Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward C. Nicholls, 25 January 1802

From Edward C. Nicholls

January 25th. 1802.
City of Washington.


With the utmost deference and Respect, I take to myself the Liberty of addressing You by Letter.

My Friends have advis’d me to offer myself, as the Superintendant of the Library about to be established by Act of the Legislature.—Having devoted the greater portion of my Life to Books, it wou’d afford me much Happiness to return to their Society, and become their watchful Guardian.

I am unwilling to occupy your important moments, by presenting recommendatory Testimonials, for your perusal: I pray you to be informed, that I am not unknown to the Honorable Messrs. Maddison, Rt. Smith and Gallatin.—If I shall be so fortunate, as to receive the Appointment, I engage to discharge the duties1 attached to it, whatever they may be, with care & Fidelity.

I do myself the Honor, to subscribe myself Sir! yr. respectful, and Obt Servant.

Edwd. Nicholls

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 25 Jan. and “to be librarian” and so recorded in SJL.

Born into a prominent Catholic family of Cornwall, England, Edward Church Nicholls immigrated to Maryland after being renounced by his family for his refusal to enter the priesthood. He settled in Prince George’s County, where he briefly taught school before being admitted to the Maryland bar. In July 1801, Nicholls was hired as a Treasury Department clerk, but he resigned in May 1802 in order to return to his legal practice. Later that same year, he unsuccessfully applied to TJ for an appointment as a bankruptcy commissioner. After traveling to England in 1803 to secure an inheritance, Nicholls returned to America and settled in Louisiana, where he resumed his legal career and obtained appointments as clerk of the governor’s court and as a judge of Attakapas County (Louisiana Historical Quarterly, 6 [1923], 5–7; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 9:286, 547, 598; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 6:338–9; Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:330; 6:943; William Kilty to TJ, 4 June 1802; Nicholls to TJ, 7 June 1802).

1MS: “dutchies.”

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