Thomas Jefferson Papers

Nathaniel Cutting to Thomas Jefferson, 18 January 1817

From Nathaniel Cutting

Washington City, D.C. Jany 18th 1817.


If the name of so obscure an Individual as now presumes to address you, may be permitted to salute your friendly glance in the philosophic shades of Monticello, I hope you will at the same time feel a conviction that the Person who bears it still retains for you that sincere Esteem and profound Veneration with which a near view of your Virtues and Talents inspired him at a period more remote than he now wishes to bring to your recollection.

I once had some reason to flatter myself, Sir, that absence from my Country, and the lapse of many years, did not entirely dislodge me from that Niche I so highly prize in your Memory:—that experiment emboldens me to ask a favor of you, to grant which, will require your recurrence to circumstances long past.

What painful vicissitudes I have experienced since the period when, through your amicable intervention, the late President Washington honored me by the appointment to join Colo Humphreys in a special Mission to Algiers.—In your Instructions to me on that occasion, now before me, I was authorised to assume the style & character of Secretary of Legation;—and although I never took the name nor attached much importance to the quality, yet I flatter myself that I performed all the duties of it to the entire satisfaction of those who had an undoubted Right to direct and scrutinize my relative conduct.—

Since that tour of duty terminated, I have endeavoured to render public service by various exertions:—during a series of years last past, the paucity of my pecuniary resources induced me, at the instance of my late worthy Friend, Joel Barlow, to accept a humble employ that was offered to me by Dr. Eustis in the War Dep’t. of the U.S.—I have there completed Seven &1 an half years of ill-requited Servitude:—and have never been absent from the Post assigned me more than three Weeks, altogether, during the whole of that period.

The Tax which I would now impose upon your amity is that, so far as your recollection of the transactions of the time when I had the honor to be employed under your auspices will warrant it, you will take the trouble to write for me as a humble Servant of the Republic, some brief memorandum, similar to what the Laws of the U.S. require in favor of a disbanded Soldier to entitle him to Bounty-Land;—viz. “a Certificate of faithful Service.”—On such a Credential, I, too, may, perhaps, obtain from the liberality of Congress, at its present Session, a gratuity in uncultivated Land upon which I may retire, at this late period of Life, and hide the chagrin naturally excited in my Breast by the pointed neglect I have experienced from many superior Servants of the Republic who appear to have conferred on favorites those rewards that my honest and assiduous exertion, in the public service could never obtain, nor my proud Republican spirit stoop to solicit by indirect means.

If you will have the goodness to address such a Writing to me, “Poste restant,[”] in this City, I shall thankfully receive it.

In the interim, I hope you will condescend to accept my best wishes for your health and felicity, together with my most respectful salutations.

Nat. Cutting.—

RC (DLC); edge chipped; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Jan. 1817 and so recorded in SJL.

Nathaniel Cutting (d. 1824), merchant and public official, was a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts. During the Revolutionary War he was captured while commanding an American sailing vessel. Taken to England, he escaped from captivity, fled to France, and was still there a decade later. Cutting met TJ at Le Havre late in September 1789 and helped arrange his return passage to the United States. Having entered into a partnership as a commission merchant in Le Havre in 1792, he was appointed United States consul there by President George Washington the following year. Cutting also served as secretary to David Humphreys during the latter’s 1793 mission to Algiers, and he was secretary to the American claims commissioners residing in Paris in 1803. On his return to the United States in 1806, he settled in the District of Columbia, took out patents for machines to spin rope yarn and manufacture cordage, and worked as a War Department clerk from 1809 until his death in Georgetown (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 39 vols. description ends , 15:373, 490–9, 24:200–2, 27:845; MHi: Cutting Journal and Letterbooks, 1786–98; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:129, 130–1 [19, 20 Feb. 1793]; Boston Columbian Centinel & Massachusetts Federalist, 1 Oct. 1803; Cutting to TJ, 26 Jan. 1806 [DLC], 5 July 1806 [DNA: RG 59, MLR]; 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 , 57, 63; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1102; Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting a Report of the Names of the Clerks employed in that Department in the year 1809 [Washington, 1810]; Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting a list of the names of the Clerks in the War Department [Washington, 1824]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 9 June 1821, 9 Mar. 1824).

TJ gave Cutting his instructions in a 31 Mar. 1793 letter (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 39 vols. description ends , 25:470–1). Later in 1817 Cutting unsuccessfully petitioned Congress for a gratuity in uncultivated land (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 6:304–5, 431 [25 Feb., 3 Mar. 1817]).

1Manuscript: “& and.”

Index Entries

  • Algiers; D. Humphreys’s mission to search
  • Barlow, Joel; and N. Cutting search
  • Congress, U.S.; petitions to search
  • Cutting, Nathaniel; and D. Humphreys’s mission to Algiers search
  • Cutting, Nathaniel; as War Department clerk search
  • Cutting, Nathaniel; identified search
  • Cutting, Nathaniel; letter from search
  • Cutting, Nathaniel; seeks congressional land grant search
  • Eustis, William; as secretary of war search
  • Humphreys, David; mission to Algiers of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • War Department, U.S.; clerks at search
  • Washington, George; and appointments search