Jefferson-Sanderson Correspondence

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"John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 19 August 1820" (p. 1). Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 19 August 1820

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Philada Augst 19th 1820

Thomas Jefferson, Esq.


I have taken the liberty of addressing to you the title page, & some specimens of a work I have just put to press in Philada—A copy of which I shall convey to you entire, as the numbers or half vols are completed. The first will be published in a few weeks & the others successively, at enterval, of six months. the whole will probably be contained in ten nos—

I wished very much to consult you on the subject of this publication before the present time, & especially to request from you some notice of Mr Geo. Wythe; but from the respect which I felt was due to that repose so long sacrificed to the interests of others, I abstained from it. On a nearer view, however, of the difficulty, the importance & sacredness of the task I have undertaken; I now venture to solicit your attention & advice.—I might have addressed you on this subject through the intervention of one of your friends, but have chosen rather to rely upon the usual benevolence with which you have at all times patronized the literary attempts of your countrymen, for my recommendations.—

I am at present collecting whatever incidents are within my reach of the life of Mr Hancock, whose biography

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"John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 19 August 1820" (p. 2). Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

with the Introduction is designed for the first number. In discribing the character of those to-whom we are indebted for the best of all human blessings, I feel urged by my warmest inclinations & will as interests to use no expressions unworthy of them. I need not, therefore, declare to you the gratitude I should owe to your kindness for any information, (& particularly of Mr Hancock) that may promote interests of an undertaking, for which I feel at present the most anxious & religious solicitude.

With great respect,

I have the honor to be, Sir,

your most obt sert

John Sanderson

Thomas Jefferson, Esq.

Thomas Jefferson to John Sanderson, 31 August 1820

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"Thomas Jefferson to John Sanderson, 31 August 1820" (p. 1). Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

"Thomas Jefferson to John Sanderson, 31 August 1820" (p. 2). Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.


Monticello Aug. 31. 20.

Your letter of the 19th was recieved in due time, and I wish it were in my power to furnish you more fully, than in the inclosed paper, with materials for the biography of George Wythe. but I possess none in writing, am very distant from the place of his birth and early life, and know not a single person in that quarter from whom enquiry could be made with the expectation of collecting any thing material. add to this that feeble health disables me almost from writing, and entirely from the labor of going into difficult research. I became acquainted with mr Wythe when he was about 35. years of age. he directed my studies in the law, led me into business, and continued until death my most affectionate friend. a close intimacy with him during that period of forty odd years, the most important of his life, enables me to state it's leading facts, which being of my own knolege, I vouch their truth. of what precedes that period I speak from hearsay only, in which there may be error, but of little account, as the character of the facts will themselves manifest. in the epoch of his birth I may err a little, stating from the recollection of a particular incident, the date of which, within a year or two, I do not distinctly remember. these scanty outlines you will be able I hope, to fill up from other information, and they may serve you sometimes as landmarks to distinguish truth from error, in what you hear from others. the exalted virtue of the man will also be a polar star to guide you in all matters which may touch that element of his character. but on that you will recieve imputation from no man; for, as far as I knew, he never had an enemy

Mr. John Sanderson.

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Little as I am able to contribute to the just reputation of this excellent man, it is the act of my life most gratifying to my heart: & leaves me only to regret that a waining memory can do no more.

Of mr Hancock I can say nothing, having known him only as in the chair of Congress. having myself been the youngest man, but one, in that body, the disparity of age prevented any particular intimacy. but of him there can be no difficulty in obtaining full information in the North. I salute you, Sir, with sentiments of great respect.

Th: Jefferson

John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 24 November 1820

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"John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 24 November 1820" (p. 1). Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

"John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 24 November 1820" (reverse). Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

Philada Nov. 24th 1820.

To Thos. Jefferson Esqr.


I have addressed to you, by the Post Office, the first No. of the Biography. &c.—which I beg the favour of you to accept, with my grateful acknowledgments of your kind attention to my former letter. The hurry with which this vol. has been, Start insertion, urged, End, into the world, to meet the conveniences of printers & publishers, has left me no time for elaborate research, or for studying the graces of composition; & I doubt whether, even with competent abilities, it would have been rendered, in the midst of the many obstacles that have been opposed to the execution of it, worthy of your approbation.—The succeeding numbers, with the assistance I have been promised, will perhaps appear with fewer imperfections; & being yet in the spring of life, I may live long enough to render the whole work, by the connections that future experience may enable me to make, more equal to the importance & dignity of the subject.

With great respect, I remain

Your Obt. Svt.—

John Sanderson

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