Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Milton W. Rouse, 10 January 1819


A stranger to you, I fear that I shall meet with a repulse, young and inexperienced I know not how to proceed, but I hope that you will forgive my boldness, (perhaps impertinence) when I have acquainted you with the circumstances which have induced me to address you in this manner.—

I am so situated that I am deprived of every source of useful information. Not a book with which to nourish, or instruct my mind I am compelled to live an ignorant spectator of ignorance. With truth I can say, ``Happy are they who love to read, and are not, like myself, deprived of the means of gratification—Whilst so many other young men are enjoying all the advantages of good books and men, I am doomed to live & dye in ignorance, & all this because I am not able to educate myself—

My ignorant, illiterate associates have no desire for reading or conversing upon any useful subject. With books, they are entirely unacquainted. If I read I am despised—

If I attempt to converse upon any useful or interesting subject I am neglected even treated with contempt. But all this would be no obstacle, had I time to read, & good books, with which to nourish and sustain my fast declining mind, declining—for the want of nourishment

In the summer I had no time for reading, but I fondly flattered myself that I should have a few leisure moments this winter, especially evenings, that I could deavot to that desirable object—but my hopes are blasted—It is for the interest of my employer that I should remain in ignorance, Had I time to read I should have no books. My employer has scarce a book in his house, and my wages will not enable me to buy one. even a dictionary I am unable to procure. The nearer circulating library is 7 miles & that is good for naught—So great is my thirst for knowledge & so great is my inability to procure it, that I am driven almost to despair—Snatch me! O! snatch me! from my dreadful situation! Perhaps you will think that I am imposing upon you; that I am insane, but I can assure that I am in my right mind but I am so much confused at present that I scarce know what I write—I am a stranger to every good and wise man, I know not where to look for assistance. Having herd yourself mentioned as a friend of learning—I have taken the liberty of addressing you, hoping that you will condescend to direct a few consoling lines to me as soon as possible after the receipt of this—Do continue some way to rescue me from my dreadful situation, the labour of my hands shall repay you, I have been brought up to be truer, but I cannot endure the thoughts of living & dying in ignorance tho this is nearly my first effort at composition I hope you will overlook its numerous defects As this is un known to any one If you should conclude to let me remain in my present awful situation, make the kindness to destroy this, & let it remain unknown If you will write to me immediately you shall know my exaxt situation—

and business &c.

Direct to Milton. W. Rouse OnondagaWest Hill State New York

Bury this in oblivion if you cannot assist me—& you will do me a kindness

MHi: Coolidge Collection.

Index Entries