Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joshua Gilpin to Thomas Jefferson, 12 February 1810

From Joshua Gilpin

Philada February 12th 1810.


During your Presidency I took the liberty at several times, to forward you copies of the papers which the Directors of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company published at various times for public information; and in aid of the applications made by them to Congress for assistance to the work in which they were engaged; at the request of Mr Gallatin and in reply to the general queries proposed by him, I undertook about two years past to abridge the contents of the papers which had then appeared, and to obtain further and more correct information in order to afford him the necessary documents for his general report, so far as the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was the object of it.—as the subject has again been revived by a general bill in the Senate for granting aid to that Canal in common with many others, the Presedent & Directors have thought proper to publish the documents which immediately respect them—and sensible of the interest and patronage you have given their important attempt to promote the improvement & political œconomy1 of your country I again take the liberty to transmit you a copy of the papers in question as a very trivial tho’ sincere testimony of gratitude and with the fullest impression that your retirement will not abate that zeal for public improvement which has so much distinguished your character.

I have the honor to be with high respect yr obt & very hl Servt

Josa: Gilpin

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 25 Feb. 1810 and so recorded in SJL, in which TJ gives his name as “Gilpin Joseph.” Enclosure: untitled collection of memorials, petitions, reports, letters, and other papers relative to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company, edited and with a prefatory note by Gilpin (Philadelphia, 1809; item no. 17195 in Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 [1958–66]).

Joshua Gilpin (1765–1841) was educated at the Wilmington Grammar School and founded Delaware’s first paper mill on Brandywine Creek near that city in 1787. Assisted by his brother Thomas, he manufactured paper at this mill for the next fifty years. Gilpin undertook two extended tours of Europe, 1795–1801 and 1811–15, to observe the latest advances in papermaking and civil engineering. He also served on the board of directors of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company, 1803–24, and played a leading role in keeping that venture alive during a long period of dormancy from 1806 to 1821. Gilpin was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1804 and authored numerous travel journals, poems, and historical works (Harold B. Hancock and Norman B. Wilkinson, “The Gilpins and Their Endless Papermaking Machine,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 81 [1957]: 391–405; Ralph D. Gray, “Philadelphia and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 84 [1960]: 407–15; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 20 Jan. 1804, 17 Sept. 1841 [MS in PPAmP]; Joseph E. Walker, ed., Pleasure and Business in Western Pennsylvania: The Journal of Joshua Gilpin, 1809 [1975]).

On 2 Mar. 1807 the Senate instructed the secretary of the treasury to prepare “a plan for the application of such means as are within the power of Congress, to the purposes of opening roads and making canals; together with a statement of the undertakings of that nature” that might require government aid to bring them to completion. Albert Gallatin communicated his lengthy general report to Congress on 6 Apr. 1808 (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 4:166 [2 Mar. 1807]; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Misc., 1:724–921). The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company was specifically listed as worthy of support in a bill in the senate “for the improvement of the United States, by public roads and canals,” which would have empowered the president to respond to capital shortages by purchasing up to half of the stock issued by otherwise viable American canal companies (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers. description ends , 11th Cong., 2d sess., 521–5 [5 Jan. 1810]).

1Manuscript: “œconony.”

Index Entries

  • Bill for the improvement of the United States, by public roads and canals search
  • canals; Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Co. search
  • canals; congressional support for search
  • Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company search
  • Congress, U.S.; and public works search
  • Gallatin, Albert; Report of the Secretary of the Treasury, on the subject of public roads and canals search
  • Gilpin, Joshua; and Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Co. search
  • Gilpin, Joshua; identified search
  • Gilpin, Joshua; letters from search
  • Senate, U.S.; and public works search
  • United States; public works search