Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Rittenhouse, 17 March 1801

From Benjamin Rittenhouse

George Town March 17th 1801.


Permit a Brother of David Rittenhouse an Individual Citizen of the Immence Terretory over which you are now call’d by the Voice of your Country to Preside To Congratulate you on the Auspicious event

None but an enlarg’d Philosophick mind, such as you possess, can divest itself of those narrow Religious, and Political, prejudices so frequently to found with the best of men in common Life, and which so often Tend to disturb the peace and happiness of the World. From your Administration Sir the Genuine Republicans of the United States may presage the happiest consequences to our Common Country. Ambitious and desighning men have Oppos’d your Advancment to your present Station to the last, with unremited Zeal Fearing that your Stern Patriotism and Republican Virtue wou’d be a bar to those Views and measures, by which they Contemplated the promotion of thier own Agrandisment and prostration of the Liberties of their Country.

Thanks to the Great disposer of events their Indeavours have yet prov’d abortive and the Sun of freedom will once more rise in [splen]dor on this happy Land Pardon the Effusions of a heart yet Glowing with the feelings and Sentements of Seventy-Six never to be eradicated but by its dissolution. Altho I can Sollemly declare the little weight I had in the great polittical ballance to your advancment has been us’d without a Single Idea of personal Interest, but only for what I conciev’d the good and well being of the great family of mankind and from which I claim no Merit as deserving your particular attention and favor. Yet urg’d by some of my friends in the City of Philadelphia knowing the friendship you have expres’d for my Brother when living, and polite Attention to his family since his Death, And also knowing that I was a sufferer in the Revolutionary war, for which I never Ask’d or receiv’d any Compensation nor ever requested any Appointment to Office under Government. Thus impell’d by my friends I have been Induc’d to Solicit the Appointment to an Office To which you may concieve my Abilities may be adequate and such Appointment If a vacancy were wou’d be most agreable in my Native State. Shou’d You be induc’d from any Information Obtain’d of my Character to favor my present Application It will be remembered [with] gratitude by Sir

Your Most Obedient Humble Servant

Benjn Rittenhouse

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); torn at seal; at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.


A younger brother of David Rittenhouse, Benjamin Rittenhouse (1740–1825) served as a captain in the Pennsylvania militia during the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1777 and was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. He superintended the state-operated gunlock factory in Philadelphia from 1776 to 1778, represented Montgomery County in the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1784 to 1788, and was appointed associate judge of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 1792. Like his late elder brother, Rittenhouse was also one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of clocks and precision instruments. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1789. He did not receive an appointment from TJ (Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends ,468; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877-Preston, Catalogue Daniel Preston, A Comprehensive Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of James Monroe, Westport, Conn., 2001, 2 vols. description ends , 51 [1927], 298–9; Charles E. Smart, The Makers of Surveying Instruments in America Since 1700 [Troy, 1962], 136–7, 142–3; Pennsylvania Gazette,4 Feb. 1789).

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