Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Melish to Thomas Jefferson, 18 January 1812

From John Melish

Newyork 18 Janry 1812


I duly received your esteemed letter of the 10th March; and I now write you with pleasure, from an opinion that the subject is congenial to your present pursuits.—

I have lately returned from a very extended Tour to the Western Country, and now intend to prepare my whole Travels for the Press, as you will see by the enclosed Prospectus, and Plan.—I have commenced procuring Subscribers here with considerable success, and intend soon to visit the Seat of government in prosecution of that object, when I will, perhaps, also go into Virginia. In the meantime it will [be]1 of considerable importance if You will permit me to add your name to the List of Subscribers, for one or more Copies; and it would be esteemed a very particular favour if you would condescend to give me any information regarding the chance of procuring Subscribers in Your State. The design of the work I submit to your judgement without Comment. I intend to have it also published in Britain, provided I can make arrangements to that effect; and my object is to render a service to the Inhabitants of both Countries.—

Being a stranger to you it may be proper to accompany this with proper references.—I am well acquainted with the following Gentlemen, and they can attest the Correctness of my principles & Conduct—I am with much esteem

Sir Your mo: ob. Ser

John Melish

Walt: Morton Esq Secretary Phenix Insurance office New yk }
John Aird Esq Deputy Clerk Supreme Court— Do
Col: Duane Editor of the Aurora Philadelphia
Geo: Mauray Engraver Do

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esq”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Feb. 1812 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Melish, Proposal to Publish by Subscription his new work entitled Travels in the United States of America, in the Years 1806 & 1807, and 1809, 1810, & 1811; including an account of passages betwixt America and Britain, and Travels through Various Parts of Britain, Ireland, and Upper Canada, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1812; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4034), to be published in octavo for $5 in boards, and to include a full account of his travels and the results of his extensive interviews with local inhabitants, as well as maps, plates, and appendices reviewing the existing geographical and travel literature, summarizing the United States Constitution, and providing statistical information and documents important to an understanding of political economy; noting that during his travels he had observed the impact of “the stoppage of the foreign trade” on the maritime states and come to believe that “internal manufacture and commerce would, in all probability, be substituted for foreign commerce” in the near future; and observing that as a result the western states were now “a most important field for inquiry,” thanks to their fertile soil, moderate climate, natural resources, sparse population, and abundance of cheap land, which made them both a likely source of industrial strength and an expanding market for eastern manufactures (undated broadside in DLC: TJ Papers, 192:34219). (2) Melish, Outlines of Travels in the United States … Plan of the Work, detailing the subjects to be covered in each of more than one hundred chapters (with chapter 31 of the first volume to describe his visit to TJ at the President’s House in Washington, where he got a “Polite reception, and information as to the state of the country, Roads, Bridges, Canals, Manufactures, Health, &c”) and in appendices (undated pamphlet in DLC: TJ Papers, 192:34215–8).

1Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Aird, John; vouches for J. Melish search
  • Duane, William; vouches for J. Melish search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Melish, John; letters from search
  • Melish, John; seeks TJ as subscriber search
  • Melish, John; Travels in the United States of America search
  • Melish, John; visits TJ at President’s House search
  • Morton, Walter; vouches for J. Melish search
  • Murray, George; engraver for J. Melish search
  • Phoenix Insurance Company (N.Y. firm) search
  • President’s House; J. Melish meets TJ at search
  • Travels in the United States of America (J. Melish) search