Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Erskine Birch to Thomas Jefferson, 1 January 1812

From Thomas Erskine Birch

Jan. 1st 1812

Illustrious & most Respectable sir.

Some time in Novr last I transmitted by the mail to your address a copy of the Virginian Orator, in which was inclosed a letter. Separate from the packet there was delivered to the stage-driver, at the same time, a letter to G & R Waite of Baltimore in which was inclosed 3 tickets in the “Susquehanna Canal lottery” all of which had drawn prizes, but by a reference to the post Office register in which they were all to be deposited, it appears that the temptation was too strong for the stage-driver to withstand, for they were never deposited & it appears that neither of them have reached the place of their destination.— The author of the Virginian Orator thought he could not pay a greater tribute of respect to the man who had rendered the unremitted service of 40 years to his country than by teaching the American youth to lisp the fame of the man of Monticello as Pope did the “Man of Ross.”

The Ode which is particularly addressed to yourself, and other parts alluding to your administration and retirement, were the only wreath that an obscure friend could offer;

Such as it is—ah might it worthier be,

Its scanty foliage all is due to thee.

From some of your literary friends, I have had the satisfaction to hear, that the parts concerning yourself were more acceptable to them, than all the lapidary adulation of modern epitaphs. And when your body shall be consigned to the tomb I said with Ovid

Carminibus vives in omne tempus meis.”

With sentiments of high regard & all due consideration, the Author takes the liberty of transmitting another copy with this letter, requesting you to accept of this small tribute of respect.

From, illustrious Sir, Yr Mo Obt & very humble Sert
Thos E Birch
Preceptor of Anchor & Hope
Academy Wythe County Va

RC (MHi); dateline at foot of text; addressed: “Thos Jefferson Esqr late President of the U.S. Monticello Albemarle Va” by “Mail”; franked; postmarked Montgomery Court House, 17 Jan. 1812; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Jan. 1812 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: enclosure to Birch to TJ, [Nov. 1811].

G & R Waite of Baltimore ran a lottery and exchange office (William Fry, Fry’s Baltimore Directory for the Year 1812 [Baltimore, 1812], 79). Alexander Pope eulogized the man of Ross (John Kyrle, an English landed gentleman) as a benefactor of the poor (Of the Use of Riches: An Epistle To the Right Honorable Allen Lord Bathurst [London, 1732; later forming the third of Pope’s Moral Essays], 16–8). carminibus vives in omne tempus meis: “thou shalt live for all time in my song,” from Ovid, Tristia, 1.6.19 (Ovid with an English translation: Tristia. Ex Ponte, trans. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, Loeb Classical Library [1924], 36–7).

Index Entries

  • Baltimore, Md.; lottery office search
  • Birch, Thomas Erskine; letters from search
  • Birch, Thomas Erskine; The Virginian Orator search
  • canals; Susquehanna canal lottery search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Kyrle, John; known as the “Man of Ross” search
  • lotteries; Susquehanna Canal search
  • Moral Essays (Pope) search
  • Ovid; quoted search
  • Pope, Alexander; Moral Essays search
  • Susquehanna Canal; lottery search
  • The Virginian Orator (Birch, comp.) search
  • Waite, G. & R. (Baltimore firm); lottery office of search