Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Ellicott, 24 February 1802

To Andrew Ellicott

Washington Feb. 24. 1802.

Dear Sir

On reciept of your favor of Feb. 14. 1802. I immediately referred it to the Secretary of the treasury to know whether the conditions you proposed were practicable? I now inclose you his answer, stating that all are, except that of residence at the seat of the national government. you will see that his reasons are derived from the express injunctions of the law, with which we1 have not authority to dispense. I am in hopes that this can be yielded on your part. be so good as to let me know; and still to consider the injunction of secrecy as remaining.

I think while you were employed here, you made an Almanac for this latitude, in which I presume were inserted the rising & setting of the sun calculated for the latitude. having no meridian to set our instruments, I have usually observed the rising & setting of the sun by the clock, and taken the mean for the true noon, which would do pretty well were the sensible Horizon to East & West equally raised above the true. but this operation requiring two observations, I am often disappointed by clouds, by company at sunset, & sometimes by forgetting. for common purposes the true moment of sunrising or setting would answer. can your almanac be now got any where? did you make & preserve any observations on the elevation of the sensible horizon here, & particularly as seen from the President’s house? Accept my salutations & best wishes.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. Andrew Ellicott”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Enclosure: see the following document.

Almanac for this latitude: in November 1792, Ellicott sent copies of Ellicott’s New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanac, and Ephemeris, for the Year of our Lord 1793 to TJ and George Washington. “The Astronomical part” of the compilation, Ellicott informed TJ at the time, was “adapted to the meridian, and latitude of the City of Washington.” Referring to the subject in a 13 Apr. 1801 letter to TJ, Ellicott said that his intention to continue the calculation of that astronomical data in the Federal District “fell thro when I left the City.” Ellicott ceased working as surveyor of the district in the spring of 1793 (Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser., 11:443; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Vol. 24:664; Vol. 33:581, 582n).

1TJ here canceled “cannot.”

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