Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Lambert to Thomas Jefferson, 14 March 1809

From William Lambert

City of Washington, March 14th 1809.


As you are now retired from the important and dignified station of Chief magistrate of the United States of America, the duties of which you have fulfilled with the deserved approbation of all well disposed and discerning citizens, permit me to congratulate you on the magninimity you have evinced, in thus voluntarily relinquishing the highest and most responsible office in the power of the American people to bestow, and which, no doubt can be entertained of their wish to have continued you in much longer. Whatever may be the united efforts of malicious, designing men in this country, or elsewhere, to traduce your character, or lessen your merits, their contemptible schemes will be frustrated and Exposed in due time. That you may continue to an advanced period of life, an ornament and pattern to and for the nation which gave you birth, is the sincere wish of Sir, Your sincere well-wisher, and obedient servant,

William Lambert.

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Mar. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

William Lambert (d. 1834), astronomer, was a native Virginian who became acquainted with TJ as a State Department clerk, 1790–92. He regularly informed TJ of his new calculations throughout the latter’s retirement and established the longitude of Monticello. Lambert served as a clerk in the House of Representatives and in the pension section of the War Department, temporarily losing the former position late in the 1790s because of his passionate Republican views. He devoted most of his spare time to proposals for building a national astronomical observatory and establishing an American prime meridian in Washington. For years Lambert vainly sought congressional support for these plans while fruitlessly seeking better government positions and complaining that his enemies were frustrating his professional and scientific efforts. In 1818 he helped found and played a leading role in the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 26:234–5; Lambert to TJ, 15 Dec. 1804 [DLC]; Silvio A. Bedini, The Jefferson Stone: Demarcation of the First Meridian of the United States [1999]; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers. description ends , 11th Cong., 2d sess., 1660–1 [28 Mar. 1810]; Lambert to James Madison, 26 Apr. 1812 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Washington National Intelligencer, 21, 23 Oct. 1834).

Index Entries

  • astronomy; and calculations of prime meridian search
  • Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of congratulation to search
  • Lambert, William; congratulates TJ search
  • Lambert, William; identified search
  • Lambert, William; letters from search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); longitude of search
  • prime meridian search