Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Lewis DuPré, 7 February 1802

From Lewis DuPré

Washington 7th Feby. 1802—


My apology for troubling you a sixth time on an unpleasant subject, is recorded in the 21 & 22 verses of the 18 Chapter of St. Matthews Gospel—

I agree with you that I am a Madman, but not in supposing that I am the Instrument in the hands of Providence to produce important blessings to my fellow men—but in sacrificing so much to common fame. from an early period of my life I evinced an unshaken attachment to the cause of liberty—& love of my country—her interest has been ever dear to me, in supporting which I deem’d in necessary to advocate your interest—& in the struggle of politic’s in Charleston was induced to sacrifice valuable connexions to my political sentiments—the joy resulting from the important discovery which was reveald to me wou’d, in itself have produced but half the satisfaction I experienced, when I considered that the important discovery had been reserv’d for an American, for a genuine republican & that at a time when a Jefferson fill’d the presidential Chair—this, Sir, is the sum of my madness—but I have done with these fine spun theories. I have already paid dearly for them—had I gone directly to Europe, I should have been not only noticed there, but cherish’d—the discovery wou’d then have reflected honor on my country—or had I depended on a british consul after I arrived in this City, rather than on the president & congress of the United States, my laurels wou’d not have been eclipsed by a Canadian woodman (who I am told is now on his way to Europe) whose Success, I hope, will not be blasted by his reliance on his own government—

All that remains, now, in your power to undo the very unfavorable impression that this business is likely to make on the minds of the American people—is, to recommend to the legislature to extend the usual term of patents on this occasion—I do not feel disposed to receive a patent for only fourteen years, as America will then be very far short of its ultimate population—

I remain, Sir, Your friend (notwithstanding)

L. DuPré
87 day

I have not shewn this to any person, neither do I keep a copy—LD

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 7 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.

Lewis DuPré (1762–1813) was an inventor, gardener, and writer from Charleston, South Carolina. He received patents in 1802 for a scientific steelyard and in 1807 for a pendulum screen used for sifting rice. Later in his life, he published a number of writings on religion and the abolition of slavery (List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 28, 59; South Carolina Historical Magazine, 71 [1970], 50; John Drayton, A View of South-Carolina as Respects her Natural and Civil Concerns [Charleston, 1802], 122; Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 14 Nov. 1801; Charleston Courier, 14 Jan. 1813). In November 1801, DuPré publicly announced that he had “happily succeeded in the discovery of PERPETUAL MOTION.” Presenting a petition to the House of Representatives on 5 Jan. 1802, he declared that it had pleased God “to discover to me the principles of the perfect motion (vulgarly called PERPETUAL motion)” and requested legislative support in his efforts to secure the “customarily exclusive pecuniary advantages” of his discovery. At the foot of his petition, DuPré gave the date of 1 Jan. 1802 and “50th day of Perfect Motion.” On 11 Jan., however, Congress received a petition from Thomas Bruff, who in early 1801 had presented his ideas on perpetual motion to TJ. Bruff asserted to Congress that he had discovered the principles of perpetual motion in 1790, but, fearing to confide in others, had attempted to perfect the work on his own. Unsuccessful in his efforts, Bruff sought the support of Congress and to prevent DuPré’s claim from supplanting his own. Both claims were referred to a House committee, which granted DuPré and Bruff permission to withdraw their respective petitions (Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 14 Nov. 1801; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:32, 44, 76, 86–7; New York American Citizen and General Advertiser, 15 Jan. 1802; New-York Evening Post, 18 Jan. 1802; Vol. 32:512–13; Bruff to TJ, 16 Dec. 1801).

Troubling you a sixth time: SJL records no previous or subsequent correspondence between DuPré and TJ.

87 Day: presumably, the 87th day of perfect motion.

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