Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Priestley, 12 June 1802

From Joseph Priestley

Northumberland June 12. 1802

Dear Sir

I hope you will excuse my request to dedicate to you one of the works of which you will find some account in the printed Prospectus, which I take the liberty to inclose, in order to shew you the extent of my views, and my wishes, in this world.

I have never gone beyond the bounds of what I thought the strict truth in any dedication that I have written, and I am confident I have not in this. This being the only opportunity that I shall probably ever have of giving my public testimony to your administration, I shall be exceedingly mortified if you forbid it.

I wish the state of my health may admit of my accepting your kind invitation to pay you a visit; and if towards the end of summer you should be at Washington, I may perhaps, with the assistance of my son, venture to take the journey.

In answer to your kind letter on my recovery from the illness at Philadelphia, I sent by the post an acknowledgment of the receipt of it, together with a 4to pamphlet, containing an account of experiments printed for the fifth volume of the Transactions of the Philosophical society at Philadelphia. These I hope you received. If you see the Medical Repository printed at New York, or Nicholson’s Journal, you will see that I do not neglect philosophy.

With the greatest respect and gratitude I am Dear Sir, yours sincerely

J Priestley.

RC (NNPM); endorsed by TJ as received 17 June and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Untitled, undated, printed prospectus for Priestley’s A General History of the Christian Church, from the Fall of the Western Empire to the Present Time and Notes on all the Books of Scripture, for the Use of the Pulpit and Private Families (DLC: TJ Papers, 128:22152; 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. 2934).

In a letter of 19 June, TJ granted Priestley’s REQUEST TO DEDICATEto him the second part of the General History, which was published in four volumes in 1802 and 1803. For the text of the dedication, see letter below.

YOUR KIND LETTER: TJ to Priestley, 21 Mch. 1801, to which Priestley responded on 10 Apr. 1801 (Vol. 33:393–5, 567–8).

I DO NOT NEGLECT PHILOSOPHY: that is, science. From 1798 to 1803, Priestley published articles and letters on a variety of subjects in The Medical Repository of Original Essays and Intelligence, Relative to Physic, Surgery, Chemistry, and Natural History, as well as in the London-based Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts, which was edited by William Nicholson (Robert E. Schofield, The Enlightened Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1773 to 1804 [University Park, Pa., 2004], 415–18).

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