Thomas Jefferson Papers

I. To David Williams, 14 November 1803

I. To David Williams

Washington Nov. 14. 1803.


I have duly recieved the volume on the Claims of literature which you did me the favor to send me through mr Monroe, & have read with satisfaction the many judicious reflections it contains on the condition of the respectable class of literary men. the efforts for their relief made by a society of private citizens are truly laudable. but they are, as you justly observe, but a palliation of an evil, the cure of which calls for all the wisdom & the means of the nation. it is an evil which springs from the vicious distribution of the members of society among the occupations called for, while your institution, by it’s benevolent aids, will lessen for the present the sum of suffering occasioned by this, it will also draw the attention of those endowed with wisdom & power to look to the means of radical cure. I pray you to accept my thanks for this mark of your attention, with the expressions of the sense I entertain of the merit of your endeavors, & assurances of my high consideration & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “David Williams esquire.” Enclosed in TJ to James Monroe, 8 Jan. 1804.

David Williams (1738-1816) was a Welsh-born educator, dissenting clergyman, and author. Williams wrote several works on a reformed Christian liturgy. In 1782, he published Letters on Political Liberty, a defense of the American colonists and an argument for parliamentary reform and expansion of the franchise. In 1790, after several unsuccessful attempts, Williams created the Literary Fund to assist authors in distress. In its first 12 years, it aided 105 people, with a total disbursement of £1,680. In 1800, members of the fund selected Williams to prepare its history, Claims of Literature: The Origin, Motives, Objects, and Transactions, of the Society for the Establishment of A Literary Fund. A prolific writer, Williams published Egreria: Elementary Studies in the Progress of National Political Economy, Legislation and Government in 1803. In the last six years of his life, he suffered from paralysis and lost his usual source of income. In 1815, the Literary Fund voted support for its founder and authorized grants of £50 at six-month intervals (DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Whitney R. D. Jones, David Williams: The Anvil and the Hammer [Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1986], 33-4, 176-7; H. P. Richards, David Williams (1738-1816): Author, Philosopher, Educationist, Politician and Founder of the Royal Literary Fund [Cowbridge, Wales, 1980]; Claims of Literature [London, 1802; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3553], 10, 105-6, 139, 147; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004- , 10 vols. description ends , 3:207; James Bowdoin to TJ, 17 Feb. 1808).

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