Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. To Elbridge Gerry and James McHenry, [21? December 1783]

II. To Elbridge Gerry and James McHenry

[21? December 1783]

Th: Jefferson to Messrs. Gherry & Mc Henry

I send you the sketch, which I have been obliged to obliterate and blot after making what I intended for a fair copy. You will observe my plan was to make a short review in very general terms of those actions which redound to the General’s particular credit, viz. the discouraging circumstances under which he accepted the command—his steadiness and perservance when obliged to retire across the Delaware and our affairs then at their lowest point of depression—his revival of our hopes by recrossing the Delaware—and finally the capture of Cornwallis which undoubtedly made the peace. I have noted these events in the margin opposite to the passages alluding to them, and have drawn lines under other expressions taken from the General’s address. Perhaps this answer is too short; perhaps it is too warm. A want of time must apologize for the one, and an exalted esteem for the other faults. Be so good as to handle it roughly and freely and make it what it should be.

RC (PHi); without date, but probably written on 21 Dec. as suggested in editorial note at head of this series of documents; not recorded in SJL. A fragmentary address remains: “Messrs. Gh[…]”; this is on the verso of the letter, the text of which is covered with blots as if made by offset from a preceding page. These facts suggest that TJ’s “intended … fair copy” must have occupied the first and second pages of the MS, the third page of which carried the present letter; for, had the text of the “sketch” been an ordinary enclosure, the letter would doubtless have begun on page one. Also it is clear that, from the position of the fragmentary address on the verso, another leaf had to precede that on which the letter is written in order to form a cover for the letter alone, to say nothing of a possible enclosure. If this conjecture is correct, then a 19th century collector may have been responsible for the separation of TJ’s “intended … fair copy” from the letter to which it was attached, for the verso also bears this endorsement in the hand of the well-known Baltimore autograph collector who signed it: “Given to me in 1860 by Daniel McHenry, Secretary of War under John Adams R. Gilmor.” From this it is also certain that, along with the first draft of Washington’s address, McHenry retained TJ’s “intended … fair copy” of the response.

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