Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Eastburn, John W. Francis and James Smith (of New York) to Thomas Jefferson, March 1817

From James Eastburn, John W. Francis, and James Smith (of New York)

New-York, March, 1817.


Being appointed a committee of the NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY (instituted in the year 1804) for the collection of Manuscripts and scarce Books, relating to the History of this Country, and hoping that it may be in your power to aid our researches, and to contribute to our collection, we beg leave to subjoin an extract from the first Report of the Society, which will explain the object. It is as follows:


“Manuscripts, Records, Pamphlets, and Books relative to the History of this Country, and particularly to the points of inquiry subjoined;

Orations, Sermons, Essays, Discourses, Poems and Tracts; delivered, written, or published on any public occasion, or which concern any public transaction or remarkable character or event;

Laws, Journals, Copies of Records, and Proceedings of Congresses, Legislatures, General Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety, Secret Committees for General Objects, Treaties and Negotiations with any Indian Tribes, or with any State or Nation;

Proceedings of Ecclesiastical Conventions, Synods, General Assemblies, Presbyteries, and Societies of all denominations of Christians;

Narratives of Missionaries, and Proceedings of Missionary Societies;

Narratives of Indian Wars, Battles and Exploits; of the Adventures and Sufferings of Captives, Voyagers, and Travellers;

Minutes and Proceedings of Societies for the Abolition of Slavery, and the Transactions of Societies for Political, Literary, and Scientific Purposes;

Accounts of Universities, Colleges, Academies and Schools; their origin, progress and present state;

Topographical descriptions of Cities, Towns, Counties, and Districts, at various periods, with Maps and whatever relates to the progressive Geography of the Country;

Statistical Tables; Tables of Diseases, Births and Deaths, and of Population; of Meteorological Observations, and Facts relating to Climate;

Accounts of Exports and Imports at various periods, and of the progress of Manufactures and Commerce;

Magazines, Reviews, Newspapers, and other Periodical Publications, particularly such as appeared antecedent to the year 1783;

Biographical Memoirs and Anecdotes of eminent and remarkable Persons in America, or who have been connected with its settlement or history;

Original Essays and Disquisitions on the Natural, Civil, Literary or Ecclesiastical History of any State, City, Town or District.”


As the object recommends itself to the attention of every gentleman who sees the importance of preserving, by such means as are now adopted, the otherwise perishing records of his country, we forbear any other remarks. Whatever information you can give, or Manuscripts and scarce Books you can contribute, be pleased to address to the care of Mr. James Eastburn, in this city, and your communications will be thankfully acknowledged by the Society.

We are, Sir, very respectfully, Your most obedient servants,
JAMES EASTBURN, } Committee of the N. Y. Historical
Society, for collecting Manuscripts
and scarce Books.

RC (DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections); printed circular; partially dated; addressed: “His Excelly Thos Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked New York, 30 May, and Nashville, 18 June; endorsed by TJ (torn) as a letter from “[Eastburn] James et. al.” received 15 July 1817. Recorded in SJL as a letter received from Eastburn on that date, with additional bracketed notation: “circulr for Histor. soc.”

John Wakefield Francis (1789–1861), physician, received an A.B. from Columbia College (later Columbia University) in 1809 and completed his medical degree at New York City’s College of Physicians and Surgeons two years later. After graduation he coedited the American Medical and Philosophical Register with his former teacher and mentor, David Hosack. In 1813 Francis joined the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons (which later merged with Columbia University), serving there until 1826. He also sat on the board of trustees of that college, 1814–26. In the latter year Francis was among a small group of leading physicians who established and taught at Rutgers Medical College, but the school was open only four years. He retired from medical education thereafter but remained an active practitioner, with special prominence in obstetrics. Francis also devoted his time and resources to the promotion of numerous societies. He served the New-York Historical Society as librarian, domestic corresponding secretary, and member of the standing committee; became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1844; and was elected to two terms as president of the New York Academy of Medicine beginning in 1847. The 1857 anniversary discourse Francis delivered to the New-York Historical Society was enlarged and published the following year as Old New York; or, Reminiscences of the Past Sixty Years (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Valentine Mott, Eulogy on the late John W. Francis, M.D. LL.D [1861]; Milton Halsey Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni 1754–1857 [1936], 60, 126, 193; Robert W. G. Vail, Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of the New-York Historical Society, 1804–1954 [1954], esp. 395, 480; New York Herald, 9 Feb. 1861).

Index Entries

  • Eastburn, James; and New-York Historical Society search
  • Eastburn, James; letter from search
  • Francis, John Wakefield; and New-York Historical Society search
  • Francis, John Wakefield; identified search
  • Francis, John Wakefield; letter from search
  • New-York Historical Society; circulars of search
  • New-York Historical Society; manuscript and scarce book committee of search
  • Smith, James (of New York); and New-York Historical Society search
  • Smith, James (of New York); letter from search