Thomas Jefferson Papers

William P. Gardner to Thomas Jefferson, 13 February 1813

From William P. Gardner

Washington City 13 February 1813.

Dear Sir,

As the Declaration of American Independence recapitulates in a strong and masterly Manner the various Wrongs and Grievances under which we suffered as a Nation and which finally compelled the People of America, after every other means had failed, to make an Appeal to Arms as their Ultimo Ratio, I have often thought that it should occupy a conspicuous place in the Parlour of every Man who feels an Attatchment to the Liberty, Independence and Rights of America.

Some time since Mr George Murray, an eminent and first Rate Artist as an Engraver was here from Philadelphia.—I mentioned the Subject to him and intimated my Intention of publishing the Declaration of American Independence with suitable emblematical Devices in a superior style, and such, as when framed, will make an Elegant Ornament for the Parlour or the Drawing Room.—

Mr Murray and myself agreed to publish it in Partnership, and he informed me that he would get the Ornamental parts sketched by Mr Barriolet, an Artist eminent for his Skill in Design.—

The Sketch of Mr Barriolet I now ask the Liberty to enclose.—

As you, Respected Sir, had the principal part, if not the whole, in framing this Declaration, I have thought it to be my Duty to Enclose it to you for your Consideration, with a Hope that you will pardon the Liberty I have taken.—

I have very respectfully to request that any Alteration or changes that may suggest themselves to you respecting the plan &ca you will have the Goodness to inform me of.—

As it is to be done in a Style of superior Elegance, and every way worthy of the subject its Completion will, of Consequence, be attended with considerable Cost.—Mr Murray and myself calculate that we cannot afford to sell them for less than ten Dollars each Copy, without the frame.

I am not entirely unknown to you.—You will recollect you did me the Honor to appoint me Consul at the Dutch Colony of Demerara, where I might have done tolerably well were it not for the Conduct and Tyranny of the Governor, who, by curtailing the greater part of my functions, plainly evinced that he did not wish an Agent to reside there, lest I might be some check upon the Extortion and Abuse excercised towards the American Trade.—I have always felt grateful to you for this Mark of your Confidence in, and Kindness towards me.—Since my Return I have been constantly employed in the Office of Mr Granger, in whom I have always found a steady Friend.

It will afford me much pleasure to receive a Letter from you, when your Leizure will permit, respecting this intended publication.—

With Sentiments of most sincere Respect and Esteem, I remain, Dear Sir,

your much Obligd & Ob: st

Wm P: Gardner

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson, Esqre”; endorsed by TJ as received 17 Feb. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

William P. Gardner (ca. 1768–1826), government clerk, was a native of Philadelphia who served as a Treasury Department clerk beginning about 1793. He briefly took a position with the Bank of Pennsylvania, traveled to Europe, returned to the United States in 1796, and worked again as a clerk at the Treasury until he resigned in 1800. A zealous Republican, Gardner supplied Treasury Department documents to Philadelphia Aurora editor William Duane, who in the summer of 1800 accused leading Federalists, including Timothy Pickering and Jonathan Dayton, of unethical use of public funds. Gardner thought that this partisan act limited his employment opportunities, but in 1802 TJ appointed him United States consul at Demerara. The British colonial government refused to receive him, and he evidently failed in his attempt to claim a family inheritance there. Gardner returned to America and resigned his position in 1803, after which he obtained employment as a clerk in Washington at the postmaster general’s office. In 1809 he served as grand sachem of the Tammany Society of Washington, and the following year he was the organization’s secretary. Gardner served a number of terms on the city council. He died in Washington (Gardner file in DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–09; 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 , 33:108–9; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:409 [10, 11 Mar. 1802]; 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 , Sec. of State Ser., 3:589–90, 4:253–4, 5:114–5, 143; Washington National Intelligencer, 8 July 1807, 10 Mar. 1809, 16 May 1810; Gideon Granger, Letter from the Post-Master General, accompanied with a Report [Washington, 1808]; Return J. Meigs, Letter from the Postmaster General transmitting a List of the Names of the Clerks Employed in the General Post Office [Washington, 1815]; 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., 5:234; Judah Delano, The Washington Directory [Washington, 1822], 38; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 23 Mar. 1826).

Although Gardner and George Murray agreed to publish a fine engraving of the Declaration of Independence in partnership, Murray changed his mind by 1816 and instead engraved the version soon published by John Binns. Gardner accordingly complained in print that Murray and Binns had stolen his idea (New York Columbian, 2 July 1816; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 21 July 1818; Benjamin Owen Tyler, Declaration of Independence. A Candid Statement of Facts, in answer to an unwarrantable denunciation of my publication of the Declaration of American Independence, Made by Mr. John Binns, Editor of the Democratic Press, In his Paper of the 9th and 18th of April, 1818 [Washington, 1818]). The enclosed sketch by John James Barralet has not been found, but it was prepared before 8 Oct. 1810, when Murray sent it to Gardner and stated that it depicted personifications of Liberty and Tyranny, Minerva, and an Indian, with circles or ovals set aside for likenesses of members of the Continental Congress in 1776 (Tyler, Declaration of Independence, 32–3).

Index Entries

  • Barralet, John James; and publication of Declaration of Independence search
  • Binns, John; publishes Declaration of Independence search
  • Declaration of Independence; published search
  • Gardner, William P.; identified search
  • Gardner, William P.; letters from search
  • Gardner, William P.; publishes Declaration of Independence search
  • Granger, Gideon; as postmaster general search
  • Murray, George; and engraving of Declaration of Independence search
  • subscriptions, for publications; Declaration of Independence search