Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Patterson to Thomas Jefferson, 24 April 1813

From Robert Patterson

Philadelphia April 24th 1813.


I have to acknowledge the receipt of your esteemed favour of the 8th. Your time-piece, agreeably to your desire, I have had set up at my own house, & shall with great pleasure make experiments on its going with the rod-pendulum.

This pendulum is at present suspended by a few inches of watch-spring attached to the upper end, as in common pendulums: But Mr Adrain, an able mathematician, in the college of Newbrunswick N. J. informs me, that he has for some time been employed in making experiments on rod-pendulums, and has the mortification to find, that his experiments do not agree with theory. His pendulums were also suspended by small pieces of watch-spring. with some the times of vibration exceeded, & with others, fell short of what the theory would give, taking into the calculation every known circumstance. Hence, I presume, the suspending spring must be abandoned, and the knife-edge substituted in its place; and with this I am persuaded (but shall test it by experiment) that theory & practice will agree.

At the meeting of the Philosophical Society for the election of officers held on the 1st of January last, you, Sir, were indeed unanimously chosen President of the Society. The election was announced in the Aurora, on the Monday following, and probably in most of the other papers of the city. But the acting secretary whose duty it was to inform you of your election, must have neglected his duty. With this circumstance, however, the society have never been acquainted

With great condescension, you are pleased to ask my conscientious advice relative to your resignation of the office of President of the Society after the expiration of the present year.—I have, Sir, most seriously & conscientiously considered the subject, in all its bearings & probable consequences; and for weighty1 reasons, intimately connected with the prosperity of the Society, I can do no other than renew, most earnestly, my former solicitations—that you would still2 comply with the most earnest wishes of the Society to continue you their President.

Inclosed I send you Mr Voigts bill for the time-piece, with the appendages. He does not at present know of any one he could recommend to the advantageous situation you mention; but both he & myself will bear the subject in mind; & should any suitable character be discovered, I shall not fail to acquaint you.

I have, Sir, the honour to be with the greatest respect & esteem Your obedt Servt

Rt Patterson

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 15 May 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

Filed with this letter and probably enclosed by Patterson is a clipping from the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 4 Jan. 1813, announcing that TJ had been chosen president in the annual election of officers of the American Philosophical Society on 1 Jan. 1813. The enclosed bill from Thomas Voigt has not been found, but a receipt from John Lentz dated 9 Feb. 1813 records his charges to Voigt consisting of $35 for a clock case, $3 for a packing box, and 50¢ for packing the pendulum (MS in MHi). The clock did not reach Monticello until 27 Dec. 1815 (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1289, 1317).

1Manuscript: “wiaghty.”

2Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Adrain, Robert search
  • American Philosophical Society; TJ as president of search
  • American Philosophical Society; TJ reelected president of search
  • Aurora (Philadelphia newspaper); TJ’s election as American Philosophical Society president announced in search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; watchmaker needed in search
  • clocks; TJ’s astronomical case clock search
  • Lentz, John search
  • newspapers; Philadelphia Aurora search
  • Patterson, Robert; and American Philosophical Society search
  • Patterson, Robert; and astronomical case clock search
  • Patterson, Robert; and watchmaker for Charlottesville search
  • Patterson, Robert; letters from search
  • pendulum; in clocks search
  • Philadelphia; Aurora search
  • Philadelphia; newspapers in search
  • scientific instruments; pendulums search
  • Voigt, Thomas; and TJ’s astronomical case clock search
  • Voigt, Thomas; and watchmaker for Charlottesville search