Jefferson-Du Ponceau Correspondence
Thomas Jefferson to Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, 28 December 1820
Monticello Dec. 28. 20.
This letter is strictly confidential. some time ago a mr John Sanderson, of Philada, addressed a letter to me, informing me he was engaged in a biographical work which embraced the life of our late Chancellor Wythe, of whom however his materials were scanty, & requesting me to supply him. of the Mentor of my youth I felt the duty of bearing witnesses to his virtues, and furnished what I know. lately he sent me his 1st vol. and indeed I found it superiorly written; exhibiting mind, information & polish. a little too florid perhaps for the sober style of history, of which however he had a great example in Robertson; perhaps also a little too speculative, in which history should indulge with the brevity of Tacitus. as it is possible he may apply to me as to other characters of his work, & these communications may be delicate, it is material I should know something more of him. what is his character moral and political, does he write for money or fame, Etc? information as to these particulars must govern my confidences, and with a view to regulate them alone I ask the favor of your information, with an assurance, it shall be used for no other purpose, and that your letter shall be burnt the moment it is perused. with my thanks for this kind office accept my friendly and respectful salutations.
Peter Stephen Du Ponceau to Thomas Jefferson, 3 January 1821
Tho.s Jefferson, Esqr
Philad.a 3.d Jany 1821
I have received the Letter you have done me the honor to write to me, dated the 28th ulto which shall be treated as it is meant, as Strictly private & confidential. I am well acquainted with Mr Sanderson. Some Years ago a Mr Carré, a planter from St Domingo, & a voyager here from that Island, being an excellent Latin Scholar, & possessing other literary qualifications, established an Academy in the vicinity of this City, & took Mr Sanderson as his Usher. Sanderson had had an University Education, & having given satisfaction to Mr Carré, he married his only daughter & became his partner, in which station he still continues. From his Father in law he imbibed an enthusiastic fondness for ancient literature, and following Horaces's Precept Vox examplaria Graeca &c, he acquired the style & manner which has obtained your approbation. He is still a young Man,
& begins to have a growing family, which his profession of a Schoolmaster is not sufficient to Support. In this situation, he accepted the offer of a Bookseller to write the lives of the signers to the declaration of Independance, which Subject was not his choice. Thus you see he writes for money as well as fame, tho' the love of the latter strongly predominates. He Spent more time in writing his first Volume than pleased the Bookseller, & would have Spent more, could he have followed his own inclination. As to Character & disposition, he is ingenuous, diffident and modest; he is a young Man of perfect integrity & may be trusted. He places great confidence in my advice, & has none of that Self Sufficiency So disgusting in young Authors.
This is my candid opinion of Mr Sanderson. I should have added that he lives much retired, tho' of late, Some of our
principal characters, & among others Chief Justice Tilghman, have taken notice of him & endeavoured to draw him from his retirement, by inviting him to mixed parties. He knows very little of the world, tho’ his manners are neither rustic nor awkward.
When I said that Mr Sanderson places great confidence in my advice, I said it with this view, that if you wish any thing to be indirectly communicated to him, I believe it will have its effect. But, perhaps, you need not have recourse to this mode, for it is my firm opinion, that Mr Sanderson is incapable of betraying any confidence that you may honor him with.
I have the honor to be
With the greatest veneration & respect
Sir Your most obedient
Peter S. DuPonceau
- Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence
- Jefferson-Sanderson Correspondence
- Notes for the Biography of George Wythe
- John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 19 August 1820, Founders Online, National Archives.
- Thomas Jefferson to John Sanderson, 31 August 1820, Founders Online, National Archives.
- John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 24 November 1820, Founders Online, National Archives.
- Thomas Jefferson to Peter Stephen Duponceau, 28 December 1820, Founders Early Access, University of Virginia Press.
- Peter Stephen Duponceau to Thomas Jefferson, 3 January 1821, Founders Early Access, University of Virginia Press.