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Horatio G. Spafford to Thomas Jefferson, 14 January 1810

From Horatio G. Spafford

Hudson, N.Y., 1 Mo. 14, 1810.

My Hond & Esteemed Friend—

I am perfectly sensible that my acknowledgement of the due receipt1 of thy Letter of May 14, 1809, ought not to have been postponed to this time. As it has been, however, I hope the delay will be attributed to the proper cause.

It is but justice to say that, I receive the favor as I ought, & shall certainly not fail to improve the next edition of my Geography, by thy candid corrections. Indeed, I have been at some pains to counteract erroneous impressions, by stating the facts, (particularly relative to the translation from Volney,) to some of the Editors of our Gazettes, in this country. In the next edition, I shall certainly place that part, in a proper light, & will forward thee a copy for inspection.

In thy Letter, I am assured of thy willingness to promote my undertakings; & have reason to believe that a mind, so long employed upon the great fields of Nature & in the paths of Science, cannot fail to have much to communicate. And, with the freedom of a Republican, & friend of letters, solicit all the aid, which it may be convenient to give. My Circulars, had miscarried, & I enclose thee others, of the same kind, to which I add, a Notice, just published. They will, altogether, inform thee of the ‘fields in which I labor.’

Once again, I thank thee for thy Letter, & its kind assurances; particularly for the liberty to address thee on such occasions as may occur, & repeat my determination to do thee justice; regretting the occasion for animadversion. In many blessings, may Heaven bestow a rich reward on thee & thine, for all thy many cares & favors. Our country is now awfully threatened, & needs the best services of the tried guardians of our rights. Most devoutly do I pray, that Wisdom may preside in the Councils of our nation, & our Watchmen be faithfully rewarded. To forget the services of these public men who have grown gray in the service of their country, is the first step in the downward way of national depravity. My Children Shall learn from me to reverence age & tried merit. Nor shall mere political considerations ever force me to withold a reverential regard for the ‘Fathers of the State.’

Be so good as to let me hear from thee whenever convenient, resting assured of the esteem & affectionate regards of thy friend,

H. G. Spafford.

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 24 Jan. 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Spafford to “Respected Friend,” Hudson, 29 Mar. 1809, reporting that he has just published his General Geography, and Rudiments of Useful Knowledge in duodecimo and now proposes to expand it into a universal geography, in preparation for which he contemplates “a pretty extensive tour through the United States” to collect information, including study of official records and interviews with public officials at state capitals; requesting persons to supply him with “every material article of intelligence” and “Collections of Natural Curiosities,” especially mineral and fossil specimens; and seeking donations to support his research (printed circular in DLC; addressed: “Honble Thomas Jefferson Washington City”; endorsed by TJ as a “circular”). (2) Spafford to “Respected Friend,” Hudson, 26 July 1809, announcing that he is working on A Gazetteer of the State of New-York, calling on state legislators and town and county clerks to prepare descriptions of their localities, including name, size, boundaries, population, information on minerals, metals, manufactures, and geographical features; asking them to forward this information to their legislators before the next session in Albany, which he will attend; and indicating that he will soon commence a research tour of some months’ duration (printed circular in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections). (3) Spafford “To the Public,” Hudson, 1 Jan. 1810, renewing his request for information for the New York gazetteer; stating that he will spend the winter in Albany and there collate information already received with verbal information from state legislators and official records; assuring those who have already sent information that their descriptions have not been deficient; urging others who may be deterred by “the want of sufficient time for a studied order” to send him even what they can “throw together promiscuously, and in a few minutes,” which will still serve their country, since “intelligence is the life of liberty”; and closing with a postscript urging newspaper editors to reprint this appeal (broadside in same).

Possibly about July 1810, Spafford sent TJ a note reading “How would the prosecution of my plan, succeed in Virginia? I hope to complete a Gazetteer of the Union by individual States, & then by Consolidation. Be so good as to give me thy opinion. I am so industriously employed, & on such Service, as to imagine myself entitled to some public consideration. Am I mistaken? With narrow means, my Postage alone, costs near 100 dollars per annum. Should it not be worthy our country to facilitate such inquiries ? or would it be public injustice? Pray let me hear from thee” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 187:33240A; unsigned, written entirely in Spafford’s hand on both sides of a small, tattered scrap; undated, but possibly prepared about the same time as a 12 July 1810 letter from Spafford to James Madison asking if the public might defray his postal expenses [Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:413–4]).

1Manuscript: “receiipt.”

Index Entries

  • A Gazetteer of the State of New-York (H. G. Spafford) search
  • General Geography, and Rudiments of Useful Knowledge (Spafford) search
  • geography; books on search
  • Madison, James; and H. G. Spafford search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; A Gazetteer of the State of New-York search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; General Geography, and Rudiments of Useful Knowledge search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; letters from search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; proposed U.S. gazetteer by search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; seeks financial assistance search
  • United States; gazetteer of, proposed search
  • Volney, Constantin François Chasseboeuf, comte de; Tableau du Climat et du Sol des États-Unis d’Amérique search