Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Baldwin to Thomas Jefferson, 7 January 1810

From William Baldwin

Wilmington (D) Jany 7. 1810.

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty of transmitting to you a copy of the Essays of Cerus & Amicus.

These essays are now published principally with a view of having them extensively circulated among the society of Friends in the eastern part of the state of Pennsylvania, who have been too generally prejudiced against the late Administration, and whose prejudices still exist, against the present.

The Friends residing in this section of the Union, certainly furnish a melancholy example of the effect of prejudice. We might reasonably have supposed that the purity of their principles would have fortified them against the influence of priest-craft; and that the idle rumors that have been circulated by the friends of Church and State about infidelity and French philosophy &c &c,1 would never have gained an ascendency in their minds.—To no man, surely, are they so much indebted as to yourself, for the application of their principles to the science of government.

It is to be hoped that the view of the subject which is taken in the Essays of Cerus, with the observations of Amicus on the Maryland Church Bill, and Friends’ petition, will induce some of these highly professing people to reflect upon the inconsistency of their conduct with their professions, especially as it has not the invidious appearance of a party production.

If these essays should not fully meet your approbation, or should be found to contain errors that have been overlooked by the authors, it is to be hoped that their honest motives will be a sufficient2 excuse for them:—and that you will pardon the liberty I have taken

Wishing that the evening of your life may be as infinitely happy, as its morning and meridian has been infinitely useful to our beloved country, I conclude and am, with sentiments of the warmest respect and gratitude, your sincere friend,

William Baldwin.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson Esq. Monte (Va)”; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Jan. 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: “Cerus,” Observations on Infidelity, and the Religious and Political Systems of Europe, compared with those of the United State of America: showing the incompatibility of religion with the despotism of national churches: with Critical Strictures on some of the “prefatory remarks” of Dr. Chapman, in the fourth volume of his “Select Speeches” . . . to which are added the essays of Amicus on the Maryland church-bill, and Quakers’ petition, &c. (Wilmington, Del., 1809).

William Baldwin (1779–1819), botanist, was a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, who received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1807 and established a practice in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1811 he moved to Georgia, where he traveled among the Creek Indians and in 1812 was appointed a naval surgeon. Baldwin’s travels also took him to Charleston, South Carolina, Bermuda, the islands off the Georgia coast, Florida, and South America. He was chosen head botanist on Stephen H. Long’s 1819 expedition to the Rocky Mountains but died en route in Missouri (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; William Darlington, Reliquiæ Baldwinianæ [1843; repr. 1969, ed. Joseph Ewan]; Washington National Intelligencer, 8 Oct. 1819).

The maryland church bill, “An Act to confirm an [1803] Act entitled, An act to incorporate certain Persons in every Christian Church or Congregation in this State,” which the authors of the enclosed pamphlet saw as both repugnant to republican institutions and setting a dangerous precedent, had been passed by the Maryland legislature on 6 Jan. 1810 (William Kilty and others, eds., The Laws of Maryland from the End of the Year 1799 [Annapolis, 1820], 3:294, 4:1007; “Cerus,” Observations, 92, 94). Earlier the same session, that legislature rejected the friends’ petition requesting that those with religious scruples against swearing be allowed to substitute a solemn affirmation (“Cerus,” Observations, 58, 80–1).

1Preceding two words interlined.

2Manuscript: “sufficint.”

Index Entries

  • An Act to confirm an act entitled, an act to incorporate certain Persons in every Christian church or congregation in this state (1810) search
  • Baldwin, William; and Quakers search
  • Baldwin, William; identified search
  • Baldwin, William; letters from search
  • botany; scholars of search
  • Cerus; Observations on Infidelity search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Maryland; legislature of search
  • Observations on Infidelity (Cerus) search
  • Pennsylvania; Quakers of search
  • Quakers; anti-Republican politics of search
  • religion; Quakers search