Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel R. Demaree, 6 January 1802

From Samuel R. Demaree

Harrodsburgh (Ky.) Jan. 6th. 1802

Dear Sir,

Reflecting on the happy situation of America—that her Rulers are not inaccessable tyrants nor bloody despots; but patriots, friends of mankind, and of the unfortunate; examples to the world & patrons of science, I am emboldened to communicate a few of my wishes even to our chief Magistrate, which however defective in form and matter, I hope you will not attribute to any unworthy motive.

For your satisfaction I would just inform you, I am the son of a poor but independent farmer; in the dispensations of divine Providence, I am nearly deprived of the use of my right arm which consequently prevents me from engaging in the peacible employment of husbandry, and almost forces me to seek the tempestous road of public life: which I will gladly do if I may be of service to my country.

It must be painful to every patriot, to see the negligence and supineness of the youth here—how ignorance and vice triump over reason and knowledge! Pardon me if I entreat you, if possible, by some method or other to inspire my fellow-youth with application and virtue. I forbear saying anything about our masters lest for want of penetration I might mistake: but I would fain see them more concerned for the advancment of their pupils, and the improvement of science.

I am particularly unfortunate in a way of procuring Books—No peculiar friend of extensive information to whom I might apply for direction in the purchasing of books—there are many branches of the sciences, and different authors have written on the same branch—so expensive that I cannot buy them all, and I know not which branch, and what author thereon, is preferable:—I therefore humbly request you to send me the names of those books which would make the cheapest and most useful library* for an individual citizen. From your extensive knowledge of books I was induced to apply to you, and from your goodness as a literary character I hope you will indulge me a little in this request. If you are so good as to take notice of this, I entreat you to add what directions and information you may think proper, and I will cheerfully attend to them: but if I have erred, (as I possibly may) and you should not think it worthy of attention, at least pardon me for intruding upon you thus—my intention I trust is philanthropic

If you should grant my request I will rejoice, if not, I can but bemoan my ignorance and misfortune: yet I hope to remain a sincere patriot and admirer of your conduct hitherto and as long as it shall be worthy, which I hope will be untill you descend with honor to the grave

Yours affectionately,

Saml. R. Demaree

RC (DLC); addressed: “Honorable Thomas Jefferson President U.S. Washington (City)”; franked; postmarked 8 Jan. 1802; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.

Samuel R. Demaree, a teacher and newspaper publisher, carried on an infrequent correspondence with TJ during his presidency and retirement, primarily on topics related to education. In 1805, TJ forwarded Demaree’s thoughts on orthography to the American Philosophical Society, whose committee report on the subject was sent to Demaree by the president. Later that same year, Demaree and Samuel Ogilsby commenced publication of the Informant in Danville, Kentucky. Although TJ did not reply to the above request for book recommendations, he did respond to another request from Demaree in 1809 by supplying him with an extensive list of titles (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:149; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 370, 371; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004–, 5 vols. description ends , 1:455–7, 575–7, 580–2; Demaree to TJ, 28 Dec. 1804, 28 Aug. 1805; TJ to Demaree, 6 May 1805).

Simson’s Or Barrow’s Euclid: Scottish mathematician Robert Simson published a definitive edition of Euclid’s Elements in 1756. TJ owned a copy of Simson’s work and recommended it to Demaree in 1809. English mathematician and theologian Isaac Barrow published versions of Euclid’s works in the late 1650s (DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3702; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004–, 5 vols. description ends , 1:576).

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* *What Authors on rhetoric, Logic, Philosophy, Astronomy &c by name, if you please, viz Simson’s or Barrow’s Euclid—S.R.D.

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