Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Lambert to Thomas Jefferson, 19 May 1810

From William Lambert

City of Washington, May 19th 1810.


I wrote to you some time ago, and transmitted a printed copy of the report of a select committee of Congress on my papers relating to the establishment of a first meridian for the United States, intended for your own use. The late period of the Session at which this report was made, was the cause (perhaps the only one) of postponing a decision until the next meeting of the national legislature. It would be gratifying to me, if I should be favored with your opinion, and that of bishop Madison, relating to the plan I have submitted to public view, and to the data and Elements on which the computation has been made. On an Examination of the several numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5, collected together, which were prepared at different times, and of which I kept no copies, I find repetitions of the same idea, that might otherwise have been avoided, particularly, with respect to the adoption of the ratio of 282 to 281, as an arithmetical mean between the proportions of 334 to 333, and 230 to 229, of the equatorial and polar diameters of the Earth. The tables I have given, are on an entire new plan, farther extended, and more accurate, from the nature and principles of their construction, than any, perhaps, extant; none that I have yet seen, will ascertain the Elements to which mine have a reference, with such precision.

Accompanying this communication, is a news-paper, in which the proceedings and toasts of the Tammany Society of Washington at the late celebration of the anniversary of the patron of our order, are contained. All the toasts, with the exception of one or two of the volunteers, were prepared solely by myself, and indeed, the greatest part of the Long Talk:—I send you, also, a manuscript ode of my own composition, which is intended to be sung at this place on the fourth of July next.—The sentiments in both, respecting yourself, I pray you to receive, not as sycophantic adulation, or servile flattery, but as testimonials of the genuine respect and esteem with which1 I remain, Sir,

Your most obedt servt

William Lambert.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson, late President of the U.S.”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 May 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

The enclosed news-paper contained the proceedings of the 12 May 1810 meeting of the Tammany Society of Washington, including seventeen toasts composed by Lambert as the society’s incoming grand sachem. The second honored “Thomas Jefferson.—Assailed in his retirement by malicious, unprincipled foes to our republican systems of government. Their persecuting malevolence is and ought to [be] requited by increasing contempt.—He served his country with applause.” Following the toasts was a long talk, delivered by outgoing grand sachem Henry Aborn, which pledged the society’s opposition to the “insidious machinations of foreign foes” and domestic supporters of such plots and called on the “seventeen United American tribes” to stand together against intrigue, corruption, and luxury (Washington National Intelligencer, 16 May 1810).

1Manuscript: “esteem which which.”

Index Entries

  • Aborn, Henry search
  • astronomy; and calculations of prime meridian search
  • Congress, U.S.; and prime meridian search
  • Fourth of July; orations search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Lambert, William; and prime meridian search
  • Lambert, William; letters from search
  • Lambert, William; ode for Fourth of July by search
  • Madison, James, Bishop; and W. Lambert’s astronomical calculations search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); and Tammany Society search
  • prime meridian search
  • Tammany societies; of Washington search
  • Washington (D.C.); Tammany Society of search