Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Barton, 12 November 1801

To William Barton

Washington Nov. 12. 1801.

Dear Sir

I have duly recieved your favor of Oct. 30. and the honour of your proposition to address to me your treatise on the law of nations. this proof of respect cannot but be flattering to one who entertains a sincere esteem for your person and character. the subject is important, involved in errors & contradictions, which, for the peace of the world, it1 is very desireable to see rectified. but the want of a physical test whereby to try principles, and the passions & interests & power of the nations who are called to their bar, render that rectification very difficult. still every effort is laudable which goes to that object, and tends to promote it by increasing the mass of authorities which bear witness in it’s favor. Accept my best wishes for the success of your work & assurances of my high esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Sotheby’s, 2008); at foot of text: “William Barton esq.” PrC (DLC).

Barton’s treatise was published in Philadelphia in 1802 with the title A Dissertation on the Freedom of Navigation and Maritime Commerce, and Such Rights of States, Relative Thereto, as are Founded on the Law of Nations: Adapted More Particularly to the United States (Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 2134; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 1845). The dedication page reads: “To Thomas Jefferson, L.L.D. President of the United States of America; Eminently Distinguished by his Talents and Virtues, and Rendered Still More Illustrious by the Approving Voice of his Country; the Following Dissertation is Inscribed, with Sentiments of the Highest Respect and the Greatest Personal Consideration, by The Author. Lancaster, in Pennsylvania; November, 1801.” Barton sent TJ a copy of the book in February; see Barton to TJ, 20 Feb. 1802.

1TJ here canceled “were greatly to be.”

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