Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph T. Scott, 13 June 1801

From Joseph T. Scott

Philada. June 13th. 1801


I have, for some time past, been anxious to find an opportunity of presenting you with a copy of my geographical dictionary. The opportunity now offers, and I embrace it with pleasure. The copy will be delivered to you by Mr. Cumming’s, a respectable magistrate of this State. Your acceptance will be highly gratifying to my wishes. If, by the geographical dictionary, I have contributed to diffuse a more general and correct knowledge of the soil, productions, &c. of our country than has hitherto been done; or if my vindication of the character of the Citizens of the Southern States, will remove those ancient prejudices, lulled by the friendly intercourse of a glorious revolution, but lately awakened by the monkish bigotry of an Eastern geographer, I will consider myself as having fulfilled a share of that duty, which is incumbent on every Citizen who has the opportunity. No doubt you will find many errors in my dictionary; but then, Sir, I have this consolation that I am persuaded your candour will distinguish between those which properly belong to me, and those which are almost unavoidably connected with typography.

That your administration may be long, and prosperous, is my sincere wish

Accept Sir the fullest assurances of my personal regard

Joseph Scott

RC (CSmH); endorsed by TJ as received 3 Sep. and so recorded in SJL.

Joseph T. Scott engraved maps for Mathew Carey in Philadelphia before producing his own United States Gazetteer in 1795. Tench Coxe furnished data about exports for that work, and Scott also acknowledged other sources of information, including TJ’s Notes on the State of Virginia. In 1796 Scott reissued the Gazetteer’s maps, which he had drawn and engraved himself, as An Atlas of the United States. TJ acquired the Gazetteer and, later, Scott’s Geographical Description of the States of Maryland and Delaware (Philadelphia, 1807), which was part of a projected series, apparently never completed, that Scott hoped would cover all the states and territories (Joseph Scott, The United States Gazetteer [Philadelphia, 1795], v–vi; Walter W. Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century [Detroit, 1985], 138, 151, 154; Ben A. Smith and James W. Vining, American Geographers, 1784–1812: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide [Westport, Conn., 2003], 184–5; Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , Nos. 3840, 4022; Scott to TJ, 30 Nov. 1807).

Geographical Dictionary: the final volume of Scott’s New and Universal Gazetteer; or, Modern Geographical Dictionary was dated 1800 on the title page but must have appeared in 1801, since the list of subscribers at the end of that volume identified TJ as the president of the United States as well as president of the American Philosophical Society. In a long paragraph in the preface to the four-volume work, Scott discussed his harsh assessment of Jedidiah Morse—the Eastern Geographer mentioned in the letter above. “Had a Hun, a Goth, or a Vandal, risen from the dead,” Scott wrote, “and attempted to draw a national character of the citizens of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, he could not have misrepresented it more egregiously than Mr. Morse.” To Morse, Scott averred, “I owe no apology” (Joseph Scott, The New and Universal Gazetteer; or, Modern Geographical Dictionary, 4 vols. [Philadelphia, 1799–1800], 1:vii–viii; Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 3840).

Scott had written to TJ from Philadelphia on 19 May 1801 to ask consideration for some office in the administration. “The activity and energy displayed by those holding offices, in this state, under the former federal administration, to support its extravagant measures,” Scott wrote, “induce your friends here to believe many removals will take place” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ as received 22 May and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off.”).

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