Thomas Jefferson Papers

Caspar Wistar to Thomas Jefferson, 9 May 1812

From Caspar Wistar

Philad May 9 1812—

Dr Sir

Some of the friends of Mr Timothy Matlack who is an applicant for the place of Loan Officer vacant by the death of the late Mr McClenachan, have requested me to inform you of his application, in the belief that you were acquainted with him & his history,1 & that you would therefore feel Sensible of the Justice of his Claim upon his Country for Some provision in the advance of life. He commanded a militia regiment of rifle men about the period of the battle of Trenton & was in the field with Genl Washington & much distinguished by his activity during the severe service which followed the Capture of the Hessians—From that period to the close of the war he was incessantly engaged in public business as Secretary of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania & since the peace of 1783 he has also been much engaged in public business, but at this moment, while the faculties of his mind are uncommonly bright he is without provision for his declining years, in Consequence of the divisions which have existed in our state. Dr Sir if it comports with your views & feelings to add your voice in his favour to that of his friends it will be a great gratification to us—& particularly to your

obliged & grateful friend

C Wistar

P.S. I have some accounts to give you, relative to the objects of Natural History you confided to my Care as well as to several other Similar2 affairs which I hope to Send in the Course of the next week.

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17); dateline adjacent to signature; addressed: “His Excellency Thos Jefferson Monticello”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 22 May 1812 and so recorded in SJL; endorsed by a State Department clerk: “Matlack T. recommended.” Enclosed in TJ to James Madison, 25 May 1812.

Timothy Matlack (1736–1829), clerk and radical Revolutionary leader, was a New Jersey native who lived primarily in Philadelphia and Lancaster. His early efforts to establish himself as a merchant and brewer were largely unsuccessful. Matlack served as a clerk for the Continental Congress, 1775–76, where he probably penned the official parchment version of the Declaration of Independence. He was a delegate to the convention that drafted the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 and was appointed to the state council of safety. Matlack was also an officer in the Pennsylvania militia and led a unit in the 1776–77 New Jersey campaign. He served as secretary of the supreme executive council, 1777–83, concurrently holding other state posts and sitting in the Continental Congress, 1780–81. Elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1780, he was a secretary of the society, 1781–84. Matlack served for a decade as state senate clerk and then became state master of the rolls, 1800–09. He was a Philadelphia city alderman, 1813–18, and prothonotary of the district court of Philadelphia city and county, 1817–22 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Asa M. Stackhouse, Col. Timothy Matlack: Patriot and Soldier [1910]; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 1:433, 4:544–6, 5:490–1; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 27 Jan. 1780, 3 Jan. 1783 [MS in PPAmP]; Matlack to TJ, 28 Aug. 1801 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–09]; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 1:199).

Matlack failed in his bid for the vacant position of commissioner of loans for the United States in Pennsylvania. On 21 May 1812 President James Madison nominated William White, and the Senate confirmed White’s appointment six days later (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:265, 272). For the objects of natural history, see note to TJ to Wistar, 31 Mar. 1809.

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Wistar here canceled “matter.”

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Matlack, Timothy; identified search
  • Matlack, Timothy; recommended by C. Wistar search
  • McClenachan, Blair search
  • Washington, George; mentioned search
  • White, William; as commissioner of loans search
  • Wistar, Caspar; and mastodon bones search
  • Wistar, Caspar; letters from search
  • Wistar, Caspar; recommendation of T. Matlack search