Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Ray to Thomas Jefferson, 7 March 1809

From William Ray

Amsterdam, Montgomery County, New York State,
March 7th 1809;


On the 28th of Decr last, I received your letter of the 14th in which you are pleased to observe—“that you should have read the book* I sent you with more satisfaction, had you found the author’s position in it more equal to his talents.” All men are fond of receiving satisfaction, and I trust, Sir, you will encrease yours by contributing to make some alteration in my position; which is a very disagreeable one indeed. A great part of my late publication lies in the hands of a knavish printer, and if I can not raise money to redeem it, will be sacrificed. I have an indigent family, and this has been our chief hopes for support.

I am unable to labor, and my health is too much impaired to attend to any business at present. Poverty and starvation stare me in the face—My friends who would assist me are unable to do it. To whom shall I go?—With about One hundred Dollars I could redeem my publication (4,000 books) and place myself and family above present want. I have tried in vain to raise this sum—money is scarce in this quarter, and I fear I shall lose all my dependence. I hope therefore you will deem it no imposition when I ask you to grant me the loan of the above sum. I doubt not but I might refund it in the course of at most 4 or 5 years. I have applied to you as my last resort, and I ask the favor of you with conscious honesty and full hopes of success.

Wishing you all the happiness in your retirement which Heaven can bestow, I am, Sir, with unabated Esteem, your most obt Huml Servt

Wm Ray

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); with author’s note in left margin of first page; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esquire, Late President of the United States Washington”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Mar. 1809 and so recorded (with the notation: “P.”) in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to James Madison, 24 Mar. 1809.

William Ray (1771–1827) was captured near Tripoli on board the USS Philadelphia in 1803. He wrote about his ensuing nineteen months in captivity in Horrors of Slavery: or, The American Tars in Tripoli, containing an account of the loss and capture of the United States frigate Philadelphia (Troy, N.Y., 1808; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 320). Ray subsequently became a merchant and magistrate, published poetry and a novel, and edited the Elizabethtown (N.Y.) Reveille (1812–16) and Onondaga Gazette (1816) (Ray, Poems, on Various Subjects, Religious, Moral, Sentimental and Humorous [Auburn, N.Y., 1821], with autobiography, 199–252; Paul Baepler, ed., White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives [1999], 187; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:570, 713).

Ray quoted from TJ’s brief letter of the 14th Dec. 1808 (ViW: TC-JP) acknowledging receipt of Horrors of Slavery. The knavish printer may have been Oliver Lyon, its publisher.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* *Horrors of Slavery

Index Entries

  • Horrors of Slavery: or, The American Tars in Tripoli (W. Ray) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; loans requested of search
  • Lyon, Oliver search
  • Philadelphia (ship) search
  • Ray, William; Horrors of Slavery: or, The American Tars in Tripoli search
  • Ray, William; identified search
  • Ray, William; letters from search
  • Ray, William; requests loan from TJ search
  • slavery; books on search