Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Dunn to Thomas Jefferson, 25 August 1809

From William Dunn

Liberty Bedford County VA August 25th 1809

Dear Sir

Necesity dier necesity has campel’d me to the following lines it is probely that you may recollect the Signature to this letter I have writen Severel letters to you while you enjoyed the Highest Seat of Honor in America on the Same Subject but unfortunately for me I received no answer and the opportunity I then had of prospering in this World I am afraid are for ever gone but as the Poet says

While the lamp holds1 out to burn
The vilest Sinner may return

So it may be with me if I could be so fortunate as to meet some kind Benefactor that would take compassion on me and assist me to some money indeed I am not yet discourage if I could find a friend but on this character Friend rest my futer destiny if you fail I no not to whome I Shall apply this is a very gloomy time all Nature appears to be arrested in her course and every avanue of trade stoped up nothing now appears to remain to the unfortunate debtor but the utter destruction of all he posseses in this world yes Dear Sir even the Gloomy Jails presents it self to his view on the Ignominious oth of insolvency yes this the unfortunate Situation of hundreds at this day alas alas I am one of that unfortunate class

Mr Jefferson you are able to extricate me and I hope to God willing too from this dilemma yes Sir the small Sum of five hundred dollers would settle all my debts and then have some left to assist me to carry on my business this Sum with the assistance of God I hope to be able to refund in two or three years indeed Sir a part of the above mention Sum would greatly assist me

I hope that you will take a simpathetic view of my deplorable Situation and think2 with what ease and pleasure you can release me from my bonds and place me independant of every man in this world except your Honor to you Sir I shall ever consider my self bound and Shall do it with pleasure to acknowledge you my Benefactor and deliverer as long as I live in this world oh how glad I would be could I have the honor to call you my friend and deliverer Mr Jefferson take a view of both of our Situations you Sir are basking in the Sun Shine of Fortune and roling in all the pleasures this World can afford and I in the lowest depth of humility Sighing under the yoke of Malignant Creditors and groaning under the oppession of poverty I hope that you will not expose me to the world Send me an answer if you please as soon as posible if you be So kind as to let me know when you are at your Bedford Seat and give me an opportunity to have an Interview with you. I have not the least doubt in my mind but what can explain to you to your Satisfaction the reasons why I petition to you for assistance I hope you will [be]3 So kind as to give me an opportunity of Seeing you

from your humble petitioner

William Dunn

Oh how I Shall long for a pleasing answer from you never did the travaler pant for a cooling Stream more

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 11 Sept. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Dunn’s earlier letters to TJ, also addressed from Liberty (now Bedford), are dated 30 Mar., 27 May, and 9 Oct. 1807 (DLC). On 8 June 1810 in Richmond Dunn made a similar request to James Madison for “three or four hundred dollers you would Scarcely miss out of your coffers” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 6 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:373).

Dunn was quoting the poet Isaac Watts (“Life the Day of Grace and Hope,” Hymn 88, Watts, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 2d ed. [London, 1709], 71).

1Corrected from Watts. Manuscript: “wholes.”

2Manuscript: “thing.”

3Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • charity; requests to TJ for search
  • Dunn, William; letters from search
  • Dunn, William; requests charity search
  • Watts, Isaac search