Thomas Jefferson Papers
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John Melish to Thomas Jefferson, 23 November 1816

From John Melish

Philadelphia 23 nov 1816

Dear Sir,

I have the pleasure of presenting You with a Copy of my new map and Description of the United States and Contiguous Countries, which I respectfully Submit to Your attention. As it is the first map that professes to give a display of all that is known of Louisiana, in Connection with the United States, it will probably be gratifying to You who Contributed so much towards procuring that very interesting region for the use of the inhabitants of these States. When I first laid the materials together, so as to form a picture of that Country, I was delighted with its appearance, and have often reflected with pleasure in the anticipation of its giving similar sensations to you.—

You will observe that I have given a view of the present State of the Geography of the Country at the close of the Statistical Account of the United States; and being very desirous of engaging the respective State Governments in the business of promulgating1 it, I have printed a number of Setts of the Geographical Intelligence Separately, and intend to transmit one, with a Circular letter, to the Governor of each State. I have enclosed you a Copy of each of these papers. You will observe that the Legislature of this State passed an Act on the Subject. The Governor of new Jersey writes me that a Committee are appointed to Consider of the best mode of Constructing a map of New Jersey. I have written to the Governor of Virginia by this post. I shall forthwith address the Governors of the other States, so as the subject may Come before the respective Legislatures the ensuing Sessions, and am in hopes that each State will eventually have its own map, supported & kept Correct at the Public expence; and thus pave the way for the execution of a Splendid National map or Atlas.

It will give me pleasure to have your opinion of the present work, and with best wishes for Your happiness, I have the honour to be—very respectfully

Your friend

John Melish

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thos Jefferson Esq Monticello”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 23 Nov.; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Dec. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Melish, Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions (Philadelphia, 1816). (2) Melish, A Geographical Description of the United States, with the contiguous British and Spanish Possessions (Philadelphia, 1816; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 7 [no. 355]). (3) Melish, Geographical Intelligence ([Philadelphia, 1816]; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 223]; TJ’s copy in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections). (4) printed circular (TJ’s copy in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections; filed with preceding enclosure; at head of text in Melish’s hand [trimmed]: “Copy Circular Sent to the Gov[ernors o]f each State”); which indicates that the former publication contains lists of both his published and proposed geographical works, “an account of the present situation of the State Maps” and “an opinion as to what these maps should be,” general reflections on the geography of the United States, and information about a forthcoming map of Pennsylvania; stresses the importance of local surveys; asks that public support for such surveys be considered by state legislatures; and concludes with a note in Melish’s hand presumably intended for TJ: “In the respective letters Sent a few remarks are added applicable to the respective States. The great object in view is to impress the idea—that—1 Each State should have its own map 2d That it Should be always kept Correct 3 That all the States should Concur in one plan.”

The legislature of this state passed “An Act directing the formation of a Map of Pennsylvania” the preceding winter, and Governor Simon Snyder signed it into law on 19 Mar. 1816 (Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [1815–16 sess.], 185–8; Melish, Geographical Description, 176–8). The governor of new jersey at this time was Mahlon Dickerson, while the governor of virginia was Wilson Cary Nicholas.

1Melish here canceled “the Geography.”

Index Entries

  • A Geographical Description of the United States (J. Melish) search
  • Dickerson, Mahlon; as governor of N.J. search
  • Geographical Intelligence (J. Melish) search
  • Louisiana (state); maps of search
  • Louisiana Territory; TJ’s role in purchasing search
  • Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions (J. Melish) search
  • maps; of Louisiana search
  • maps; of New Jersey search
  • maps; of Pennsylvania search
  • maps; of U.S. search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • Melish, John; A Geographical Description of the United States search
  • Melish, John; Geographical Intelligence search
  • Melish, John; letters from search
  • Melish, John; Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions search
  • New Jersey; governor of search
  • New Jersey; maps of search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); as Va. governor search
  • Pennsylvania; and S. Snyder search
  • Pennsylvania; legislature of search
  • Pennsylvania; maps of search
  • Snyder, Simon; as governor of Pa. search
  • United States; maps of search
  • Virginia; governor search
  • Virginia; maps of search