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William Canby to Thomas Jefferson, 27 August 1813

From William Canby

B. Wine Mills 27th 8mo 1813

Esteemed friend, I have for years at times felt affection toward thee, with a wish for thy Salvation; to wit the attainment while on this stage of time (in the Natural Body) of a sutable portion of divine life, for otherways we know little more than the life of Nature, & therein are in danger of becoming inferior to the Beasts which perish, in consequence of declining the offers of divine life, made to every Rational being.—But I have long had better hope of thee, & have thought (particularly in our little quiet meeting yesterday), “that thou had been faithful in (at least) a few things, & wish thou mayst be made Ruler over more, & enter into the Joy of thy1 Lord & into his Rest.”—& it occurred in order thereto we shou’d becom Christians, “for he that hath not the spirit of Christ is none of his,”—& this knowledg & belief is strongly2 insisted on I think by divers of his apostles, who had personally seen, & were eyewitnesses of his majesty; particularly in the Mount, & of others who had not that View; which however was insufficient to perfect them, & was3 taken away, that they might be more effectually turned to that spirit which leadeth into all Truth, whose power alone is able to Reduce the spirit of Nature to sutable silence & submission.

Wm Canby

RC (MHi); dateline at foot of text; addressed (clipped): “[. . .] Virginia”; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Sept. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Tr (on deposit ViU: TJP); misdated 29 Aug. 1813; on verso of Tr of TJ to Canby, 18 Sept. 1813, which concludes with the note that “The originals of the foregoing letters were in the possession of the late Timothy Pickering.” Printed in Wilmington Delaware Gazette, 1 Nov. 1814 (misdated 29 Aug. 1813), and elsewhere, following wording of Tr.

William Canby (1748–1830), miller, lived his whole life in the vicinity of Wilmington, Delaware. He was a Quaker who opposed war, slavery, and the slave trade, favored the education of free African-Americans and, in his zeal for peace, even seems to have blamed British impressment of American seamen on his own countrymen. During TJ’s presidency, Canby implored him on several occasions to earn salvation by deepening his Christian faith (Wilmington Monthly Meeting of Friends, birth and death register, 1713–1860, p. 3 [PSC-Hi]; Henry S. Canby, Family History [1945], 33–4; EG description begins Dickinson W. Adams and Ruth W. Lester, eds., Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels, 1983, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 350–1n; DNA: RG 29, CS, Del., New Castle Co., 1800, 1810, 1820; Canby to TJ, 27 May 1802, 1 Feb. 1803, 24 Mar. 1808 [all in DLC]; Niles’ Weekly Register, 8 May 1830).

Canby’s biblical allusions are: the beasts which perish (Psalms 49.12); that thou had been faithful … into his rest (Matthew 25.23); for he that hath not the spirit of christ is none of his (Romans 8.9); Jesus’s sermon on the mount (Matthew 5–7); and that spirit which leadeth into all truth (John 16.13).

1Tr: “our.”

2RC: “stronly.” Tr: “Strongly.”

3Tr here adds “to be.”

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  • Bible; John referenced search
  • Bible; Matthew referenced search
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  • Bible; Romans referenced search
  • Canby, William; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • Canby, William; identified search
  • Canby, William; letters from search
  • Jesus; as prophet search
  • Pickering, Timothy; possesses TJ-Canby letters search
  • religion; exhortations to TJ search