Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas B. Wait & Sons to Thomas Jefferson, 8 September 1814

From Thomas B. Wait & Sons

Philadelphia, 8th Sept 1814.—


In January of the present year we issued proposals (a copy of which is inclosed) for publishing the State Papers & Public Documents of the Un. States that affect our Foreign Relations; commencing with your accession to the Presidency—and at the same time announced our intention of issuing proposals for publishing the Docts of a prior date; as soon as the present undertaking should be completed.

One of the most learned men and accurate politicians of our state consented to superintend the publication, and to aid us in making the collection perfect, many of the distinguished political characters of our own and the neighbouring states, cheerfully gave us access to such papers as were in their possession.—But notwithstanding the assistance that was generously afforded us from every quarter, many papers were not to be found,—and we were at length satisfied that New England did not afford them.—

While prosecuting a journey to Washington, in the hope of there completing the collection, our progress was arrested by tidings of the destruction of that city;—and we have since learnt, that it entered into the project of the enemy to destroy books and papers as well as warlike materials, and that the mass of documents upon which our reliance was placed for perfecting the work, had been consumed by fire.—

The facilities toward effecting our object that this city affords, are indeed very inconsiderable, and we can learn of no collection that gives any promise of assistance.—

In our dilemma, the idea occurred, that you sir, would more probably have in your possession a complete series of Amer. State Papers, than any man in the country; and the remarks of many of our friends strengthened us in the hope that the desired papers—might be found in your hands.

The principal deficiency of our collection occurs in the series prior to your administration.—The collection of the subsequent period is more complete altho’ yet imperfect.—

Will you Sir, have the kindness to inform us whether you possess a collection of the State Papers & Public Docts of the U. States,—and—if such papers are in your possession, whether you would consent that we may have access to them for the purpose of making copies of those that we are unable to procure elswhere?—

With the greatest respect, Sir, Your very hle servts.

Thomas B. Wait & Sons.

P.S.—Should you favour us with a speedy answer—its direction to the city of Philadelphia would oblige us.—

RC (DLC); in an unidentified hand; adjacent to signature: “Th: Jefferson, Esq.”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Sept. 1814 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Thomas B. Wait & Sons, printed prospectus for State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States, Boston, Jan. 1814, making the case for a publication collecting American state papers, with the need amplified by the war with Great Britian and tangled relations with other European states; asserting that the documents printed by Congress to date have had inadequate print runs and reached only “the favoured correspondents of members of congress”; promising that the proposed work will be “equally useful to persons of both parties,” that it will “have no party character,” that it will “print all the publick documents relating to our intercourse with foreign nations, commencing with the accession of Mr. Jefferson to the Presidency,” that “Nothing will be omitted, and no political remarks will be made,” and that it will be “merely a book of useful reference on the plan of ‘Debrett’s State Papers’”; explaining that the work commences with TJ’s administration because “the more recent events are much the most interesting,” but that proposals for the publication of earlier documents will be made immediately after completion of the current work; and announcing that the work will probably consist of three or four 500-page volumes and conclude with a “copious index,” that it will be printed “on a good paper, and with fair type,” and that it will cost $2.50 per volume for subscribers and $3 for the general public, with payment due on delivery of each volume.

Thomas Baker Wait (1762–1830), newspaper editor, printer, and publisher, was a native of Massachusetts who spent his early years in Boston, where he worked in the printing and stationery business. With his partner, the printer Benjamin Titcomb, in 1785 Wait launched Maine’s first newspaper, the weekly Falmouth Gazette. After one year of publication, Wait became sole proprietor and changed the name to the Cumberland Gazette. He changed the title again in 1792, to the Portland Eastern Herald, and sold out entirely in 1796. From 1795–96 Wait also published the Hallowell Tocsin. In 1798 President John Adams appointed him surveyor and revenue inspector for the port of Thomaston. He continued to work as a printer, publishing an edition of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on The Laws of England (Portland, 1807). Wait was once again in Boston in 1810, when he was issued a patent as coinventor of a circular printing press. He continued printing and publishing into the 1820s (Philip Marsh, “Maine’s First Newspaper Editor: Thomas Wait,” New England Quarterly 28 [1955]: 519–34; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:201, 204, 206, 209; Lawrence C. Wroth, The Colonial Printer, 2d ed. [1938; repr. 1964], 15, 27–9, 59, 60; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:272, 273 [1, 3 May 1798]; Wait to George Thacher, 5 Jan. 1810 [MHi: Wait-Thacher Letters]; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 78; Portland Eastern Argus, 2 Mar. 1830).

Thomas B. Wait & Sons was established as a Boston printing and publishing house in 1813. The firm published two editions of State Papers and Publick Documents, with the volume covering 1801–06 appearing first, in 1814. The remaining volumes of the first edition were issued in 1815, with a second edition following in 1817. The copartnership consisted of Thomas B.,William S., and Silas L. Wait. It was dissolved in 1818. The following year Thomas B. Wait published the third edition of the State Papers, including “confidential documents” (Boston Daily Advertiser, 27 Dec. 1813; Boston Columbian Centinel, 22 Aug. 1818; Marsh, “Maine’s First Newspaper Editor,” 532).

Index Entries

  • Debrett, John; publisher search
  • State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States (J. Savage); prospectus for search
  • State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States (J. Savage); published by T. B. Wait & Sons search
  • United States; state papers and public documents search
  • Wait, Silas L.; printer and publisher search
  • Wait, Thomas B., & Sons (Boston firm); and State Papers and Publick Documents search
  • Wait, Thomas B., & Sons (Boston firm); identified search
  • Wait, Thomas B., & Sons (Boston firm); letters from search
  • Wait, Thomas B., & Sons (Boston firm); printing and publishing house search
  • Wait, Thomas Baker; identified search
  • Wait, Thomas Baker; printer and publisher search
  • Wait, William S.; printer and publisher search
  • War of1812; British destruction in Washington search
  • Washington (D.C.); British destruction in search