Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Samuel Knox to Thomas Jefferson, 22 January 1810

From Samuel Knox

Baltimore College Jany 22d 1810.

Sir

Having for some time past contemplated the publication of a translation of Buchanan’s Dialogue “De Jure Regni apud Scotos,” my principal object in taking the Liberty of addressing you on the subject, is for the purpose of Obtaining the Honour of your assent to it’s being dedicated to you.

The first idea of attempting a translation of that Dialogue, Originated from Reading the Earl of Buchan’s Lives of Fletcher and Thomson, in which it is spoken of in terms of Enthusiasm. Finding I had a copy of it among my Books, on perusing it, I felt self Condemned that I had not, previously, made myself Acquainted with it’s merits.

The propriety of Introducing it as a School Book; And familiarising our American youth to the excellent principles of Civil Government it Contains—although addressed to a Prince, was irresistibly impressed upon my Mind.

I felt no little Indignation that this little precious work, considering the Age in which it was written, was so little notic’d or Appreciated where it originated—and especially that at the Scotch University where I was educated, Amongst all their works of merit, classical and philosophical; moral and Juridical, It was never Introduced to our Notice, even by Name. The principles it Inculcates, In as far as I can Judge, are perfectly Congenial with our Republican principles in these states; and I have little doubt will prove Acceptable to all who Zealously wish to perpetuate such principles.

I intend to forward its’ publication as speedily as the Duties of my profession may Admit; And would indeed think myself highly gratified and Honour’d by having your permission to address or Dedicate it to you.


For several years past I had, Occasionally, thoughts of addressing you on a Subject that gave me some Concern, but was deterr’d by the consideration of your being so much engaged, as to Have no time for Intrusions of that Nature. During the Time I had charge of the Frederick Academy, and the Year previous to your being Elected chief Magistrate of the Union—in order to contribute my feeble mite to the Aid of that cause, which I consider’d the cause of Truth and the people, I publish’d, Anonymously, a small pamphlet; “in Vindication of Mr Jefferson’s religious conduct and principles.” The object of the pamphlet was in a familiar and popular way, to Drive your Enemies, as the Enemies of Republicanism, from what they then Deemed their Strong-Hold against you,

It was, previously, Read and approved of by the present Secretary of State—though He knew not the writer—And John Thompson Mason Esqre, after it was publish’d, and when He was candidate for Elector, distributed some hundred copies of it.

After your Election, a Mr Pechin, Editor of the Baltimore American, whether with or without your Approbation I know not, published an Edition of your Notes on Virginia, And Annexed to it, entirely without my knowledge or concurrence, the pamphlet alluded to—Indeed it was impossible He could Consult me; as I have every Reason to Believe He knew not the writer at yt time.

But as the Author was known to Mr Mason and a few friends where I Resided,—And, consequently, might possibly have been mentioned to you, I felt much concern lest you should have thought me accessory to it’s being published, along with your Notes on Virginia.

Of any thing so vain and indelicate, I could not be Capable—I felt much mortified on the Occasion—And was almost tempted to a public Remonstrance Against it’s being Done—and more especially on observing that the Style or structure of some Sentences differed from the manuscript—and that it was, otherwise, inaccurately printed.

It is probable that nothing Respecting it ever came to your knowledge—But lest it should, I have often longed for an Occasion, when without any impertinent Intrusion, the circumstance might be submitted as it really happened. With Mr Pechin’s publication of it I had no Acquaintance nor concern whatever.

With the Multitudes, over the Union, who sincerely offer Up their prayers to Heaven that the Evening of your Days may be the Rich harvest of your public and invaluable Services of your country,—

I am your most highly Respectful; and most Obedt Hble Servt

Samuel Knox

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqre”; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Feb. 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

Samuel Knox (ca. 1757–1832), educator, emigrated from Ireland to Maryland and spent some time teaching in a grammar school there late in the 1780s. In 1789 he returned to Europe to pursue advanced studies, receiving an M.A. in 1792 from the University of Glasgow. After obtaining a license as a Presbyterian minister in Belfast, Knox returned to the United States and served as a pastor at Bladensburg, Maryland, 1795–97. Thereafter, he divided his time between religion and education, with terms as principal of Frederick Academy, 1797–1803 and 1823–27, and Baltimore College, 1808–20. In 1817 the Board of Visitors of Central College, later to become the University of Virginia, considered but decided against hiring Knox as a professor of languages and belles lettres. His most notable contribution to American pedagogy was his Essay on the Best System of Liberal Education, Adapted to the Genius of the Government of the United States (Baltimore, 1799; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1114), a comprehensive plan for a national educational program that had won an award from the American Philosophical Society in 1797 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Ashley Foster, “Samuel Knox, Maryland Educator,” Maryland Historical Magazine 50 [1955]: 173–94; Knox to TJ, 30 Nov. 1818; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 4 Sept. 1832).

George Buchanan’s dialogue, de jure regni apud scotos (Edinburgh, 1579), was a defense of limited, constitutional monarchy that TJ owned in a collected edition of Buchanan’s works (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 433). No translation by Knox was published.

buchan’s lives: David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan, Essays on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun and the poet Thomson: Biographical, Critical, and Political (London, 1792; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 437). The present secretary of state was Robert Smith. Knox’s pseudonymous pamphlet (written as “A Friend to Real Religion”), A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson, and a Statement of his Services in the Cause of Religious Liberty, and an edition of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia; with the appendixes—complete: To which is subjoined, a sublime and argumentative dissertation on Mr. Jefferson’s religious principles were both printed in 1800 by William Pechin, the editor of the baltimore american.

Index Entries

  • American, and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore newspaper); mentioned search
  • A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson (Knox) search
  • Baltimore, Md.; American, and Commercial Daily Advertiser search
  • books; to be dedicated to TJ search
  • Buchan, David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of; Essays on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun and the poet Thomson: Biographical, Critical, and Political search
  • Buchanan, George; De Jure Regni Apud Scotos search
  • Central College (Charlottesville); Board of Visitors search
  • Central College (Charlottesville); professors at search
  • De Jure Regni Apud Scotos (Buchanan) search
  • Essays on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun and the poet Thomson: Biographical, Critical, and Political (Buchan) search
  • Frederick Academy (Md.) search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and T. J. Randolph search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; Richmond academy search
  • Glasgow, University of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Knox, Samuel; and De Jure Regni Apud Scotos (Buchanan) search
  • Knox, Samuel; A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson search
  • Knox, Samuel; identified search
  • Knox, Samuel; letters from search
  • Maryland; Frederick Academy search
  • Mason, John Thomson (1765–1824); and election of 1800 search
  • newspapers; Baltimore American, and Commercial Daily Advertiser search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); W. Pechin’s edition search
  • Pechin, William; publishes Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); and L. H. Girardin search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); education of search
  • Richmond, Va.; L. H. Girardin’s academy at search
  • schools and colleges; Frederick Academy (Md.) search
  • schools and colleges; L. H. Girardin’s academy (Richmond) search
  • schools and colleges; University of Glasgow search
  • Smith, Robert; secretary of state search