Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from François André Danican (Philidor), 4 May 1791

From François André Danican (Philidor)

Paris, “Rue macon St. André No. 1[5?].” 4 May 1791. He encloses an important mémoire on the manufacture of arms about which TJ knows, and the report of a commission named by the Academy of Sciences at the invitation of the Minister of War to examine locks and the new means of manufacture employed to achieve identity of form and precision in the parts of locks, “ce qui fait le précieux de cette decouverte pour le Service des Troupes dans tous les cas le moin à porté de trouver des ressources pour les reparer, et qu’il seroit possible de faire Jouir le pays de paix que vous habitez.

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); slightly mutilated; endorsed by TJ as received 19 July 1791 and so recorded in SJL.

Philidor was the name of a family of French musicians whose proper surname was Danican, the former bestowed reputedly by Louis XIII in the 17th century. The person who signed the above letter as Philidor was François André Danican (1726–1795), the leading chess player of his time, whose L’Analyze des echecs marked an epoch in the history of the game. TJ owned a copy of the work (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–1959, 5 vols. description ends No. 1173). Since Philidor was a composer and shared TJ’s interest in the manufacture of arms on the principle of interchangeable parts, the two may have met in Paris. For TJ’s effort to promote use by the Army of the United States of guns manufactured on this principle, see his letters to Knox and Jay of 12 and 17 Sep. 1789.

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