Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Glendy, 5 December 1801

From John Glendy

Baltimore Decbr. 5th. 1801.


I should deem myself lost to the best Emotions of the human heart, did I not seize with Avidity this flattering Opportunity of Addressing You, (thro’ the medium of a dignified Citizen Genl. S. Smith) and acknowledging the debt of gratitude I owe You—Debt, beyond expression to calculate—Gratitude, too ardent to be concealed.

But I shall forbear to wound your refined Sensibility, either by venting the overflowings of a thankful heart, or yielding a Just tribute of praise to unexampled Merit.

Your kind and benevolent Recommendation, has raised me very high indeed, in the scale of public estimation, and given to an obscure Individual, personal, moral, and political consequence in this City. Here am I, exhibiting a trial of skill in sound Divinity, pure Rhetoric, and natural Elocution.—It is true, I carried wh. me my Cloak and parchments; but they shall not be left behind like Paul’s at Troas—I wear my Cloak indeed, but neither to cover the defects of the Mind, or conceal the black traits of an ill heart—And tho’ my parchments have no claim to the impress of Infallibility, yet I trust, they are not wholly devoid of some Sentiment & expression “point blank to the heart.”

Shall I render thanksgiving to Heaven, and congratulate You Sir, on the general peace of Europe? Humanity bids me rejoice, while my heart bleeds for my devoted Country—Ah poor Erin! ill-fated Hibernia! much I fear thy chains are rivetted forever—Yet my Soul triumps in the persuasion, that it will have direct tendency to tranquillize your Administration. Party-spirit begins already to hide its hateful Head; whilst Aristocracy blushes as ashamed of the light.

Let them now felicitate each other on the issue of Billy Pitt’s struggle for true Religion, social Order, and good Government.

You will have the goodness to pardon my boldness and Intrusion, in calling off for a fleeting instant your Attention from the momentous concerns of a Mighty Empire, over which, the smiling Providence of beneficent Heaven hath raised you to Rule in Wisdom & Equity.

That you may long live the darling of the People, the father of your Country, the firm friend, and resistless Advocate of civil and Religious Liberty, is not only the devout wish of my heart, but a primary Object in my Morning and evening sacrifice to the great God.

Believe me Sir with lively Gratitude and cordial Esteem, yours truly

John Glendy

N.B. I hope for the pleasure of seeing You on my return home.

RC (DLC); above postscript: “Thos. Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Dec. and so recorded in SJL.

John Glendy (1755–1832) was a Presbyterian clergyman. His “strikingly bold and beautiful” preaching style was very popular. One observer later remembered a Glendy sermon as “a perfect torrent of Irish eloquence.” In September 1801, TJ called Glendy’s pulpit oratory “unrivalled” and pronounced him “the most eloquent preacher of the living clergy.” Glendy was “without exception the best preacher I ever heard,” TJ later asserted to Thomas McKean. Born in the north of Ireland, Glendy attended the University of Glasgow, received ordination in the Presbyterian Church, and became a pastor in his native city of Londonderry. An enthusiast of the French Revolution and a partisan in the resistance to British rule in Ireland, Glendy was arrested for his role in the Irish insurgency of 1798, tried, and, like several other outspoken Presbyterian ministers, forced to emigrate. He arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1799, and became the minister of two congregations in Augusta County. In 1803, he moved to Baltimore to be the pastor of a newly formed congregation, the Second Presbyterian Church. He declined appointments as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives in December 1805 and the Senate in December 1816. He later received a doctor of divinity degree from the University of Maryland (William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit or, Commemorative Notices of Distinguished American Clergymen of Various Denominations, 6 vols. [New York, 1857–69], 4:229–37; Michael Durey, Transatlantic Radicals and the Early American Republic [Lawrence, Kans., 1997], 96, 138, 332n; David A. Wilson, United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic [Ithaca, N.Y., 1998], 119–20; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 5:188, 198; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 6:34, 50; Vol. 35:350–1; TJ to Thomas McKean, 3 Mch. 1805).

Trial of Skill: with TJ’s encouragement, Glendy had gone to Baltimore in October 1801 in hope of succeeding Patrick Allison as minister of the city’s Presbyterian congregation. Other preachers who wanted the position included Washington McKnight, Archibald Alexander, and James Inglis, who proved to be the successful applicant (Sprague, American Pulpit, 4:231; Terry D. Bilhartz, Urban Religion and the Second Great Awakening: Church and Society in Early National Baltimore [Rutherford, N.J., 1986], 39–40; Vol. 35:350–1, 406–7, 426).

In the Bible, the apostle Paul asked Timothy to bring him items he had left at Troas: a cloak, some books, and, in particular, his parchments (2 Tim. 4:13).

Point Blank to the Heart: in Laurence Sterne’s comic novel Tristram Shandy, the vicar Yorick declares that he would “rather direct five words point blank to the heart” than communicate by means of a long, intellectual sermon (Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: The Text, ed. Melvyn New and Joan New, 3 vols. [Gainesville, Fla., 1978–84], 1:377).

Ill-Fated Hibernia: despite indications from William Pitt that the British government would allow some concessions to the Irish in return for the union of Ireland with Britain in January 1801, King George III refused to drop any restrictions on the primarily Catholic population of Ireland. With peace between Britain and France, the prospect of a French-backed Irish rebellion faded (John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803 [Rochester, N.Y., 2004], 20, 23–4).

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