Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Douglas, 15 October 1800

From George Douglas

Petersburg 15th. Octr. 1800


I am the person to whom you were so obliging as to give some time ago, in Philaa., a description of the Virginian Arms—Since I came to this place, I took the liberty of sending to you a copy of a pamphlet, which I called a Register also, a copy of a Collection entitled Washingtoniana—I did not send these pamphlets to you as being of any value, but as a mark, the only one I had in my power, of my respect for your person & character—

Crude & indigested as the Register was, I have been encouraged to publish another for the present year 1800—Altho’ it will be very far from what it ought to be to answer its title, yet, what will be of it, I will endeavour to make more regular & systematical—And to render it more acceptable to the people of Virginia, I propose to have a frontispiece to it representing a view of the Capitol in Richmond, the plate for which is now actually engraving in Philadelphia

When in Richmond for the purpose of having the drawing taken, I endeavour’d, but in vain, to find some person who could give me an account of this building—The intention of this letter, therefore, is, to request (having been informed, that you, Sir, were the original & principal mover in having the building undertaken & executed) that you will have the goodness to give me a short account of it—such as, from what original the design is taken, from Greece or Italy, of what order, the drawers & builder’s names, when the work was commenced & when finished, & the expence, with some account of the inside apartments, &c

Having thus candidly informed you of my intentions, it remains with your pleasure to give me the wished for account, or not, or to point out to me any other Gentleman who can—I know that your time must be employed in much more important matters, but I flatter myself with hoping, that you will have the goodness to excuse me when you consider the nature of the application—

Perhaps it may not be improper to say, that if the Public approves of my present attempt, I propose to continue, annually, a series of American views—but, in so pestiferous an atmosphere as that which covers & surrounds Petersburg, a man ought to speak with very great diffidence indeed of his future intentions, be they ever so laudable. I have the honor to be, Sir

G: Douglas.

Please to direct to G. Douglas, bookseller, Petersburg.

P.S—I got the Virginian Arms cut agreeably to your description—I have never yet had occasion to use them—if I had, I should have been ashamed of them, they are so wretchedly executed—

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr. Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Nov. and so recorded in SJL.

George Douglas (1744?-1828), a bookseller in Philadelphia and Virginia, announced the opening of his Petersburg printing office in a 1 Sep. 1799 broadside in which he made known his readiness “to undertake any Kind of Printing Work with which Merchants, or Others, either in Town or Country, may be pleased to employ Him” (Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends No. 35419). In May 1812 Douglas established a weekly Irish-interest newspaper in New York, The Western Star and Harp of Erin, which was discontinued the following year (Brigham, American Newspapers, description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends 1:706).

For TJ’s connection to a Virginia coat of arms, see Vol. 1:510–11 and illustrations facing 551.

Using the pen name “Americanus Urban,” Douglas published an annual register for the purpose of inculcating the importance of religious and moral conduct and the Republican form of government. His Annual Register, and Virginian Repository, for the Year 1800 (Petersburg, Va., n.d.) was advertised in the Virginia & North Carolina Almanack of 1801 (Petersburg, Va., n.d.).

Copy of a collection: Washingtoniana: A Collection of Papers Relative to the Death and Character of General George Washington (Petersburg, Va., 1800).

For TJ’s short account of the Virginia capitol, see TJ to George Douglas, 21 Dec. 1800.

A letter from Douglas in April 1800 is recorded in SJL as received 3 June at Monticello but has not been found.

Index Entries