Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel M. Burnside to Thomas Jefferson, 23 January 1815

From Samuel M. Burnside

Worcester Mass. Jany 23d 1815—


Your letter of the 8th of August last, addressed to me as recording Secretary of the A. A. Society was laid before them at their last meeting, and I am directed by them to tender You their thanks for the interesting and valuable manuscript, which accompanied it.—The Society, Sir, feel highly gratified, that you have consented to be enrolled Among its members.

Indeed they have ever been encouraged to hope, that he, who had become old in public Service, and had lived to See his Country ranked as independent among the nations of the world, would not1 withhold the benefit of his name and personal influence from an infant Institution, whose object is to give a literary Character to that Country, to whose political existence You have So long contributed.—Any Communications Sir, which You may be able to make to the Society to facilitate the progress of its enquiries will be always most gratefully received.—We wish it to be universally understood, that the Society is not local.—Had Congress been thought to be vested with powers to incorporate a Society like this, application would doubtless have been made there for an act for this purpose.—But although2 it derives its legal existence from the laws of a State, it is intended to be a national institution. As Such, we ask for its advancement, the aid of the learned and liberal throughout our extensive Country. The war, in which we are engaged presents a formidable obstacle to our pursuits.—It may with truth be said, that Literæ, sicut, leges, silent inter arma.—We indulge a hope however, that the present embarrassments of our Country will Soon be Succeeded by an era, in which Science and the useful arts will again add lustre to the American Name.—

With much respect, I subscribe myself Sir, Your obedt Servt

S M Burnside

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 5 Feb. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. RC (ViW: TC-JP); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to James Savage, 9 Feb. 1815, on verso; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello.—Virginia”; franked; postmarked.

The American Antiquarian Society (a. a. society) derived its legal existence from an act of incorporation passed by the Massachusetts legislature (An Account of the American Antiquarian Society, incorporated, October 24th, 1812 [Boston, 1813], 14–7). literæ, sicut, leges, silent inter arma (“During wartime, learning, like the law, is silent”) is a variant of Cicero’s famous phrase “silent enim leges inter arma” (“When arms speak, the laws are silent”) (Cicero, Pro T. Annio Milone, 4.11, in Cicero: Pro Milone … Pro Rege Deiotaro, trans. Nevile H. Watts, Loeb Classical Library [1931; rev. ed. 1953], 16–7).

1Word interlined.

2Manuscript: “althoug.”

Index Entries

  • American Antiquarian Society; incorporation of search
  • American Antiquarian Society; S. Burnside as recording secretary of search
  • American Antiquarian Society; TJ elected a member search
  • American Antiquarian Society; TJ sends historical manuscript to search
  • Burnside, Samuel McGregore; as recording secretary of American Antiquarian Society search
  • Burnside, Samuel McGregore; letters from search
  • Cicero; quoted search
  • Congress, U.S.; and incorporation of learned societies search
  • history; TJ donates historical manuscripts search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; sends manuscripts search
  • Massachusetts; charters American Antiquarian Society search