Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Glass to Thomas Jefferson, 21 April 1812

From John Glass

New Jersey, Newark 21st April 1812.


Being conscious of the arduous task, which I have undertaken and perhaps the daring presumption to address such an illustrious character, without any previous Knowledge; (only by your writings) I feel myself, as it were constrained to desist from my undertaking; but being emboldened in the anticipation of success, I feel gratified in the consideration that the person to whom this is addressed, has ever encouraged the promotion of literature and the sciences in this our beloved country. But a few minutes have elapsed, since I perused two letters written1 in answer to those written by Mr Sully, Secry of the society of Artists in the united states at Philadelphia. Those letters reanimated my hopes of success; the sentiments therein contained, breathe the pure air of the love, for the promotion of literature; they also contain the unextinguished zeal of a person, who for the term of eight years, was most popular in America, and in whom the friends of our country reposed the greatest confidence and who previous to the chief magistracy of the United States, had held some of the most important offices in America—with these considerations, and others too numerous here to mention, I am actuated to forward this; although in point of comparison you are exalted and I, as it were abased. I feel a great incumbrance on my mind, in disclosing my views; fearing, lest perhaps, I may be disappointed in my expectations and be plunged into oblivion, and, now honored Sir, I pray you not discard this—my most sedulous attention, has ever been to obtain an education and I trust through the medium of your patronage, I may receive one. For three years past, I have been at Jewelling business; but I have always aspired for something more exalted; not to say, I am too proud a member of the mechanical community; but that I have ever felt concerned about my future usefullness to my country, and as I fear the business, to which I am at present, paying some attention, will be in the course of a few years, of but trivial consequence, and being confident that a good education will always be of greatest imaginable consequence, I feel still more desirious of obtaining one. Dear Sir, I am almost assured of Success in petitioning. Though I feel dubious at times; still I am persuaded to make a bold request. I trust, I am confident in believing, that your desire has ever been to encourage youth in obtaining literature, and perhaps some youth, for the education of whom, you may [be]2 pleased to devote a part of your earthly treasure; may hereafter become conspicuous ornaments of the patronage and generosity of Thomas Jefferson Esquire. Sir, may I not flatter myself, with the hope of being one of those youth? Ah! could I indulge the thought in reality, I should be elated; but time will determine. This, I trust you will peruse with mature deliberation; it is Dr Sir, to request your patronage and influence for an education which I have long wished for . perhaps in the extensive circle of your acquaintance, there may be men, who would readily assist in the education of a youth, inspired with the love of liberty, who is determined to accelerate and improve every opportunity which may contribute to his advantage It is probable had my father lived, I should not have troubled you, on this most important subject. It pleased the ruler of events, to call him hence when I was quite young; he left a widow and five children to mourn his loss, and of seven children, I was the only Son. God be praised, my mother and sisters have never wanted the neccessaries of life. During the Spring and fall of 1811, I was deprived by death, of my eldest Sisters; the hopes of an afflicted mother and the joy of a brother and two Sisters. I was not at home when they died; but separated by a space of 1000 miles, they have gone tis true, but to a more substantial habitation—My fathers name was John Glass, was born in 1767, and departed this life in the 38th year of his age—I have given you a concise description of our family—There is possibly a considerable portion of my fathers estate, which will consequently, be possessed by my Sisters and myself, I will sacrifice my portion thereof in assisting to receive an education—and now, Dr Sir, possibly you wou[ld] wish to Know my character and abilities—it is a presumptuous undertaking to recommend one’s own abilities; therefore let this suffice, untill another communication—as to my character, should I have the exalted honor of receiving an answer to this; I will forward certificates from persons with whom, I have resided for three years past, and whose veracity is unimpeached.—or, should you wish to have a personal conference with me, which I should be very happy of;3 I would hasten to your residence, if my pecuniary means were adequate, as they are not, I must resort to your generosity—be assured, this is not a fictitious tale; but exactly the reverse. Condescend Dr Sir, to peruse this with mature deliberation, and should you not deem me worthy your encouragement, I pray you, do not expose my name to a frowning world, I am Sir, with the greatest respect yours &c &c

John Glass

RC (MHi); mutilated at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello—Mail”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 Apr. 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

John Glass (1794–1878), editor, attorney, and insurance broker, was born in Savannah, Georgia. He began work as an apprentice to a jeweler in New Jersey. During the War of 1812 Glass enlisted in a New York regiment and later transferred to a unit in Georgia, where he completed his service and was honorably discharged in 1815. He had read extensively as an apprentice, and after the war ended he secured employment with a Savannah newspaper and eventually became its editor. Glass later studied law, was admitted to the bar, and practiced until 1830 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He then relocated to Columbia, where he successively ran a school, served as a banker and broker for an insurance company until its failure, worked as a railroad bookkeeper, and operated a small farm (Brent Howard Holcomb, Record of Deaths in Columbia South Carolina and elsewhere as recorded by John Glass 1859–1877 [1986], unpaginated introduction by Henry Griffin Fulmer; ScU: Glass Family Papers; Columbia Southern Christian Advocate, 5 Oct. 1878).

TJ’s letters of 8 and 25 Jan. 1812 to Thomas sully had appeared in a number of newspapers before Glass wrote this letter.

1Manuscript: “lettas wrtten.”

2Omitted word editorially supplied.

3Glass here canceled “by noticing me.”

Index Entries

  • charity; requests to TJ for search
  • Glass, John, Sr.; death of search
  • Glass, John (1794–1878); identified search
  • Glass, John (1794–1878); letters from search
  • Glass, John (1794–1878); seeks TJ’s aid search
  • Society of Artists of the United States; and TJ search
  • Sully, Thomas; and Society of Artists of the United States search