Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Branagan to Thomas Jefferson, 28 April 1815

From Thomas Branagan

Philada April 28: 1815

Dear Sir

I take the Liberty to Solicit your Signature to this patriotic Work. Should you Condescend to Grant this humble request you Can Send this paper back by Post with your distinguished Signature to the proposial & I will endevour to forward you a handsome Copy by the first oppertunity from your Warm admirer & Sincre Well Wisher—

Tho Branagan
163 Green St Philada
auther of “Preliminary Essay”
& 16 Subsequent Works
I open the letter to Suggest a thought that Strikes My Mind viz. Our ALMIGHTY benefactor has been Showering down upon you for near ¾ of a Century his choicest blessings. He has endowed you with a Capacious & comprehensive mind He has given you 10 Talants for to improve O My much Esteemed Sir prove gratefull for these distingushed favours improve these Shining talants. You & I See clearly that Slavery is now the bane & will hereafter be the destruction of our beloved country do therefore before you die address your Country men on this momentious Subject first liberating your own Slaves & your rewards will be Sure & great1 
About 9 Year ago I Sent you my “penitential2 Tyrant” Since Which I have often repented the liberty I took & I hope the above remark Will not offend you It comes from a heart that reverences you

RC (DLC: Printed Ephemera Collection); postscript on address cover; addressed: “The Hon Tho Jefferson Late president of the US Montecello”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 3 May; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 25 Apr. 1815 received 11 May 1815 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: prospectus and subscription list for publication by T. Boyle, of New York City, William Reynolds, of Philadelphia, and J. Campbell, of Baltimore, of The pride of Britannia humbled; Or the Queen of the Ocean Unqueen’d, indicating that the publication will include four letters from William Cobbett to Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2d Earl of Liverpool, on the War of 1812; that to this will be added a summary of American land and naval victories and a “persuasive to political moderation”; that the work is especially directed to “persons composing the two great parties in the United States, in general, and to the politicians of Connecticut and Massachusetts, in particular”; that it is intended to promote national prosperity, reduce “party rancour and political intolerance,” inspire “an ardent love of virtue, liberty, and independence, and detestation of monarchy and aristocracy,” and encourage gratitude toward God, the nation’s “legitimate sovereign,” to whose care the “honourable peace” can be attributed; and stating that the proposed publication will contain between two and three hundred duodecimo pages, “printed on good paper, and handsomely bound in boards,” at a cost of 87½ cents, with a free copy for anyone obtaining six subscriptions (undated broadside conjoined with RC of covering letter; with unused blanks at foot for subscribers’ names, addresses, and number of copies ordered). The above publishers printed two editions of in 1815 with no listed author.

Thomas Branagan (1774–1843), author and abolitionist, was born in Dublin. As a young man he worked in the African slave trade and then as overseer of a sugar plantation in Antigua. After experiencing a religious conversion and developing an abhorrence to slavery, Branagan immigrated to the United States about 1798 and settled in Philadelphia. Drawing on his own experience he published, in both prose and verse, some twenty-five antislavery and religious works between 1804 and 1839. In his latter years he became a watchman. Branagan sent some of his books to TJ, including his first publication, A Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression of the Exiled Sons of Africa (Philadelphia, 1804; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1394). Because of the politically sensitive themes of Branagan’s writings, TJ never replied to his letters, although in 1805 he asked George Logan to explain his silence verbally to Branagan. Nonetheless, Branagan claimed in 1839 that TJ had been his “most generous patron” (autobiographical front matter in Branagan, The Penitential Tyrant [Philadelphia, 1805; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4516], vii–xxxvii, and The Guardian Genius of the Federal Union [1839], 2–24, esp. 20; Lewis Leary, “Thomas Branagan: Republican Rhetoric and Romanticism in America,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877–  description ends 77 [1953]: 332–52; Branagan to TJ, 7 May, 17 Nov. 1805, 27 Apr. 1806, and TJ to Logan, 11 May 1805 [all DLC]; Philadelphia city directories, 1809–33; A. M’Elroy’s Philadelphia Directory for 1837 [1837], 22; DNA: RG 29, CS, Pa., Philadelphia, 1840; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends nos. 1395, 4515; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 [no. 528]).

The biblical parable of the talents (talants) is in Matthew 25.14–30.

1Preceding nine words interlined.

2Manuscript: “penilential.”

Index Entries

  • A Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression of the Exiled Sons of Africa (T. Branagan) search
  • Bible; Matthew referenced search
  • books; on slavery search
  • books; on War of1812 search
  • Boyle, T. (of New York City); publisher search
  • Branagan, Thomas; A Preliminary Essay, on the Oppression of the Exiled Sons of Africa search
  • Branagan, Thomas; identified search
  • Branagan, Thomas; letter from search
  • Branagan, Thomas; opposition to slavery by search
  • Branagan, Thomas; The Penitential Tyrant search
  • Branagan, Thomas; The Pride of Britannia Humbled search
  • Campbell, J. (of Baltimore); publisher search
  • Cobbett, William; letters of published search
  • Jenkinson, Robert Banks, 2d Earl of Liverpool; correspondence published search
  • Logan, George; emissary for TJ search
  • Reynolds, William; publisher search
  • slavery; books on search
  • slavery; opposition to search
  • The Penitential Tyrant (T. Branagan) search
  • The Pride of Britannia Humbled (T. Branagan) search
  • War of1812; The Pride of Britannia Humbled (T. Branagan) search