Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel R. Demaree to Thomas Jefferson, 22 August 1809

From Samuel R. Demaree

Near Danville, Ky. Aug. 22, 1809

Respected Sir,

You have doubtless been congratulated by many who have better claims to your notice than I have, on your release from the burdens of public life. … Altho I agree with those who believe that your country has no longer a right to claim your service; I rejoice that congress, by authorizing your letters to be franked, has offered to all the privelege of requesting that information & advice which your talents, age & experience eminently qualify you to give. … As an individual, I should not perhaps avail myself of a privilege which may possibly give you unwelcome trouble—tho I fondly hope it will not—but for the sake of my pupils I cheerfully hazard an application which interests me considerably, but which if disagreeable to you I hope you will at least excuse. The current of Education, every where too feeble, is much retarded in this state for want of proper books. Many are not to be got without sending to philadelphia or N. York; and few on easy terms. … Some students are unable, and others unwilling to procure any but the cheapest works on science; which certainly are not generally the best: and I regret extremely that neither my opportunity nor my circumstances enable me to compare the merits of different works, and thence to recommend the most valuable.

Inform me, if you please, what works are intrinsically the most excellent on the following sciences; & also what books chiefly combine perspicuity, brevity & cheapness—Annex the known or supposed philadelphia prices. … Geography, Geometry, Algebra, Fluxions, the several branches of Physics, Metaphysics or philosophy of Mind, Morals, Rhetoric, Logic & History.

It is schoolbooks I have enquired after: if however you deem any other on any subject peculiarly valuable, pray add it to the list.

As soon as I can afford it, I must get me a library: will you be so good as to advise me whether it would be more eligible to procure an Encyclopedia only, or separate works on the differents subjects necessary to be read? How many volumes will there be of Rees’s Cyclopedia?1 Is it the best entire work? May I ask who is author of the “Memoirs of the Hon. Thomas Jefferson,” lately advertised in the Richmond papers?

You are probably apprized of the great change the soil of Kentucky has undergone since its settlement. It is in many places quite stony now, where 30 years ago no stone was to be found. … Since last Christmas more rain has fallen, much more, than was ever before witnessed here. I have thot a good deal on the subject, & conclude that the clearing of the ground, by facilitating the motion of winds and the evaporation of moisture, will supply us with more rain than formerly, & still leave us more subject to drouth. But very probably you are infinitely better acquainted with such matters than I am. I will not trouble you with my speculations unless I knew they would be acceptable. Accept my sincere regard, and my best wishes.

Saml R. Demaree.

RC (DLC); ellipses in manuscript; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson Monticello Virginia”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Sept. 1809 and so recorded in SJL; with 1st Dft of Supplemental List of Recommended Books, enclosed in TJ’s 4 Oct. 1809 reply, on verso.

Samuel R. Demaree, the son of a farmer, became a schoolmaster after an injury left him unable to farm. He corresponded occasionally about literary and political subjects with TJ during his presidency and retirement (Demaree to TJ, 6 Jan. 1802, 30 May 1803, 28 Aug. 1805, and TJ to Demaree, 6 May 1805 [DLC]; Frank S. Baker, Glimpses of Hanover’s Past, 1827–1977 [1978], 23).

Abraham Rees published forty-five volumes of The New Cyclopædia (London, 1802–20), while the American edition concluded with forty-seven volumes (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1901, 22 vols. description ends ). The anonymous author of the intensely anti-Jefferson Memoirs of the Hon. Thomas Jefferson, 2 vols. (New York, 1809), may have been its publisher, the political journalist and Federalist sympathizer Stephen Cullen Carpenter (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Richmond Enquirer, 1 Sept. 1809).

1Manuscript: “cycopedia.”

Index Entries

  • books; school textbooks search
  • Carpenter, Stephen Cullen; Memoirs of the Hon. Thomas Jefferson search
  • Demaree, Samuel R.; identified search
  • Demaree, Samuel R.; letters from search
  • education; in Ky. search
  • franking privilege; of TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; franking privilege search
  • Kentucky; education in search
  • libraries; formed by S. R. Demaree in Ky. search
  • Memoirs of the Hon. Thomas Jefferson (Carpenter) search
  • Rees, Abraham; The New Cyclopædia search
  • The New Cyclopædia (Rees) search