Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Hughes, 5 March 1802

From John Hughes

Columbia State S.C March 5 AD 1802


I wrote you formerly my Opinion, of there being a propriety, of attending to ameliorate, the condition of prisoners of War, & of the certainty of a War with England, & the propriety of declairing the War in particular against its Goverment, and treating English prisoners of War, as was done, at the commencement of the Revolution, allowing the Sailors their Wages, and Ventures, out of the Prise taken—

I conceive that a vigilant attention should be kept on those, who are, or may be employed, by the british Govermt. on the footing of Citizenship, even such a man as Nicholas Madgett might have a protection—Justice intitles the sincere foreignor to favour, but, should guard against the Impostor, whose admition is banefull to the publick wellfare; and who mostly intangle their employers in Deception (justifying the old addage of) honesty is best policy—The Purport of this, is chiefly to inform you, of a discovery made in the year 1785, on an Emminence near the East End of Jamaica, in a clear Morn, with a common Tellescope of Dollands, viewing the Sun, as he emerged from the Ocean, I discovered 3 Globes, or Sattelites, near the Sun, I long suspected that such, was the Cause of the Dark Spots, seen on that Planet; from the Distance of these Globes I think the Number is 7—repeated observations convinces me of this Visual truth. I shewed it to Friend, now no more—having seen no publication of the subject, I now submit it to your consideration to assertain the Truth—

An early aversion to methodic Systems, and various impediments obstructing my persuits, have deterred me from Scientific Activity, my Days are hastning to a period, observation with you, may publish what may for some Time, otherwise perish, with an obscure individual—who is with Esteem yours

John Hughes

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson. President of the U.S. of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.

I WROTE YOU FORMERLY: Hughes to TJ, 10 Jan. 1802.

In 1798 and 1799, northern newspapers reported that a former British spy named NICHOLAS MADGETT had emigrated to the United States and was residing in Philadelphia. By 1799, he had moved to South Carolina, where he was engaged in viticulture near Columbia (New York Time Piece, 2 July 1798; Aurora, 15 Mch., 1 May 1799; Richard Hayes, Biographical Dictionary of Irishmen in France [Dublin, 1949], 196–7; Madgett to TJ, 10 Sep. 1805). A letter from Madgett to TJ dated 9 Apr. 1799 from Columbia, received 20 June, and TJ’s reply of 26 June 1799 are recorded in SJL, but have not been found.

TELLESCOPE OF DOLLANDS: makers of optical and scientific instruments, the Dollond family of London was renowned for its high-quality telescopes (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 ; Vol. 25:352; Vol. 34:272).

Index Entries