Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Sitgreaves, 1 April 1791

To John Sitgreaves

Philadelphia Apr. 1. 1791.


Having now leisure, since the adjournment of Congress, to resume the subject of my circular letter of Aug. 12. I have the honour to acknowledge the reciept of your favor of Dec. 6. and to thank you for the papers forwarded with it on the subject of British debts and property. The other object of my letter, that of procuring a complete copy of all the laws in force or which have ever been in force, to be deposited here for the use of the general government is so important as to induce me to ask a continuance of your attention to it. Mr. Iredell’s revisal when published will be desireable: and as far as a collection can be made of the printed laws omitted in that we shall be glad of it. It is not proposed to go to the expence of manuscript copies. Tho I had asked the favor of you to make this collection, while you were attorney for the district, and you are no longer in this office, yet as you have been so good as to begin it, and I hope it will not be a trouble of long duration, may I hope that you will be so obliging as to go through with it by picking up whatever may occur in print to fill up the omissions of Mr. Iredell’s collection. Whenever at any time you will be pleased to notify to me the cost of these articles, you shall be immediately reimbursed by a bank post note. I have the honor to be with great respect & esteem Sir Your most obedt. & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “John Sitgreaves esq. N. Carola.” FC (DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 120).

In 1787 James Iredell (1751–1799) was directed by the North Carolina legislature to collect and revise all of the acts then in force. The resultant Laws of the State of North-Carolina, a compilation rather than the sort of revisal that TJ sought to achieve for Virginia, was published in 1791. Sitgreaves did not comply with TJ’s request until 1792, when he forwarded an unspecified number of volumes of North Carolina laws that presumably included that of Iredell and at the same time promised to collect others subsequent to the period covered by Iredell-1715 to 1790 (Sitgreaves to TJ, 21 June 1792, missing but recorded in SJL as received on 3 July 1792). In sending him the post bill for these volumes, TJ thanked Sitgreaves for his promise to send subsequent acts, “the completing this collection being extremely desirable” (TJ to Sitgreaves, 12 July 1792; PrC in DLC; FC: DNA, RG 59, PCC No. 120). Sitgreaves evidently did not fulfill his promise, for there is no further correspondence on the subject. TJ, who was more assiduous than any other American of his generation in collecting laws for private as well as official use, acquired a copy of Iredell’s Laws for his own remarkable collection of manuscript and printed statutes (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–1959, 5 vols. description ends No. 2165).

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