Thomas Jefferson Papers

Noah Worcester to Thomas Jefferson, 18 October 1815

From Noah Worcester

Brighton Octo. 18. 1815


Although a stranger to you I take the liberty of addressing you on a subject deeply interesting to humanity. I am encouraged to do this by a recollection of some things in your state papers which I then regarded as indications that you had become convinced of the impolicy of war, and that you wished to avoid a rupture with foreign nations.

Near the close of the late war, I was some how excited to examine the subject of war in general; and I became fully convinced that the custom of settling national disputes by war, is perfectly needless, unjust and inhuman, as well as antichristian; and that the custom is supported by delusion and a barbarous fanaticism. Under these impressions and convictions, I have published three pamphlets on the subject—a copy of each I send with this, soliciting you to accept and peruse them.

Having some knowledge of your advanced age, your talents and your weight of character, I am desirous that you should attend to the subject of the pamphlets according to their importance, and that you should favor me with the result of your reflexions, that if your opinion shall accord with mine, your testimony may be employed for the good of our country and the peace of the world.

Near the close of the 2nd No.1 you may find some encouraging facts.

As you may wish to know more of the stranger who addresses you with so much freedom, I will say, that2 I have been employed for 25 years in the work of the ministry in the state of New-Hampshire. Upwards of two years I have been in the vicinity of Boston, employed as Editor of a periodical work called the Christian Disciple. A principle object of the work is to cultivate friendly affections Among the various sects of Christians, and to promote peace and harmony.3

Should I meet with encouragement, the Friend of Peace will be continued quarterly. Any information or hints which you may give in favor of the glorious object, will be gratefully accepted by Your

Sincere friend

Noah Worcester—

P.S Dec. 23d—I have delayed sending till a 3d No of the Friend of Peace is published, which I also send for your perusal.

RC (DLC); between signature and postscript: “Honble T. Jefferson Esq.”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Jan. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. Dft (MHi: Worcester Papers); containing emendations during composition and additional markings connected to subsequent publication, with place of composition, one paragraph as noted below, signature, and postscript circled and omitted in published version; endorsed by Worcester: “Copy of a Letter to T. Jefferson.” Printed in Worcester, The Friend of Peace, No. IV. reasons for believing that efforts for the abolition of war will not be in vain (Cambridge, Mass., [1816]; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 [no. 488]), 21–2. Enclosures: (1) Worcester, A Solemn Review of the Custom of War (Cambridge, 1815). (2) Worcester, The Friend of Peace: containing a Special Interview (Cambridge, 1815). (3) Worcester, The Friend of Peace, No. II. containing a review of the arguments of Lord Kames in favor of war (Cambridge, 1815). (4) Worcester, The Friend of Peace. No. III. The Horrors of Napoleon’s Campaign in Russia (Cambridge, 1815). Enclosures 2–4 in Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 (no. 488).

Noah Worcester (1758–1837), clergyman and peace advocate, was a native of Hollis, New Hampshire. He served as a fifer during the American Revolution and taught and farmed in Thornton, Grafton County, New Hampshire. He became a Congregational minister there in 1786. Worcester also was an agent of the New Hampshire Missionary Society, 1802–10, before leaving Thornton to serve as a minister in Salisbury, in what was then Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, 1810–13. After publishing several tracts on his changing view of the Trinity, he split with the Congregational Church and moved in 1813 to Brighton, Massachusetts (later annexed by Boston), to edit the Unitarian Christian Disciple. The War of 1812 inspired Worcester to take up the cause of peace, and in 1815 he became a founder of the Massachusetts Peace Society and the editor of the society’s serial publication, the Friend of Peace. He retired in 1828 but continued writing. Worcester also served as postmaster of Brighton from 1817 until shortly before his death in that town (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Henry Ware, Memoirs of the Rev. Noah Worcester, D.D. [1844]; Sprague, American Pulpit description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857–69, 9 vols. description ends , 8:191–9; Justin Winsor, ed. The Memorial History of Boston [1882], 3:607; Boston Atlas, 3 Nov. 1837; Christian Register and Boston Observer, 16 Dec. 1837).

On pp. 37–40 of the second number of his Friend of Peace, Worcester published encouraging facts on the increasing numbers of peace-promoting sects and organizations in Great Britain and the United States.

1Dft and Friend of Peace, No. IV, here add “of The Friend of Peace.”

2In Dft Worcester here canceled “I was a soldier two campaigns in the revolutionary war.”

3Paragraph circled in Dft, with marginal note by Worcester: “This paragraph to be omitted.” Paragraph not in Friend of Peace, No. IV.

Index Entries

  • A Solemn Review of the Custom of War (N. Worcester) search
  • Christian Disciple; edited by N. Worcester search
  • Friend of Peace; N. Worcester as editor of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • peace advocacy; and N. Worcester search
  • Worcester, Noah; andChristian Disciple search
  • Worcester, Noah; andFriend of Peace search
  • Worcester, Noah; A Solemn Review of the Custom of War search
  • Worcester, Noah; as peace advocate search
  • Worcester, Noah; identified search
  • Worcester, Noah; letters from search
  • Worcester, Noah; sends works to TJ search