Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Samuel H. Smith to Thomas Jefferson, 7 October 1814

From Samuel H. Smith

Washington Oct. 7. 1814

Dear Sir

It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of Your favor of the ult. wich from some casualty did not reach me until the 2d Instant. It is impossible to repress indignant feeling at the barbarism of our enemy, wch would have cast a shade over the remote ages when civilisation had scarcely dawned on mankind. Instead, however, at present resting in the indulgence of such feeling, it is infinitely better to deal back the blow, thus in some degree drawing good out of evil. To retrieve also the injury done as speedily as we can, is equally the dictate of wisdom.

The Library, that is lost, was valuable and was the commencement of an Institution fitted in its maturity to be the pride and ornament of our Country. But valuable as it was, if replaced by Your collection the loss will be more than supplied. Being somewhat of an enthusiast as to the benefits that arise from such institutions I cordially hail the prospect of seeing so broad a foundation laid for a national one on a scale of expanding grandeur.

I submitted, without delay, Your letter and catalogue to the Library Committees of the two Houses of Congress. That of the Senate consists of Mesrs Goldsborough, Tait & Fromentine, and that of the Representatives of Mesrs Seybert, Lowndes & Gaston. The tender was respectfully received by both Committees, with the assurance that no time should be lost in acting upon it. They each expressed the opinion that the Committees could not go further than to recommend to their Houses such steps as they should on consultation consider advisable, and promised to inform me of the course determined on. I have made several other members acquainted with the offer made by you, and have been happy to find that it is highly appreciated by them and will receive their warm support.

I perceive no obstacle to its acceptance but the pending proposition to remove the seat of government. I fear that many of those who are interested in this measure will consider the possession of such a library as depriving them of a strong argument in favor of removal, and will thence be apt by delay or evasion to keep back its consideration. Should this prove to be the case I submit to You the policy of permitting a publication of Your letters

In the hope that You continue to enjoy health & happiness, I am with sentiments of great & unabated respect and regard

Sa H Smith

I am just advised by mr Goldsborough that the joint Come have reported a resolution empowering1 them to contract for the purchase of the Library

RC (DLC); postscript written perpendicularly in left margin; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Oct. 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

For your favor of the ult. see TJ’s two letters to Smith of 21 Sept. 1814. Early in the autumn of 1814 the United States House of Representatives hotly debated a proposal to remove the seat of government from Washington for the duration of the war with Great Britain. A bill to that effect was introduced on 13 Oct. 1814 but voted down two days later (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers) description ends , 13th Cong., 3d sess., esp. 311–2, 387–8, 394–6 [26 Sept., 13, 15 Oct. 1814]).

1Manuscript: “empowerig.”

Index Entries

  • Fromentin, Eligius; and congressional Joint Library Committee search
  • Gaston, William; congressional Joint Library Committee member search
  • Goldsborough, Robert H.; chairs congressional Joint Library Committee search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and removal of U.S. capital from Washington search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; catalogue of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Library of Congress; and library committees of Congress search
  • Library of Congress; resolution authorizing contracting for TJ’s library search
  • Library of Congress; TJ sells personal library to search
  • Library of Congress; TJ’s catalogue of books sold to search
  • Lowndes, William; congressional Joint Library Committee member search
  • Seybert, Adam; congressional Joint Library Committee member search
  • Smith, Samuel Harrison; and sale of TJ’s library to Congress search
  • Smith, Samuel Harrison; letters from search
  • Smith, Samuel Harrison; on British destruction in Washington search
  • Tait, Charles; congressional Joint Library Committee member search
  • War of1812; British destruction in Washington search
  • Washington, D.C.; British destruction in search
  • Washington, D.C.; proposed removal of U.S. capital from search