Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to William Barton, 2 October 1812

To William Barton

Monticello Oct. 2. 12.

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Barton & returns him the paper he was so kind as to inclose him, & to which he has subscribed with great pleasure. in this he has equally gratified his affectionate reverence for the character of Dr Rittenhouse and his friendship and best wishes towards his much esteemed connections; and he is satisfied that the life of such a man must1 offer a model & useful lesson to mankind in general. he salutes mr Barton with friendship & respect.

PoC (DLC); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ.

William Barton (1754–1817), attorney and author, was a nephew of David Rittenhouse and the brother of Benjamin Smith Barton. He studied law and literature in Europe from 1775–79. In the latter year Barton returned to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he was appointed an agent of the state loan office and admitted to the bar. Two years later he was called to the Philadelphia bar. He received honorary A.M. degrees from the University of the State of Pennsylvania in 1781 and the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1785. Barton collaborated with Charles Thomson in the design of an official seal for the United States, to which he introduced the eagle emblem. He became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1787, subsequently serving as councillor, 1790–91 and 1793–94, and secretary, 1794–97. TJ corresponded with Barton as early as 1790 and employed him the following year to recover debts owed to James Currie. Barton dedicated an 1802 work on the law of nations to TJ. He was appointed prothonotary of Lancaster County in 1800 and clerk of the orphans’ court in 1803, holding both positions until 1809. Barton wrote on such varied topics as a national mint, banking and currency, mortality, heraldry, constitutional and international law, and biography. In 1814 he solicited subscriptions for a proposed Select American Biography and sought a position in the Philadelphia customhouse, but neither effort succeeded. Barton died in Lancaster County (Milton Rubincam, “A Memoir of the Life of William Barton, A.M. [1754–1817],” Pennsylvania History 12 [1945]: 179–93; Alexander Harris, A Biographical History of Lancaster County [1872], 88–9; Gaillard Hunt, The History of the Seal of the United States [1909], 23–40; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 19 Jan. 1787 [MS in PPAmP]; Washington, Papers description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, 1983– , 49 vols.  Colonial Ser., 10 vols.  Confederation Ser., 6 vols.  Pres. Ser., 13 vols.  Retirement Ser., 4 vols.  Rev. War Ser., 16 vols. description ends , Confederation Ser., 6:476–8; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 17:347–8; Barton to James Monroe, 22 Aug. 1814 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Sowerby; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:828, 836; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 25 Oct. 1817).

The enclosed paper, not found, was Barton’s letter of 25 July 1812, recorded by TJ in SJL as a “(circular)” received 15 Sept. 1812 from Lancaster. Earlier in July, Barton announced that subscriptions for his Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse, LLD. F R.S. Late President of the American Philosophical Society, &c. Interspersed with Various Notices of Many Distinguished Men (Philadelphia, 1813; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 529; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 4 [no. 141]) were being collected in New York City by the firm of the late Ezra Sargeant. Barton sought Secretary of State James Monroe’s assistance in obtaining protection in Great Britain against the sale of pirated copies, as he was “desirous of deriving from this work as much emolument, as may be rendered feasible.” He informed Monroe that he had received the “patronage of many distinguished characters” including TJ, who subscribed for six copies of the work and sent one to John Adams (New York Columbian, 7 July 1812; Barton to Monroe, 3 Nov. 1812 [DNA: RG 59, MLR]; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1302; TJ to Adams, 24 Jan. 1814; Barton to TJ, 4 Aug. 1814).

1TJ here canceled “hold.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and memoir on D. Rittenhouse search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Barton, William; identified search
  • Barton, William; letters from accounted for search
  • Barton, William; letters to search
  • Barton, William; Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; subscriptions search
  • Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse (W. Barton) search
  • Monroe, James; as secretary of state search
  • Rittenhouse, David; W. Barton’s memoir on search
  • Sargeant, Ezra; printer search
  • subscriptions, for publications; biographies search