Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Reed, [10? November 1783]

From Joseph Reed

3d. Street Monday Morning [10? Nov. 1783]


The Esteem of the wise and virtuous is the most desirable Acquisition in human Life, but the wise and virtuous as well as weak and vicious are liable to Imposition and Mistake. Considering the active Industry of the Partizans of this City I should not wonder if the many Slanders propagated against me should sometimes have made Impressions.

Under this Idea I was induced to publish a small Pamphlet taking Notice of the most material and annexing some Letters from a few of the first Characters of America.

Permit me Sir to crave your Acceptance and Perusal of one of them. An Answer to that Part which respected Genl. Cadwallader was attempted, supported by very contemptible Testimony but none was ever offered to the other.

Your amiable and respectable Character has induced me to take this Liberty which I shall not enlarge farther than to request you to believe me with much Respect Sir Your most Obed & very Hble. Servt.,

Jos. Reed

RC (ViWC); endorsed by TJ: “Reed Presidt.”

This letter was evidently written in 1783 and it must have been sent while TJ was in “this City.” Reed’s small pamphlet (Remarks on a Late Address to the People of Pennsylvania, on the Many Libels and Slanders Which Have Lately Appeared against the Author, Philadelphia, 1783) appeared very early in the year, since a second edition was advertised in the Pa. Gazette for 25 Feb. 1783 (Hildeburn, The Issues of the Press in Pennsylvania, 16851784, No. 4355). But Reed’s letter cannot have been written as early as 26 Feb. to 12 Apr. 1783 (the period of 1783 when TJ was first in Philadelphia), for the answer to that part which respected Genl. Cadwallader (A Reply to General Joseph Reed’s Remarks on a Late Publication in the Independent Gazetteer, with Some Observations on his Address to the People of Pennsylvania) was announced in the Pa. Journal 24 May 1783 as “This Day … Published, and to be Sold by T. Bradford, in Front street, the fourth Door below the Coffee-House.” The letter, therefore, must have been written on 10 or 17 Nov., the only other Mondays in 1783 when TJ was in Philadelphia. It is possible, of course, but not very likely, that the letter was written on 17 or 24 May 1784 when TJ was in Philadelphia just prior to sailing for France. The pamphlets referred to in this letter supplied some of the materials for “The War of the Grandfathers” in the mid-nineteenth century; see Ellsworth Eliot, The Patriotism of Joseph Reed, New Haven, 1943, for a rsum and bibliography of this controversy, though one of the crucial documents therein presented for the first time—a British protection form issued early in 1777 to “Joseph Reed” and bearing the endorsement indicating that he had sworn allegiance to the crown on 21 Feb. 1777—has been convincingly challenged as pertaining not to Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania but probably to an obscure person of that name residing in Newtown, Long Island (John F. Roche, “Was Joseph Reed Disloyal?” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly description ends , 3rd ser., viii [1951], p. 407–17).

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