Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Callender, James Thomson

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CALLENDER, JAMES THOMSON (d. 1803), miscellaneous writer, a native of Scotland, in autumn 1792 published anonymously at London and Edinburgh ‘The Political Progress of Britain, or an Impartial Account of the Principal Abuses in the Government of this Country from the Revolution of 1688.’ This was meant to be the first of a series of pamphlets, but the project was checked by the arrest of the author on 2 Jan. 1793, on account of statements in the work. Having, as he says, ‘with some difficulty made his escape,’ he went to America and established himself in Philadelphia, where he republished his treatise (3rd edit. reissued 1795). It received the favourable notice of Jefferson, was translated into German (Edinburgh, Philadelphia, and London, 1797; the translator's preface is dated from Cologne, 4 June 1796), and was attacked in ‘A Bone to Gnaw for the Democrats’ (Philadelphia, 1795). A second part of the ‘Political Progress’ was published, but this was, says Jefferson, much inferior to the first. Callender also published at Philadelphia the ‘Political Register’ (3 Nov. 1794 to 3 March 1795), the ‘American Annual Register for 1796,’ 1797, and ‘Sketches of the History of America,’ 1798. He was a bitter writer; he was continually in want of money, and from either or both causes got into difficulties at Philadelphia, from which he ‘fled in a panic.’ He was afterwards at Richmond, Virginia, where he edited for some years the ‘Richmond Recorder,’ which became noted for the violence of its attacks on the administrations of Washington and John Adams. It was probably at some time during his residence here that he wrote a work entitled ‘The Prospect before us.’ When Jefferson succeeded to power, Callender, who had obtained money from him on several occasions, wished to be appointed postmaster at Richmond. Jefferson would not consent to this, and Callender, taking ‘mortal offence,’ passed over from the republicans to the federalists, and bitterly attacked his former allies. Jefferson, who was very indignant at this, says his ‘base ingratitude presents human nature in a hideous form,’ and animadverts strongly on the scurrility of his writings. Callender was drowned while bathing in the James river at Richmond on 7 July 1803. The ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ says that he ‘drowned himself.’

[Advertisement prefixed to Political Progress; Drake's Dictionary of American Biography (Boston, 1872); Jefferson's Correspondence, iv. 444–449 (New York, 1854); Gent. Mag. September 1803, p. 882.]

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