Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to David Humphreys, 21 June 1784

To David Humphreys

Boston June 21. 1784.

Dear Sir

I find on my arrival here that there is no vessel going for France from any Eastern port. There is a new brig of Mr. Tracy’s which sails for London in about ten days; but besides the objection to the place of her destination, another arises to that crowd of passengers to which we should be exposed in merchant ships without corresponding accomodations. I here learn that the French packet sails from N. York on the 15th. of the next month. This is ten days later than I would have wished. However it will give me more time to make myself acquainted with these states, it is a good, well accomodated vessel, and will land us at l’Orient, the place above all others at which I would wish to land. I therefore have determined to take my passage in her. There is one circumstance only which can change my determination in favor of Mr. Tracy’s vessel, and he being out of town, that cannot be now fixed. Should such a change take place I will take care to give you notice, short but timely. Should I return to N. York I shall leave this the 1st. day of July, proceed to Providence, from thence take boat to the East end of Long island and go on through the island to N. York. I set out to-day for Portsmouth and shall return the 26th. Mrs. Adams and her daughter sailed yesterday in the Active for London. I was much concerned that her arrangements had been so decisively taken when I came that she could not change them. Otherwise she would have gone much better in the packet. She was much crowded in the Active. I have received for you from Genl. Washington a packet which I will do myself the pleasure of delivering when I see you, conjecturing that a safe conveyance of it is more important than a speedy one. I am with great esteem & respect Dr. Sir Your most obedt. humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

P.S. You shall hear from me decisively on my return from Portsmouth as to the time and manner of my going.

RC (Andre deCoppet, N.Y., 1949); addressed to Humphreys at New Haven; endorsed.

On my arrival here: TJ had left New York on 5 June and in the next two weeks, armed with letters of intro– duction from Sherman, Gerry, Howell, and no doubt others, made his first tour through New England. He not only met such leading figures as Dr. Ezra Stiles, Gov. Jabez Bowen of Rhode Island, Gov. Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut, and the principal men of Boston and Portsmouth-some of whom, for example Gov. John Hancock of Massachusetts, he had known previously-but he was also accorded recognition to an unusual degree. Some of this attention resulted, of course, from his official character and the mission on which he was going, but there is no doubt of the fact that his reputation as a man of unusual intellectual attainments had preceded him. Ezra Stiles’ diary, printed above under 8 June 1784, is evidence of the impression made by TJ on thoughtful men. When he departed from Providence on 18 June he was “attended a few miles from town by a number of the principal inhabitants” (Dumbauld, Jefferson, American Tourist, p. 58, citing Md. Jour. and Baltimore Advertiser, 9 July 1784). In Boston he stopped with “Colo. Ingersol,” probably Joseph Ingersoll who lived at the corner of Tremont and Court streets, leaving that place on the day that the present letter was written and proceeding to Portsmouth. He appears to have returned to Boston on the following Friday, 25 June, when the Boston newspapers took notice of his presence: “Friday last the Honourable Thomas Jefferson, Esq; late Governor of Virginia, arrived here by land from that State. He is shortly to embark for Europe, as a Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, in the room of the Honourable John Jay, Esq; who is about to return to America. –Governor Jefferson, who has so eminently distinguished himself in the late glorious revolution is a gentleman of a very amiable character, to which he has joined the most extensive knowledge. He is mathematician and philosopher, as well as a civilian and politician, and the memorable declaration of American independence is said to have been penned by him” (The Continental Journal & Weekly Advertiser, 1 July 1784). This unusual tribute is one of the earliest if not the first public statement concerning TJ’s authorship of the Declaration of Independence. A more matter-of-fact announcement of TJ’s presence in Boston was made by the Boston Independent Chronicle, 1 July 1784. For a description of the contents of the PACKET from Washington, see note to Washington to TJ, 2 June 1784. Mr. [Nathaniel] tracy’s vessel, on which TJ sailed on 5 July 1784, was the Ceres.

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