Postmaster Charles Burrall to Thomas Jefferson: “individuals began to practice their insiduous arts to obtain” my office

Baltimore March 6, 1814.


In consequence of the removal of Mr Granger, there will be many efforts made to remove the subordinate officers in our Dept especially where their offices are worth having, and already have individuals began to practice their insiduous arts to obtain mine—From, your personal knowledge of me, and from an opinion entertained by myself, that your sentiments have been favorable to me I have presumed Sir, to address you on this subject. …

Old City Post Office
Old City Post Office, Front near Exeter Stret, Maryland Historical Society

On March 6, 1814, Baltimore Postmaster Charles Burrall wrote to Thomas Jefferson seeking his intervention in the local politics that threatened his position in the city. Born around 1763, Charles Burrall had served as a clerk at the general post office in Philadelphia in 1791, assistant postmaster general from 1792 to 1800, and as postmaster of Baltimore since 1800. Burrall knew Jefferson personally from the late 1790s when the two lived at the same Philadelphia boardinghouse.

The political attacks on Charles Burrall may have been inspired by the replacement of long-serving Postmaster General Gideon Granger but stemmed from the politics around the events of August 1812 when a local Republican mob attempted to take and destroy copies of the anti-war newspaper Federal Republican from the Baltimore post office after they arrived from Georgetown for distribution. Burrall recalled the events in his letter writing:

In the summer of 1812 I had a trying time here, and although I would not go thro’ the same scene again for any office within the gift of the President that I am capable of filling, yet I have the consolation of knowing that I then served Mr Madison with as much fidelity as I flatter myself, in your estimation, I heretofore served you—I believe I may say without vanity that I at that time contributed as much as any other individual to prevent his coming into collision with the riotously disposed of this City…

Burrall expanded on the issue and shared testimony he had delivered in court in December 1812 in a second letter sent to Thomas Jefferson the very next day:

Sir, [7 March 1814]

Since writing my letter of yesterday an insiduous piece has appeared against me in the Whig, which I enclose—It contains many unfounded suggestions to my prejudice, altho it tacitly admits that I have done my duty with correctness & impartiality…

Burrall left his position with the postal service in 1816 and took on the job of president of the Baltimore and Reister’s-Town Road Company. Burrall remained in Baltimore until at least 1824 and eventually settled in Goshen, New York where he died in 1836.

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