Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Ritchie, 15 August 1814

To Thomas Ritchie

Monticello Aug. 15. 14.

Dear Sir

It is probable that a mr Clopper of Maryland is now in Richmond exhibiting a loom of the most beautiful invention imaginable. nobody was more pleased than myself with it’s construction, when shewn here, and I was willing to have procured one of them altho’ at a price which I deemed exorbitant. while it was here I recieved a letter from Dr Maese of Philadelphia, informing me that one of these looms cost there about 50.D. which letter I shewed to mr Clopper, & observed to him that perhaps he might find one or two other individuals in this county who might be willing to give 100.D. the price he asked; but I was sure he would find 100. if he reduced it to 50.D. he adhered however to his price, altho’ I think with an intimation that he expected in time to lower it. since this I have recd a letter from the purchaser of the patent right for Maryland informing me that in Connecticut these looms are sold for 40.D. and in Baltimore for 50.D. his price for the right to construct and use a single loom is 20.D. while for the same right Clopper asks 50.D. from us. nobody wishes more to encorage useful arts and inventions than myself. but I think the present a very unwarrantable attempt to make our citizens pay the double of what is asked from those of other states, and that not to reward the author of the invention, but the forestaller of the Virginia market. but the taking from a few wealthy individuals 100. instead of 50.D. is not the git of the evil. it is the exclusion of the great body of our citizens from the benefit of the machine, by asking a price beyond their faculties: it is the placing the weavers of other states on a footing so much better than ours, that by underworking us, they may draw our own demands to the Northern manufactories, and put down the competition of ours. I certainly do not mean to bring myself into controversy with mr Clopper or any one else. yet I think our citizens should be put on their guard. perhaps this kind of information is properly within the1 functions of the public papers. if you think so, and think proper to give it I inclose you the two letters which vouch the facts. I would rather however they should not be used, unless such a contradiction should arise as may require it in justification of the facts. I have heard it supposed that mr Harris of Richmd will be the most likely person to be taken in by a want of information. perhaps it may be friendly to put him personally on his guard. be so good as to return me the letters when done with, and accept assurances of my constant esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Ritchie”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 14 Aug. 1814 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) James Mease to TJ, 27 July 1814. (2) George Greer to TJ, 9 Aug. 1814.

A newspaper article on “Mr Janes’s Loom” called for a reduced price and quoted from the beginning of this letter as follows: “Mr. Jefferson, of whose skill in the arts we cannot say too much, terms it ‘a loom of the most beautiful invention imaginable’—and says, ‘Nobody was more pleased than myself with its construction’” (Richmond Enquirer, 20 Aug. 1814).

By git TJ may have been alluding to “gît,” an archaic form of “gist” that was still current in law books (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Manuscript: “th.”

Index Entries

  • Clopper, Francis C.; patent agent search
  • Enquirer (Richmond newspaper); T. Ritchie as editor of search
  • Harris, Richard; purchases patent shares search
  • Janes, Walter; loom of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; newspapers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; patent agents search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; promotion of arts and sciences search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; publication of his letters search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; textile machinery search
  • looms search
  • machines; loom search
  • Mease, James; and W. Janes’s loom search
  • newspapers; TJ on search
  • patents; of W. Janes search
  • patents; TJ on patent agents search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; editor of Richmond Enquirer search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; letters to search