Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to William Thornton, 20 May 1816

To William Thornton

Monticello May. 20. 16.

Dear Sir

Mr Delaplaine of Philadelphia, being engaged1 in a work of engravings of American characters, has engaged an artist to come on here, and perhaps will accompany him himself, to copy my Columbus, Vespucius, Cortez Etc. and he wishes to copy that also of myself by Stewart which you have. but this must depend on the question whether you are done with it yourself. if it has answered your purposes, and can be returned by the stage, it may gratify mr Delaplaine’s wish. but it should not be hazarded by the stage, unless in the care of some one coming on to Charlottesville, as it would be buckled behind with the baggage and be destroyed by rain or rubbing.   I thank you for your last annual report of the patents. I think the English must acknolege we excel them in the faculty of invention. there can be no better proofs than are furnished by your office & our newspapers; the former in things useful, the latter in lies. our family joins me in compliments to the ladies of yours, with which accept the assurance of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. my grandaughter will be returning home thro’ Washington this week, but as a bird of passage, without stopping but a night to roost & rest. she would2 take good care of the portrait if done with.

RC (DLC: Thornton Papers); addressed: “Doctr William Thornton Washington Col.”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 22 May. PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of missing letter from William Short to TJ of 14 Mar. 1816 (see note to TJ to Short, 7 Apr. 1816); endorsed by TJ.

During his time in Europe, TJ commissioned copies of portraits of Christopher columbus, Amerigo Vespucci (vespucius), Hernán Cortés (cortez), and Ferdinand Magellan in the Gioviana Collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 39 vols. description ends , 14:440–1; TJ to Joseph Delaplaine, 3 May 1814; Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello [1993], 132–3). TJ’s grandaughter Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) was returning to Monticello via Baltimore and Washington from an excursion that took her as far north as Philadelphia (Ellen W. Randolph [Coolidge] to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 6 Apr., 12 May 1816 [ViU: Coolidge Correspondence]).

1Manuscript: “enaged.”

2TJ here canceled “offer a.”

Index Entries

  • Columbus, Christopher; and portrait for J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Columbus, Christopher; portraits of search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); travels of search
  • Cortés, Hernán; portrait of owned by TJ search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; and portraits of TJ by G. Stuart search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; commissions portraits search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; Delaplaine’s Repository search
  • Florence, Italy; Galleria degli Uffizi search
  • Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence) search
  • inventions; TJ on American search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; inventions by Americans search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; newspapers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; B. Otis’s painting search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; G. Stuart’s paintings search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; W. Thornton’s profile bust search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); portraits and paintings at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Otis, Bass search
  • museums; Galleria degli Uffizi search
  • newspapers; TJ on search
  • Otis, Bass; portrait of TJ search
  • Otis, Bass; visits Monticello search
  • paintings; and J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans (J. Delaplaine) search
  • Stuart, Gilbert; “Medallion” profile of TJ by search
  • Thornton, William; borrows paintings from TJ search
  • Thornton, William; letters to search
  • Thornton, William; portrait of TJ by search
  • Vespucci, Amerigo (Americus Vespucius); portrait of search