Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Ritchie, 8 March 1816

To Thomas Ritchie

Monticello Mar. 8. 16.

Dear Sir

About 18. months ago (Sep. 1814) I proposed to you a work on political economy by mr Tracy of Paris, for translation & publication, the original MS. being in my hands unpublished. you could not undertake it till the then ensuing spring, and I thought I ought not to wait so long. after trusting to Duane, and being continually put off, he at length informed me he had got it translated, but had not the means of publishing it. I then desired he would return me the original. he sent me that & the translation and drew on me for the cost of the latter (60.D) which, altho’ without any sort of obligation, I shall pay him. I found the translation wretched, and have set in to correct it myself. I have labored on it a month for 3, 4. or 5 hours a day, and am half thro’. another month of such drudgery will finish it. it is unquestionably the ablest work ever written on the subject [a]nd brings the whole into the compass of 400. 8vo pages, of suc[h] a [. . .] [t]ype as of the Boston edn of Stewart’s philosophy of the mind. for perspicuity, precision, and demonstrative logic, we have had nothing to equal it, and we have in it the benefits of the advancement of the science since Smith’s and even Say’s works. nothing is so much wanting in this country as the diffusion of this science, and I cannot but believe that when brought into the compass of a single 8vo it will be generally bought and read. it’s publication will do honour to any press. will you undertake it? I gladly sacrifice the price paid for the translation, & the drudgery of amending it, which I would not have undertaken for ten times the sum. the groundwork forbids it to be an unexceptionable translation in point of style, but it will be faithful, & tolerable in style. if you will undertake it, I will send you the first half by return of mail, and the rest as it is ready. pray do it, and let me hear from you as soon as possible. I salute you with friendship and1 respect

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of a reused address cover from John Barnes to TJ; torn at seal, with some words rewritten by TJ; at foot of text: “Mr Ritchie”; endorsed by TJ.

For TJ’s letter of about 18. months ago, see TJ to Ritchie, 27 Sept. 1814, and note.

1TJ here canceled “esteem.”

Index Entries

  • A Treatise on Political Economy (Destutt de Tracy) search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; A Treatise on Political Economy search
  • Duane, William; and Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (D. Stewart) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; translates Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; and works of Destutt de Tracy search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; letters to search
  • Say, Jean Baptiste; works of search
  • Smith, Adam; works of search
  • Stewart, Dugald; Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind search