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Isaac H. Tiffany to Thomas Jefferson, 8 August 1816

From Isaac H. Tiffany

Schoharie, N.Y. 8 Aug. 1816.


Will you be so good as to assist me from a doubt. Mr Gillies, historiographer to the king for Scotland has translated Aristotle’s works into english. I have not seen the original, nor a translation into any other language than the beforementioned; but from the introductions to the Several books “on polities,” & the notes, remarks & conclusions, altogether foreign from the text, of the great author, I am desirous to know, whether the translation is full & fair? Would it not be well, could a pure original be found, that the republican author should be translated by a republican? We regard with anxious & scrupulous suspicion, the precious relics which have passed through unhallowed hands. And if the productions of the “deepest thinker of all antiquity” shall have suffered by time by tyranny or barbarism, Who can restore the pristine proportion solidity & polish but the deepest thinker of all the moderns—

Sir please to receive my wishes & respects—

Isaac H. Tiffany.

RC (DLC); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Peter Derieux, 22 Nov. 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr Monticello—Virga”; franked; postmarked Schoharie Bridge, 8 Aug. Recorded in SJL as received 23 Aug. 1816.

Isaac Hall Tiffany (1778–1859), attorney, was born in Keene, New Hampshire. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1793, he studied law successively under Aaron Burr in New York City and his own brother George Tiffany at Schoharie. Tiffany then established his own law practice, first at Cobleskill about 1798 and then in 1800 at Lawyersville, both villages in Schoharie County. He was also an officer in the county militia, 1800–04. Tiffany ran unsuccessfully as a Federalist candidate for the United States House of Representatives in 1806. He moved his practice to Albany in 1809, but by 1820 he had returned to Schoharie County, where in 1822 he was a judge of the court of common pleas and in 1825 the postmaster at Esperance. Having impoverished himself as a breeder of sheep for fine wool, by 1834 Tiffany moved to the town of Glen in Montgomery County. He represented that county in the New-York State Society for the promotion of Internal Improvements in 1836. Tiffany died in the village of Fultonville, Montgomery County (George T. Chapman, Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College [1867], 71; William E. Roscoe, History of Schoharie County, New York [1882], 417; Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries, concerning the Antiquities, History and Biography of America 10 [1866]: suppl. 2, p. 46; Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York, 1783–1821 [1901–02], 1:520, 728, 755; Albany Gazette, 7 Apr. 1806, suppl.; New York Republican Watch-Tower, 17 June 1806; Albany Balance, And New-York State Journal, 28 Nov. 1809; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 5:613; New-York Columbian, 17 May 1820; Albany Argus, 19 Apr. 1822; Table of Post-Offices in the United States [Washington, 1825], 29; Edwin Williams, The New-York Annual Register for … 1834 [1834], 338; American Railroad Journal, and Advocate of Internal Improvements 5 [1836]: 22; History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, N.Y. [1878], 122–3).

John gillies, royal historiographer for Scotland under king George III, had published Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, comprising his Practical Philosophy, Translated from the Greek, 2 vols. (London, 1797; 2d ed., London, 1804; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 11 [no. 640]). In this work he described Aristotle as the deepest thinker of antiquity (2:53).

Index Entries

  • Aristotle; Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, comprising his Practical Philosophy, Translated from the Greek (trans. J. Gillies) search
  • Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, comprising his Practical Philosophy, Translated from the Greek (Aristotle; trans. J. Gillies) search
  • ethics; books on search
  • Gillies, John; translatesAristotle’s Ethics and Politics, comprising his Practical Philosophy, Translated from the Greek (Aristotle) search
  • Tiffany, Isaac Hall; identified search
  • Tiffany, Isaac Hall; interest of in Aristotle’s works search
  • Tiffany, Isaac Hall; letters from search