Thomas Jefferson Papers

Valentine Gill to Thomas Jefferson, 12 April 1817

From Valentine Gill

Blue bell House N.S. Halifax April 12th 1817


The eminence of your character, your philosophic and scientific genius1 and your ability to promote and reward merit, has prompted me to seek at Monticello, the retreat of its bountiful donor, that patronage,2 for want of which oft times fair science droops, and ability remains unnoticed and unrewarded;

And many’s the flower thats doom’d to bloom unseen,

 And waste its fragrance on the desert air.3

Your universal knowledge and love of science will plead the excuse for the intrusion of an adventurer, an exile of Erin, whose hopes there once flattering, is now without pain to be rememberd no more, I have been regularly bred to the Engineer department, Surveying in its fullest extent, leveling and conducting Canals &c. My drawings of Maps Plans &c, will be found not inferior.

I was brought in here while on my way to your enviting shores, where I have been employ’d but not to the extent of my wishes

the first desire of my heart, is to become a resident of your land of liberty! as a friend to science and humanity, say can I hope for employment there; I have a small family companions of my adventurous fate, prudence forbids my leaving this without a Knowledge of where I should take them; with diffidence I humbly solicit this mark of your condescension, which should I be so fortunate to attain, my gratitude shall ever remain unabated, Your general knowledge of the country, and intimacy with its conducters might point out employment for me, at some of its public works, or your extensive domain would perhaps afford a field sufficient to found my entroduction.

I have the Honor to be Sir, with every mark of Respect & esteem your most Obedt Hble Servt &c

Valentine Gill

RC (MHi); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ as received 4 May 1817 and so recorded in SJL.

Valentine Gill, surveyor and cartographer, lived in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland. In 1811 he published a map of that county based on his surveys. By 1814 Gill was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he helped to complete surveying work for the Shubenacadie Canal. From 1817–21 he worked for the New York State Canal Commission as an engineer surveying the route for the Champlain and Erie canals. Gill settled by 1819 in Herkimer, New York, and by 1827 he worked in a surveyor’s office in Rochester. He lived there for the next decade and was among the incorporating members of the Rochester Hibernian Benevolent Society. By 1840 Gill was the proprietor of a mathematical and drawing school in Columbus, Ohio (List of Persons who have suffered Losses in their Property in the County of Wexford [(Dublin, 1799)], 9; “Valentine Gill’s map of Co. Wexford,” Past 20 [1997]: 90–1; Barbara Grantmyre, “Two Peripatetic Gentlemen,” Nova Scotia Historical Quarterly 6 [1976]: 375–89; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:23–4, 53–5, 58–9, 74; Cooperstown, N.Y., Otsego Herald, 22 Nov. 1819; DNA: RG 29, CS, N.Y., Herkimer, 1820, Ohio, Columbus, 1840; Sylvanus H. Sweet, Documentary Sketch of New York State Canals [1863], 111, 468; Laws of the State of New York, in relation to the Erie and Champlain Canals [Albany, 1825], 1:452–3; A Directory for the Village of Rochester [1827], 147; Laws of the State of New-York, passed at the Fifty-Fourth Session of the Legislature [1831], 239–40 [21 Apr. 1831]; Columbus Ohio Statesman, 5 Jan. 1841).

and many’s the flowerdesert air paraphrases Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” lines 55–6 of which read “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen / And waste its sweetness on the desert air” (Roger Lonsdale, ed., The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith [1969], 127).

1Manuscript: “genuis.”

2Manuscript: “paronage.”

3Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (T. Gray) search
  • Gill, Valentine; as surveyor search
  • Gill, Valentine; identified search
  • Gill, Valentine; letter from search
  • Gill, Valentine; solicits patronage search
  • Gray, Thomas; Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search