Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Page, 30 July 1776

To John Page

Philadelphia, July 30. 1776.

Dear Page

On receipt of your letter we enquired into the probability of getting your seal done here. We find a drawer and an engraver here both of whom we have reason to believe are excellent in their way. They did great seals for Jamaica and Barbadoes both of which are said to have been well done, and a seal for the Philosophical society here which we are told is excellent. But they are expensive, and will require two months to complete it. The drawing the figures for the engraver will cost about 50 dollars, and the engraving will be still more. Nevertheless as it would be long before we could consult you and receive an answer, as we think you have no such hands, and the expence is never to be incurred a second time we shall order it to be done. I like the device of the first side of the seal much. The second I think is too much crouded, nor is the design so striking. But for god’s sake what is the ‘Deus nobis haec otia fecit.’ It puzzles every body here; if my country really enjoys that otium, it is singular, as every other colony seems to be hard struggling. I think it was agreed on before Dunmore’s flight from Gwyn’s island so that it can hardly be referred to the temporary holiday that has given you. This device is too aenigmatical, since if it puzzles now, it will be absolutely insoluble fifty years hence.

I would not advise that the French gentlemen should come here. We have so many of that country, and have been so much imposed on, that the Congress begins to be sore on that head. Besides there is no prospect of raising horse this way. But if you approve of the Chevalier de St. Aubin, why not appoint him yourselves, as your troops of horse are Colonial not Continental?

The 8th battalion will no doubt be taken into Continental pay from the date you mention. So also will be the two written for lately to come to the Jersies. The 7th. should have been moved in Congress long e’er now, but the muster roll sent us by Mr. Yates was so miserably defective that it would not have been received, and would have exposed him. We therefore desired him to send one more full, still giving it the same date, and I inclosed him a proper form. If he is diligent we may receive it by next post.

The answer to your public letter we have addressed to the governor.

There is nothing new here. Washington’s and Mercer’s camps recruit with amazing slowness. Had they been reinforced more readily something might have been attempted on Staten island. The enemy there are not more than 8, or 10,000 strong. Ld. Howe has recd. none of his fleet, unless some Highlanders (about 8, or 10 vessels) were of it. Our army at Tyonderoga is getting out of the small pox. We have about 150. carpenters I suppose got there by now. I hope they will out-build the enemy, so as to keep our force on the lake superior to theirs. There is a mystery in the dereliction of Crown-point. The general officers were unanimous in preferring Tyonderoga, and the Feild officers against it. The latter have assigned reasons in their remonstrance which appear unanswerable, yet every one acquainted with the ground pronounce the measure right without answering these reasons.

Having declined serving here the next year, I shall be with you at the first session of our assembly. I purpose to leave this place the 11th. of August, having so advised Mrs. Jefferson by last post, and every letter brings me such an account of the state of her health, that it is with great pain I can stay here till then. But Braxton purposing to leave us the day after tomorrow, the colony would be unrepresented were I to go. Before the 11th. I hope to see Colo. Lee and Mr. Wythe here, tho’ the stay of the latter will I hope be short, as he must not be spared from the important department of the law. Adieu, Adieu.

RC (James Parker Smith, Springfield, Mass., 1950). Unsigned. Addressed: “To The honorable John Page esq. Williamsburgh. free Th: Jefferson.” Endorsed: “Philada. July 30th. 1776.” This letter, which has been printed from the MS only once before, and then in a somewhat unsatisfactory text (New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xx [1866], 68–9), was thereafter lost from sight until the present volume was in page proof, when it was located for the editors through the good offices of Miss Alice K. Moore of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, Springfield, Mass.

Your seal: See Page to TJ, 20 July. The history of Virginia seals has been treated at length, with adequate illustrations, by Edward S. Evans in “The Seals of Virginia,” published as part of the Virginia State Library Report for 1909–1910. The drawer engaged by TJ was Pierre Eugène DuSimitière, a Swiss artist and antiquary living in Philadelphia, on whom see DAB description begins Dictionary of American Biography description ends and also a charming account by John Adams in a letter to Mrs. Adams of 14 Aug. 1776 (Familiar Letters, p. 210–11). He drew several state seals at this time, and one of his notebooks for 1774–1783, in DLC, contains the following entry, overlooked by Evans:

“August [1776] a drawing in Indian ink for the great Seal of the State of Virginia in two sides of 4½ inches diameter. See Ev. Post July 18.” The Penna. Evening Post of 18 July 1776 gives a description of the seal as proposed by the Convention.

Furthermore, TJ’s Account with the Convention and Commonwealth of Virginia as delegate to Congress in 1776 (vi) enters two payments of $16 each to Du Simitière for this work, under 9 and 28 Aug. 1776. What happened afterwards is not clear. George Wythe supervised the work in Philadelphia after TJ left Congress (see Wythe’s letter to TJ, 18 Nov. 1776), but negotiations to have a seal cut in Europe were carried on for several years thereafter (Evans, description begins Charles Evans, American Bibliography description ends p. 35ff.). See also, below, Du Simitière’s Design for a Coat of Arms for Virginia, Aug. 1776. The motto objected to by TJ was altered in 1779 to the single word “Perseverando” (Evans, description begins Charles Evans, American Bibliography description ends p. 37). The answer to your public letter: Neither letter nor answer has been found.

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