Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Churchman, 22 November 1787

From John Churchman

[Philadelphia] 11mo Novr. 22nd. 1787.

Dear Friend

I received a favour dated the 8th of August last, mentioning the receipt of my last of June 6th. as well as that of my first memorial which I sent through another Channel. I hold myself under many obligations for the care taken herein and shall beg that a Copy of the Memorial already received from me may be sent the first opportunity to each of the Governments or Learned Societies in Europe, especially where there is any prospect of reward, in hopes they will also make entries as at Paris to secure the claim. As there are but few Opportunities from here to those foreign parts, I had early requested a Gentleman in London to forward a few Copies of memorials, but as I have never yet got a line from him, I am inclined to suppose miscarriage has prevented the compliance with my request. I shall at another Opportunity add something further in addition to my former by way of explanation of my Ideas. I shall likewise be glad that the necessary Steps may be taken particularly at Paris to endeavour to secure an exclusive priviledge of vending, Variation Globes, Charts or Tables constructed upon those principles, having understood something of this nature had been already granted in France to a Gentleman in America for his discovery of dying cloth a certain colour with the Bark of the Oak Tree. I have lately received a very polite Letter from Sir Joseph Banks president of the Royal Society in London, containing his opinion of the Scheme. I shall be happy to receive from time to time, a line directed to Philadelphia containing any information as to the success for which trouble I hope to have it in my power to make satisfaction in the manner heretofore proposed, and remain with the greatest sentiments of respect &c. &c.,

John Churchman

P.S. I could not expect that any person who perhaps has not had leisure fully to investigate the matter to run the risk of loosing their reputation as a Philosopher in giving an hasty opinion on the Subject, but would be glad the general Principles may by all means be sent forward to as many places as may be convenient, for the reasons heretofore mentioned, and I shall from time to time send forward the further explanation or Illustration of my ideas. To save expence of postage from hence, I would hope the substance of the first Memorial may be copied and sent forward in the name of

J. C.

RC (MiU-C). Although no enclosure is mentioned, Churchman probably enclosed a “second” Memorial “To the Royal Acadamy of Sciences at Paris” stating that he had found “at the Royal Societys House in London by two weeks observations of the Variation of the Compass at different times of the day in the year 1779 the mean of the observations is 22° 11’ West (Philosophical Transactions vol lxix page 321)”; that he “hopes there is as great reason to suppose by the same rule the variation may be taken with as great certainty at Sea provided the Instrument is constructed in a proper manner, and expects it will be found easy to take the Latitude as well as the variation of the compass by a mean of the observations from the North Star, to avoid the inconveniency of Diurnal variation, refraction &ca. which he hopes may be repeated all Night at Pleasure”; and that, to meet some doubts that have been expressed, he would “be glad that observations might be made in different parts of the world when an opportunity may offer: for a further confirmation of a System which he hopes may be useful to the Navigator” (MS in MiU-C, signed by Churchman, dated 22 Nov. 1787).

TJ wrote Churchman on 18 Sep. 1789 that he had never received this letter. The explanation for this may be found in a letter (MHi) from an official of the British “Genl Post Office Lombard Street Jany 25th 1787 [1788?]” to an unknown person, bearing TJ’s endorsement “Churchman John” and reading in part: “The enclosed Letter has been opened to be returned for payment of Postage, but as the length of time which must necessarily elapse in its progress to, and from the Continent of America, might be attended with disagreeable Consequences, I have ventured to recommend it to your immediate care, presuming you may have lived in Habits of Intimacy and Friendship with Mr. Jefferson. As a Friend to Science I would have paid the Postage of it myself, but I am so situated that I am incapable of paying so trifling a Sum.”

Index Entries