Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Pitman to Thomas Jefferson, 4 December 1811

From John Pitman

Providence December 4th 1811.

Hond Sir,

Suffer me to gratify the vanity of an author, and the pride of an American, by presenting the enclosed, for acceptance and perusal, to one, no less distinguished for his literary taste, than political wisdom. It will afford me much pleasure if, without diverting your attention from matters of more excellence and importance, I can procure you a momentary gratification, [in] the perusal of those effusions which, so far as it respects [my?] republican sentiments, your writings and example [have?] [h]ad no little agency in producing. In the avocations of party politics and professional life I have not had much time to devote to the cultivation of my muse—and indeed so fastidious has the taste of our country become with respect to native poetry, that there is but little encouragement for those who might otherwise emulate “the bards of other times.”

Were I not persuaded that every American, whose heart is warmed with patriotism, is welcome to your retirement I would ask you to pardon this intrusion of one, who, though a stranger to you, is not a stranger to those deeds and virtues, which encircle you with a glory, that flings into shade the imperial and consuming splendors of Napoleon.

With every sentiment of esteem & reverence

I am Yours, &C

John Pitman Junr

RC (ViW: TC-JP); torn at seal; at foot of text: “The Hon: Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 25 Dec. 1811 and so recorded in SJL.

John Pitman (1785–1864), attorney, was a native of Providence, Rhode Island, who graduated in 1799 from Rhode Island College (Brown University from 1804) and was admitted to the New York bar in 1806. He practiced law in Kentucky, 1807–08, Providence, 1808–12, Salem, Massachusetts, 1812–16, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1816–20. Pitman returned to Providence for good in 1820. He was United States district attorney for Rhode Island, 1820–24, and served as federal district court judge from 1824 until his death. Pitman was also a trustee of Brown University, 1828–34, a fellow of that institution, 1834–64, and president of the Providence Athenæum, 1839–57 (Historical Catalogue of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 1764–1894 [1895], 43; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 3:45; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:218, 226, 399, 402 [27 Nov., 9 Dec. 1820, 28 Dec. 1824, 3 Jan. 1825]; Providence Daily Journal, 18 Nov. 1864; gravestone inscription at North Burial Ground, Providence).

The enclosed effusions were Pitman’s pamphlets, A Long Talk, delivered before the Tammany Society, or Columbian Order, on their anniversary, A. D. 1810: in Providence (Providence, 1810), praising republicanism and the members of the Tammany Society for their defense of republican principles, and A Poem on the Social State and its Future Progress: delivered before the Philermenian Society Brown University, on its Anniversary, September 3d, A. D. 1811 (Providence, [1811]), lamenting the violent tendencies of mankind and arguing that the diffusion of knowledge and the example set by a free and prosperous America will further the cause of peace. James Macpherson repeatedly used the phrase bards of other times in his poems purportedly translated from the alleged ancient Gaelic author Ossian (Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem [London, 1762], 81, 194; Temora, an Ancient Epic Poem [London, 1763], 17).

Index Entries

  • A Long Talk, delivered before the Tammany Society, or Columbian Order, on their anniversary, A.D. 1810: in Providence (Pitman) search
  • A Poem on the Social State and its Future Progress (Pitman) search
  • Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem (Macpherson) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Macpherson, James; Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem search
  • Macpherson, James; Temora, an Ancient Epic Poem search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ compared to search
  • Pitman, John; A Long Talk, delivered before the Tammany Society, or Columbian Order, on their anniversary, A.D. 1810: in Providence search
  • Pitman, John; A Poem on the Social State and its Future Progress search
  • Pitman, John; identified search
  • Pitman, John; letters from search
  • Pitman, John; sends pamphlets to TJ search
  • poetry; in America search
  • poetry; sent to TJ search
  • Temora, an Ancient Epic Poem (Macpherson) search