Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Caspar Wistar, 18 February 1804

To Caspar Wistar

Washington Feb. 18. 04.

Dear Sir

Having recieved the inclosed essay on public education from it’s author, the revd. mr Knox, &, as I presume with a view that it should be communicated to the Philosophical society, I take the liberty of putting it under cover to you for that purpose, and to present you my salutations & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (William Reese Company, New Haven, Connecticut, 2001); at foot of text: “Doctr. Wistar.” PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Recorded in SJL with notation “Knox’s essay.” Enclosure: Samuel Knox, An Essay, on the Means of Improving Public Education, Adapted to the United States (Frederick, Md., 1803).

Samuel knox, an Irish-born Presbyterian minister and Maryland educator, had previously sent TJ a copy of An Essay on the Best System of Liberal Education, which was published in 1799 in Baltimore. Its publication was the result of a competition held in 1797 by the American Philosophical Society in which Knox shared a prize with Samuel Harrison Smith for the best essay on education. Knox was also the pseudonymous author, signing himself as “A Friend to Real Religion,” of A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson, and a Statement of His Services in the Cause of Religious Liberty, printed separately as a pamphlet in Baltimore in 1800 as well as appended to William Pechin’s edition of TJ’s Notes on the State of Virginia (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928-36, 20 vols. description ends ; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Transactions, 4 [1799], iv, vii; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1114; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004- , 11 vols. description ends , 2:174n).

it should be communicated: the 1803 octavo essay, which Knox dedicated to TJ as president of the United States, president of the APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , and “the Liberal Patron of Science and Humanity,” appeared in a list of donations from individuals to the society printed the next year (APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Transactions, 6, pt. 1 [1804], xiv).

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