Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel Huntington, 27 April 1781, enclosing a Letter from Ebenezer Hazard, 7 April 1781

From Samuel Huntington, enclosing a Letter from Ebenezer Hazard

Philadelphia April 27. 1781


I do myself the Honor of transmitting to your Excellency the enclosed Copy of a Letter from Ebenezer Hazard.

You will observe by the Journals of Congress under the 20th of July 1778, Encouragement given to this Gentleman to collect Materials for a History, and a Recommendation to the several States to aid and assist him in such Collection.

If any of the Manuscripts &c. to which his Letter refers, will in your Excellency’s Opinion be useful or worthy of Notice in the Pages of History, I am perswaded you will be so kind as to forward them agreeable to his Desire, whenever Leisure from more important Concerns shall permit. It may be proper to send them under Cover addressed to the Secretary of Congress, as Mr. Hazard, being Surveyor of the Post for the eastern Department, is rather an itinerant than a Resident in any particular Place at present.

I have the Honor to be with the highest Respect, Your Excellency’s Most obedt. & most hbble. Servant,

Sam. Huntington


Ebenezer Hazard to Samuel Huntington

Plymouth April 7. 1781


I am induced to trouble your Excellency at this Time by the following Paragraph in Colonel Campbell’s Report of the Expedition against the Cherokees.

“We found in Okanastota’s Baggage which he left behind in his Fright, various Manuscripts, Copies of Treaties, Commissions, Letters, and other Archives of the Nation.”

Your Excellency need not be informed, I presume, that Congress on the 20th. July 1780 [error for 1778], recommended, in the warmest Terms of Approbation, my Design of a Collection of American State Papers, and will immediately see that the Manuscripts above mentioned fall within the Limits of my Plan; will you therefore give me Leave Sir to request your Influence to procure those Papers for me; that I may be able to add such of them to the Collection as are suitable for that Purpose. I would not give your Excellency that Trouble did I know how to procure the Manuscripts in any other Way: pray be kind enough to excuse it, and believe me to be very respectfully Your Excellency’s most obedient & very humble servant,

Eben Hazard

RC (PHi); in Ebenezer Hazard’s hand, signed by Huntington. Enclosure (PHi); “Copy,” also in Hazard’s hand. At foot of text of enclosure, in TJ’s hand: “May 23. 1781. wrote to A. Campbell for the above”; this letter from TJ to Campbell has not been found.

On Hazard’s design of a collection of American State Papers and TJ’s particular connection with it, see Hazard to TJ, 23 Aug. 1774; TJ to Hazard, 30 Apr. 1775. In a letter dated Philadelphia, 11 July 1778 (DLC: United States Revolution, iv; photostat in TJ Editorial Files), Hazard appealed to Henry Laurens, then president of Congress, for official “Patronage and Assistance” in his undertaking. “The Design of it,” he wrote, “is to furnish Materials for a good History of the United States, which may now be very well done; for so rapid has been our political Progress that we can easily recur to the first Step taken upon the Continent, and clearly point out our different Advances from Persecution to comparative Liberty, and from thence to independent Empire. In this Particular we have the Advantage of every Nation upon Earth, and Gratitude to Heaven and to our virtuous Fathers, Justice to ourselves, and a becoming Regard to Posterity strongly urge us to an Improvement of it, before Time and Accident deprive us of the Means. The Undertaking will appear, at first View, to be too great for an unassisted Individual; and Experience has convinced me that although several Years incessant Application has produced an important Collection, yet, so numerous are the Materials, and so much dispersed, that a whole Life would be insufficient to compleat it in the Way in which I have been obliged to proceed. I now propose to visit each State for that Purpose, and must request of Congress a Certificate of their Approbation of my Design, should they approve of it, and a Recommendation to the several Governors and Presidents to grant me free Access to the Records of their respective States, and Permission to extract from them such Parts as may fall within the Limits of my Plan.”

Hazard’s letter was read in Congress on the day it was written and there-upon referred to a committee of three, for which R. H. Lee reported a series of resolutions that Congress approved, 20 July 1778, complying with Hazard’s request and advancing him $1,000 for his expenses in collecting documents (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xi, 682, 705–6). In his present letter to Huntington, Hazard was inquiring for the Cherokee archives mentioned in Arthur Campbell’s letter to TJ, 15 Jan. 1781; Campbell’s letter had evidently been transmitted to Congress (see TJ to Huntington, 17 Feb.) and had subsequently been published, probably in a newspaper. At TJ’s request, Campbell forwarded these papers in a letter of 20 June 1781, q.v., and later that year TJ sent them on to Congress; see TJ to McKean, 20 Dec. 1781. The original Cherokee papers are preserved in DLC: PCC, No. 71, ii, 143–221. For James Madison’s warning that Huntington’s transmittal of Hazard’s request was a private matter, was not approved by Congress, and might have been inspired by something deeper than a love of history, see Madison to TJ, 26 Mch. 1782.

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