Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to —— Cabot, 24 July 1784

To —— Cabot

Ship Ceres off Scilly July 24. 1784.

Dear Sir

I deliver to Mr. Tracy to be returned to you the copy of Don Quixot which you were so obliging as to lend me: for which I return you many thanks. The winds have been so propitious as to let me get through one volume only: yet this has so far done away the difficulties of the language as that I shall be able to pursue it on shore with pleasure. I have found it a very advantageous disposal of time which could have been applied to no other use, and would have hung heavily on my hands.

It would give me great pleasure to have opportunities suggested to me of rendering you any service personally in my power, and at all times to hear from you either on private or public subjects, being with real esteem Dr Sir Your most obedt. & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (Facsimile in Goodspeed’s Bookshop, Catalogue No. 510, 1963, Lot 126); unaddressed, but recorded in SJL as a letter to “Cabot.”

The recipient of this letter was probably the prominent merchant George Cabot (1752–1823) of Beverly in Essex County, Massachusetts, the future Federalist senator and stalwart of the so-called “Essex Junto,” or perhaps one of his older brothers, John and Andrew Cabot, who supervised his early career as a sea captain in the Spanish trade in the family shipping businesses before he retired from active seafaring about 1777 to take an important role in directing the clan’s wartime privateering enterprises (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; John L. Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Sibley’s Harvard Graduates: Biographical Sketches of Those Who Attended Harvard College, 17 vols. [Cambridge and Boston, 1873–1975], xvii, 344–67; Henry Cabot Lodge, Life and Letters of George Cabot [Boston, 1877], 26n).

For TJ’s use of Cabot’s copy of Don Quixot to learn Spanish, see Vol. 7: 383.

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