & from a view of the whole to form the best judgment I can." Further, Jefferson assures Keteltas of his "high consideration and respect." William Keteltas practiced law in New York from at least 1795. In 1796, he petitioned the New York assembly for relief in the case of two ferrymen who had been convicted and imprisoned by the Court of General Sessions, which was composed solely of the mayor and three aldermen. When Keteltas's petition was rejected, he wrote articles charging the legislature with abusing the basic constitutional rights of its citizens. For his efforts, Keteltas was imprisoned for the remainder of the legislative session. Keteltas would carry the sting of this political jailing for the remainder of his career, even referring to it in one of his letters to Jefferson. Immediately after his release, he represented the Republicans on a ballot for the assembly, narrowly losing to the Federalists. In 1800, he would be jailed for debt, and edit a newspaper called Forlorn Hope , in which he argued for prison reform and the abolition of debtors' prisons. Most of Keteltas's letters to Jefferson in the Jefferson Papers contain requests for appointments to various administrative positions, so it is likely that Jefferson never responded to such pleas, resulting in a decidedly one-sided correspondence. It is obvious, though, from the present document that the president called Keteltas to the White House to discuss something, perhaps one of the many administrative positions about which Keteltas wrote to Jefferson. The document reads, in full, with the parts in manuscript in brackets: "Th: Jefferson requests the favour of [Wm. Keteltas] to dine with him [on Tuesday 15th] at half after three, The favour of an answer is asked. [Wm Keteltas Counsellor at Law]" An exceptionally rare document from the Jefferson White House. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson , vol. 34, 1 May-31 July 1801, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007, pp.511-515. (Inventory #: 30400)
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