Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Plumer to Thomas Jefferson, 30 December 1814

From William Plumer

Epping (N.H.) December 30. 1814


Having been sometime engaged in writing the history of the United States, & the biography of some of its most eminent citizens; & knowing, from the acquaintance I had with you at Washington1 during the five years I was a member of the Senate, of your extensive knowledge of historical facts not only relating to this country but of the world in general, I am induced to take the liberty of enquiring, whether in the course of your reading you recollect of any country, or even considerable island, that at the time when it was first discovered was uninhabited by human beings? This appears to me an enquiry of some importance as connected with the history of the Indians of our own country. I have recently received President Adams’s answer to the same enquiry, which is in the negative.

I have recently met with some extracts from a work, entitled “A summary view of the rights of British America—by Th: Jefferson, 1774—” but the pamphlet itself I have not been able to obtain. If you have a spare copy on hand, will you have the goodness to transmit me one under your frank?

I have obtained the first volume of Henning’s Virginia statutes at large up to 1660; did he continue the work, & of how many volumes does it consist? A knowledge of the laws of the several States appears to me essentially necessary to a full history of the nation. A history written without a thorough knowledge of the laws & customs of a people, cannot develope their character, or explain their conduct on many important transactions.

I have written the three first chapters of my2 history; & hope in the course of the next year to have the first volume ready for the press. I shall not however be in haste to publish it; as I wish to render it as perfect as I am able. Any communication relating to my undertaking will be gratefully acknowledged.

The united & unremitted opposition of the Congregational & presbyterian clergy of New England, to all the leading measures of the3 general government, induced me to examine their conduct. In doing this I endeavored to meet & answer them upon their own principles. The result of this examination was first published in one of our most respectable republican journals, & since has been reprinted. Will you do me the favor to accept of one of the pamphlets herewith enclosed.

We are in the eastern States threatened with insurrection & rebellion by the Hartford convention now in session. It portends much evil & no good to our country; but I trust will terminate in fumo. A great portion of the people contemn them—yet an enemy despised may prove formidable. Their object is dismemberment—which will injure the south, but ruin the north: Your flour, rice, tobacco & cotton are necessary to us—without them our commerce cannot subsist.

I am with sentiments of much respect & esteem,

Sir, Your most obedient humble servant

William Plumer

RC (ViW: TC-JP); at foot of text: “Hon. Thomas JeffersonMonticelloVirginia”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Jan. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in DLC: Plumer Papers); in Plumer’s hand. Enclosure: “A Layman” [Plumer], Address to the Clergy of New-England, on Their Opposition to the Rulers of the United States (Concord, N.H., 1814), consisting of articles published under the same nom de plume in the Concord New-Hampshire Patriot, 14 Dec. 1813–12 Apr. 1814.

Plumer completed neither his history of the united states nor a collection of biographies of some of its most eminent citizens (Lynn W. Turner, William Plumer of New Hampshire, 1759–1850 [1962], 201, 336–7). John Adams commented in his recently received letter of 4 Dec. 1814 that he knew of “no Island, discovered, without human Inhabitants Except Robinson crusoes” (RC in MBPLi: Chamberlain Collection). fumo: “smoke.”

1Preceding two words not in FC.

2Reworked from “a.”

3FC: “our.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and uninhabited islands search
  • Address to the Clergy of New-England, on Their Opposition to the Rulers of the United States (W. Plumer) search
  • A Summary View of the Rights of British America (Thomas Jefferson) search
  • books; on history search
  • books; on politics search
  • clergy; oppose U.S. government search
  • cotton; as crop search
  • crops; rice search
  • flour; and New England commerce search
  • franking privilege; of TJ search
  • Hartford, Conn.; Federalist convention at search
  • Hening, William Waller; The Statutes at Large search
  • Indians, American; history of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; franking privilege search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; A Summary View of the Rights of British America search
  • law; books on search
  • New England; clergy of search
  • New Hampshire; newspapers search
  • New-Hampshire Patriot (Concord, N.H. newspaper) search
  • newspapers; Concord New-Hampshire Patriot search
  • Plumer, William; Address to the Clergy of New-England, on Their Opposition to the Rulers of the United States search
  • Plumer, William; and uninhabited islands search
  • Plumer, William; historical and biographical writings of search
  • Plumer, William; letters from search
  • Plumer, William; on Hartford Convention search
  • Plumer, William; requests works from TJ search
  • rice; and New England commerce search
  • Senate, U.S.; mentioned search
  • The Statutes at Large (W. W. Hening); publication of search
  • tobacco; as cash crop search
  • United States; historiography of search
  • Virginia; laws of search