From John Churchman
Boston May 7th. 1802
I take the Liberty to send herewith a copy of an improved Variation Chart, hoping it will be received as a token of Respect, together with a Sheet of Letter Press as published in the third Edition of the Magnetic Atlas, It contains Actual observations by which the Variation has been found at Sea—
The Chart has had of late a very extensive Circulation, particularly in these Eastern States, & many experienced Navigators have given ample testimony of its usefulness—
One favour I have to ask which I suppose no one else can Grant, I hope to be pardoned for this Liberty, I have several times written to that eminent Astronomer Andrew Ellicott Esqr. hoping he would favour me with his observations of the Latitude Longitude & Variation of the compass at the following places, viz The Junction of the Ohio & Missisipi, the Natches & New Orleans & the several places of the Line of demarkation South of Georgia the East end of it would be important. I believe its in the Parallel of 31° North I understand by the Present Secretary of State that he has also written to the said Astronomer on my behalf, without success no Doubt the Personage to whom I now address myself either as President of the United States, or of the Philosophical Society (who have manifested their Discernment in the Election of their President) may be able to procure them, if not I dont know who else to apply to, I am now about to set out on a Voyage to St. Petersbourg in Russia, & if these observations can be transmitted to me there, to the care of George Steen Esqr. at St. Petersbourg, it will give me pleasure for I am willing to acknowledge the Benefit to the Gentleman who made the observations.
Some years ago I believe John Russell Esqr. now somewhere about the City of Washington, was appointed commercial agent at St. Petersbourg, I understand he was not received because he represented a Republican Government, The commerce between that Country & America has lately increased, they say about seventy Sail of American Ships sailed to Petersbourg last Summer, I know not whether a commercial Agent will be thought necessary or not, at the present time, should the President think proper to lay any commands upon me, I will endeavour to obey them, with faithfulness, particularly in making some enquiry, & whether Such a Commercial Agent would not be likely to be acknowledged at this time.
With the greatest sentiments of Respect I hope to be permitted to make an offering of my service & esteem
RC (DLC); addressed: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 18 July and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found, but see below.
Churchman’s VARIATION CHART, which contained two maps, and the third edition of his MAGNETIC ATLAS were both published in 1800. In 1797, TJ received an earlier edition of Churchman’s book, which he passed along to the American Philosophical Society (Ben A. Smith and James W. Vining, American Geographers, 1743–1812: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide [Westport, Conn., 2003], 34–5; John Churchman, The Magnetic Atlas, or Variation Charts of the Whole Terraqueous Globe, 3d ed. [New York, 1800]; Vol. 28:364, 365n).
James Madison had written to ANDREW ELLICOTT on 18 Nov. 1801, asking him to provide Churchman with the data from the observations made when Ellicott surveyed the southern boundary of the United States. Ellicott replied to Madison six days later, saying that he would prepare the information in his “first leisure hour,” even though Churchman’s theories concerning magnetic variation “cannot be rendered useful, even admitting the principles to be correct” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 2:249–50, 268–9).
ST. PETERSBOURG IN RUSSIA: Churchman began sending copies of his publications to the Russian Academy of Science in the early 1790s. Earlier, the academy’s director, Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova, had put Benjamin Franklin up for membership, and Franklin returned the favor by seeing to the election of the princess as the first female member of the American Philosophical Society. In 1795, on Dashkova’s initiative, Churchman became the second American elected to the Russian academy (Eufrosina Dvoichencko-Markov, “The American Philosophical Society and Early Russian-American Relations,” APS, Proceedings, 94 , 549, 554–8; Nina N. Bashkina and others, eds., The United States and Russia: The Beginning of Relations, 1765–1815 [Washington, D.C., 1980], 267–8, 290–1; Leonard W. Labaree and others, eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 39 vols. to date [1959– ], 34:196n).
When John Miller RUSSELL, a Boston merchant, presented a commission as United States consul at St. Petersburg in 1795, the Empress Catherine refused to accept his credentials because the United States and Russia did not have a treaty establishing direct relations (Bashkina, United States and Russia, 289-90, 291–2, 357; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:524; Vol. 32:3, 4n).