George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Williams, 20 October 1792

From Jonathan Williams

Mount Pleasant on Schuylkill [Pa.]
Octob. 20. 1792.


A few copies of the inclosed memoir have been extracted for the purpose of private distribution.1

If my beleif be well founded, that an attention to the directions it contains, would prevent shipwreck, & consequently save many lives, you will not think this intrusion upon your valuable time an unjustifiable presumption. If it should appear that I am mistaken, I trust to your goodness for an excuse in consideration of the motive. I am with the most dutifull and most respectfull Regard Sir, Your obedient servant

Jona. Williams

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

Jonathan Williams, Jr. (1750–1815), was the grandson of Benjamin Franklin’s half sister Anne Franklin Harris. As a commercial agent in Nantes, France, during the Revolutionary War, he inspected the arms and other supplies being shipped to the American army. He returned to the United States in 1785 and became a successful merchant in Philadelphia. A member of the American Philosophical Society, he worked with Franklin on his later experiments. Considered an expert in the theory of fortifications, Williams was appointed by Thomas Jefferson as inspector of fortifications and superintendent at the military post at West Point in 1801, and upon the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy there the following year, he became its first superintendent.

1Williams’s Memoir on the Use of the Thermometer in Navigation, published in Philadelphia in 1792, was first presented to the American Philosophical Society at its 19 Nov. 1790 meeting. Memoir was an extract taken from the society’s Transactions, which at this time were being prepared for publication (see Williams, “Memoir,” description begins Jonathan Williams, Jr. “Memoir of Jonathan Williams, on the use of the Thermometer in discovering Banks, Soundings, &c.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Held at Philadelphia, for Promoting Useful Knowledge, vol. 3 (1793): 82–100. description ends in the 1793 volume of Transactions of the American Philosophical Society). Williams later published a book entitled Thermometrical Navigation (Philadelphia, 1799).

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