Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel A. Ruddock, 8 January 1803

From Samuel A. Ruddock

[on or after 8 Jan. 1803]

Your Excellency will be pleased when you see that I am the son of John Ruddock Esq. of Boston, who was the only man that stood forth to defend the Liberty of The United States by the side of Saml. Adams Esq. Late governor there—These two men were the first opposers of the British Government in finuel Hall in Boston—They risked their lives & property for the liberty of their Country which has since been obtained, and which is now enjoyed undisturbed by all our free born sons—It will give you further satisfaction when I inform you that I have by my own industry obtained a good Education and am well versed in all kinds of Military tactics, as well as Mathematics, Philosophy, Astronomy, and all Political Creeds—I have travelled throughout seven different kingdoms—My writings are very extensive but few of which are in print: my constant experiments in different branches of Science have entitled me to respect—when I was in Jamaica a Petition was signed by above twenty masters of American Vessels in the year 1799 and sent to the then President of the United States in order to obtain an appointment for me as American Agent for Commercial affairs in that Island, as 273 american vessels had then been condemned most of which was owing to the negligence of the American agent there—I am not personally acquainted with Mr. Savage, the american there and of course cannot impeach him with any misdemeanor from hear say—which if all true would disqualify him for the Office he now holds under our Government—Doctor Jarvis & Doctor Wm. Eustis were well acquainted with me when I left Boston and with my political principles but I have had the greatest test put to them in foreign countries, as one time I was taken by a band of his majesties soldiers in the night and striped then laid on the floor with a block under my head and an executioner placed by my side under the pretence of saying that I was a Spy. because I had a large collection of Mathematical & Philosophical Instruments & Books and an Invoice of about ten ton of Powder in my pocket book which I bought for the State of Massachusetts in Septr. 1798—But when they saw that I was willing to die for my republican principles they did not wish to deprive me of my life but used every means in their power to deprive me of my reason and if possible to render me useless to Society—But the God of my life has brought me once more to my native shore, which I shall never again leave unless your Excellency may see fit for to appoint me to some foreign agency after you have obtained sufficient satisfaction with respect to my respectibility talants and Commercial information—No man now in america has been nearer death for the liberty of his country then myself—and no one requires more protection.

Should an opening offer and your Excellency feel satisfied with my abilities I should have no objections to serve my country as a foreign agent—But I do not solicit the office I can by my industry obtain a handsome living here and support my little family—But I only give a hint here that when it calls for the united exertions of the natives of this country to use their efforts to maintain their liberty as such a one I must support it at the risk of my life—

with profound respect for Your Excellency I remain your most devoted servant—

Saml. A. Ruddock

RC (ViW); written below printed circular for newspaper subscribers; undated, with date supplied from circular; addressed: “His Excellency Thos. Jefferson President of the United States at Washington City” and “Pr. Post”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received from Charleston, S.C., on 26 Jan. and so recorded in SJL.

Samuel A. Ruddock (d. 1828) trained as a surveyor and accountant. He wrote several works related to these subjects during the 1790s, and in 1797 advertised his services in Boston as an instructor of bookkeeping. After a short-lived partnership with a Boston merchant dissolved in 1798, Ruddock moved to Jamaica, encouraged perhaps by a lawsuit initiated by his former partner. He had settled in Charleston by December 1802, where he published a price current list for the Charleston Courier, taught school, worked as a surveyor, and contributed astronomical information to regional almanacs. At different times, he served as a justice of the peace and as secretary of the Charleston Marine Society. About 1820, he left Charleston with the intent of mapping the Americas. He returned to the East Coast by 1825, when he published his broadside Statistical and Geographical Atlas of North America, Showing the Latitude and Longitude of the Capital Cities, Their Distances from Each Other in Every Direction, from Quebec to Panama. Although unsuccessful in an 1826 petition to Congress for funds to publish his maps, Ruddock contributed to a congressional report on establishing a military post in the Pacific Northwest. He informed Congress that he had been part of an exploring party that in 1821 had traveled from Council Bluffs to Santa Fe and from there to the mouth of the Columbia River, becoming along the route the first white explorers to reach the Great Salt Lake. No contemporaneous evidence for the expedition has been identified, and historians have doubted Ruddock’s claims. Ruddock remained in Washington, where he worked as a clerk in the Post Office Department (Boston Massachusetts Mercury, 10 Feb. 1797, 5 June 1798; Boston Russell’s Gazette, 8 Oct. 1798; New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 Feb. 1799; Charleston Courier, 29 Dec. 1802, 15 Apr., 23 July 1803; Charleston City Gazette, 17 May 1825; Joseph Folker, A Directory of the City and District of Charleston; and Stranger’s Guide: Containing Considerable Subjoined Matter on Different Subjects [Charleston, 1813], 70, 103; “Samuel A. Ruddock,” 19th Cong., 1st sess., H. Report 178, Ser. 142; “Northwest Coast of America,” 19th Cong., 1st sess., H. Report 213, Ser. 142; “Letter from the Postmaster General,” 20th Cong., 2d sess., H. Doc. 62, Ser. 185; Frederick V. Holman, “Oregon Counties: Their Creations and the Origins of Their Names,” The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, 11 [1910], 45–6; J. Cecil Alter, James Bridger, Trapper, Frontiersman, Scout and Guide; A Historical Narrative [Salt Lake City, 1925], 51–3).

john ruddock, a political leader in Boston before the American Revolution, did have a son named Samuel, who died in 1773 (Boston News-Letter, 7 Jan. 1773; Robert J. Taylor and others, eds., The Papers of John Adams, 16 vols. [Cambridge, Mass., 1977– ], 1:238).

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