Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Charles Caldwell, 12 June 1814

To Charles Caldwell

Poplar Forest near Lynchburg June 12. 14.


Your letters of Apr. 25. & 30. came to me by the same mail as I was leaving Monticello on a journey to a distant place, from which this acknolegement of them is now written. I had before known something of the Portfolio by character, but had never seen a No of it till that you have been so kind as to send me. it is certainly a favorable specimen of the candor and abilities by which it is likely to be conducted in your hands. I shall gladly become a subscriber, with your permission, and especially if you have any agent who can recieve the annual subscription within this state, the remittance of small sums to a distant state, in a medium recievable there, being a considerable obstacle to such engagements. the objects of this publication are useful & worthy of encouragement, and no part of them more so than that of preserving the biography of our distinguished characters. there is a gentleman of this state, of the first order of talents, engaged in preparing something of this kind. but whether his particular vocations will permit him to pursue it, when it may appear, or whether during his life, I am not able to say. his views are confined to this state alone.

I recieve with due acknolegements your invitation to myself to lend a hand to this useful undertaking, and should not perhaps have declined it at a period of life when the energies of the mind might have been a safe pledge for performance. but I sensibly feel the effect of years on the active powers of the mind as well as of the body. perhaps too a surfiet of the labors of the writing table, during a long course of public employment, may have increased my repugnance to them, strengthened the desire of retirement from them, and of consigning the close of life to the rest & tranquility suitable to it’s state of decay.

when too I review the characters which were of principal effect in the stand which was made, in the public councils of this state, against British usurpation, I am sensible of being little able to contribute to their biography. these were Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, Richard Bland, George Wythe, Edmund Pendleton, Peyton Randolph, John Page, Mann Page, of the dead, and others doubtless who do not now occur. nearly the whole of these, being country gentlemen, residing in different parts of the state distant from one another, & from my own residence also, I knew little of their private lives, connections or situations. among those who were their cotemporaries and now living, I see one person only who could render you worthy aid in this way. Dr Walter Jones, late a member of Congress, was intimate with R. H. Lee, lived not distant from Mason, Pendleton, one of the Pages, was the particular friend of both, and was personally acquainted with all the others named. his information is extensive, he has industry, ability, leisure, and a good pen. he is well known to some of the elder physicians of Philadelphia, & should not want encouragement from myself to engage in this business, so far as my exhortations might have any effect. should he be induced to co-operate with you, you will have more than an equivalent for any services which I might at any time have been able to render: and with my wishes that he may, I pray you to accept assurances of my high esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Doctr Charles Caldwell”; endorsed by TJ.

The gentleman of this state was probably William Wirt.

Index Entries

  • biography; proposed national search
  • Bland, Richard; TJ on search
  • Caldwell, Charles; and Port Folio search
  • Caldwell, Charles; letters to search
  • Henry, Patrick; TJ’s recollections of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; subscriptions search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; fatiguing to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; biographies of prominent Americans search
  • Jones, Walter; and biographies of prominent Americans search
  • Lee, Richard Henry; TJ on search
  • Mason, George; TJ on search
  • Page, John; revolutionary leader search
  • Page, Mann; revolutionary leader search
  • Pendleton, Edmund (1721–1803); TJ on search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Port Folio; C. Caldwell as editor of search
  • Port Folio; TJ subscribes to search
  • Randolph, Peyton (ca.1721–75); revolutionary leader search
  • Wirt, William; and American biographies search
  • Wythe, George; TJ on search