Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to John Langdon, 11 January 1803

To John Langdon

Washington Jan. 11. 1803.

Dear Sir

We learn by the public papers that a great calamity by fire has happened to Portsmouth, and that yourself and some others are appointed to recieve contributions for the distressed sufferers and to distribute them. I take the liberty of inclosing to yourself an hundred dollars for this purpose. I observe the trustees say in the papers that they will make a record of the donations. I pray that in my case it may be of the sum only, without the name. the former I suppose is necessary in making up your accounts. Accept assurances of my constant & affectionate esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NhPoS: John Langdon Papers); addressed: “John Langdon esquire Portsmouth N.H.”; franked; endorsed by Langdon: “Ansd.” PrC (MHi); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

public papers throughout the country reprinted accounts of a fire that broke out in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 26 Dec. 1802. The conflagration originated in the building occupied by the state bank and spread to about 100 surrounding structures, resulting in an estimated $200,000 in damages. Langdon was among those appointed to a committee to receive contributions. In a national effort to solicit aid, the committee commissioned three people to travel to different regions (Nathaniel Adams, Annals of Portsmouth [Portsmouth, N.H., 1825], 324–5; National Intelligencer, 10 Jan. 1803; Alexandria Advertiser and Commercial Intelligencer, 10 Jan. 1803; Alexandria Expositor, 10 Jan. 1803; United States Oracle, and Portsmouth Advertiser, 1 Jan. 1803; Amherst, N.H., Farmer’s Cabinet, 30 Dec. 1802, 13 Jan. 1803; Georgetown Olio, 21 Jan. 1803).

According to his financial memoranda, TJ made two anonymous donations of $100 each in “charity for Portsmouth,” including one on 11 Jan. and one on 12 Feb. to “Mr. Willard.” Joseph Willard, a former Harvard president and Congregational clergyman whose in-laws were the Sheafes of Portsmouth, had been sent by the committee to cities south of New York (New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, 17 Jan. 1803; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , s.v. “Willard, Joseph”; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1090, 1092).

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