From Joseph Moss White
Danbury in Connecticut Janry. 1st. AD 1801
Having had the Care of the Post Office in this Place, as an assistant to my Brother who is the Post Master, here, I have observed that Samuel Morse the Printer, so long as he continued printing a New Paper in this Town was wont weekly to send one to You, which if received by you I doubt not you must have noticed Several Numbers Entitled, The Inquirer All upon the Subject of Religious Liberty, which appeared to me not only well, and pertinantly wrote: but also perfectly agreable to what it is said has been wrote by You in Your Notes on Virginia, as I have seen the same published in several New Papers, (for I have never had the Pleasure of seeing any of Your writings, except such extracts in News Papers &c lately made, on the one side to prove your being a Deist, and on the other to clear you from the Stigma:) as there appears such an agreement between what you & the inquires have wrote on this subject, and so perfectly consonant to my own thoughts on the same subject for more than 30 years past: I have for some Time been wishing you might see the same Persons thoughts on Religion itself: as it stands opposed to the reigning Religion not only of this: but of other Countries called Christian.
I have therefore at length ventured to send you herewith a Pamphlet wrote by him entitled The Bible needs no Apology &c which please to accept off, as a small Present, as well as token of my high esteem of your Person and Character: notwithstand all the calumny and reproach where with many have lately been endeavoring to load You, on account of what has been wrote by you on religious Liberty. Whether you may approve of the peculiar Tenets maintained in the Pamphlet, or not; or whether a Deist, or not, I consider as unimportant Questions to me as they relate to You, in the high Station Providence seems to be alloting you for several Years yet to Come. In which I have the highest Confidence in you (from the acceptable Services which you have heretofore rendered in the several Publick offices you have sustained) that you will gain the approbation of not only the wise & Good but even of those who now seem inveterate enemies, by that wise, and Prudent Administration which I am perswaded will be pursued by you.
That this may be the Case, and that Harmony and amity thereby, may banish from the union those Feuds and Discords which of late seem to threaten such serious and fatal Evils to these heretofore Happy and flourishing States is the hearty wish, and prayer of your most obedient Humble Servant
Joseph Moss White
P.S. The Author of the Pamphlet I send you &c is Daniel Humphreys Esqr of Portsmouth N.H.—Brother to David; with whom I presume you must have had an acquantance.
RC (CSmH); at foot of text: “Honble Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Jan. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Daniel Humphreys, The Bible Needs No Apology: or Watson’s System of Religion Refuted; and the Advocate Proved an Unfaithful One, by the Bible Itself: of Which a Short View Is Given, and Which Itself Gives, a Short Answer to Paine: in Four Letters, on Watson’s Apology for the Bible, and Paine’s Age of Reason, Part the Second (Portsmouth, N.H., 1796); see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1653.
Joseph Moss White (1741–1822), a lifelong resident of Danbury, Connecticut, studied divinity at Yale and was licensed to preach in 1761. Shortly thereafter he established a Sandemanian society, advocating the tenets of Robert Sandeman, who had broken with the Church of Scotland. Sandeman, a correspondent of Ebenezer White, Joseph’s father, came to America in 1764, settling permanently in Danbury three years later. The Sandemanians, who met vigorous opposition from the established clergy in New England, asserted the independence of church and state and believed that one was justified and found peace with God by doing nothing but obtaining “a just notion of the person and work of Christ.” White voted for the ratification of the Constitution at the Connecticut convention in 1788 and served in the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1786, 1788, and 1794 (Dexter, Yale description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History, New York, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 2:681; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 16:329; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1653 in vol. 5; Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, 20 vols. [Madison, Wis., 1976– ], 3:538).
My brother: Ebenezer Russell White, also a Yale graduate who belonged to the Sandemanian society. He served as the postmaster at Danbury until 1808 (Dexter, Yale description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History, New York, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 2:679–80; Stets, Postmasters description begins Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States 1782–1811, Lake Oswego, Oregon, 1994 description ends , 98). For the publication of the Sun of Liberty by Samuel Morse, see his letter to TJ of 26 June 1800.
Daniel Humphreys, a Yale graduate admitted to the bar in New Haven in 1762, was also a Sandemanian and reportedly never stayed in the courtroom while the minister delivered the opening prayer. After the Revolution, he settled and practiced law in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and in 1804 became the U.S. district attorney (Dexter, Yale description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History, New York, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 2:471–4; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:471, 473).