Thomas Jefferson Papers

Ferdinand R. Hassler to Thomas Jefferson, 1 August 1813

From Ferdinand R. Hassler

London. August 1st 1813.

Most honored Sir!

With the present I have the honor to forward You two Boocks which Mr Warden, Consul general of the Un: St: at Paris charged me to deliver to You, & I hoped to have the honor to present to You myself; but as my mission here is not so near at its end as I expected at that time, the Instruments being not yet near finished as I expected, I take the Liberty to forward them to You to avoid longuer delay.

I have the honor to be with perfect respect and esteem

Most honored Sir

Your mos obedt hble Servt

F: R: Hassler

I join the Rapport of the Vaccine Institution here.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ, in part and incorrectly, as a letter from the “Swedish consul in London” received 10 Oct. 1813, and recorded in SJL with this date of receipt but without this identification.

Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler (1770–1843), geodesist and first superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, was born in Aarau, Switzerland, and studied mathematics and scientific surveying in Switzerland, France, and Germany. Political instability in Europe limited his employment opportunities there, and he immigrated to the United States in 1805 as part of an effort to establish a Swiss enclave in South Carolina. When the plan proved abortive, Hassler settled in Philadelphia. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1807, the same year that he was hired as a professor of mathematics at the United States Military Academy at West Point and chosen to head a government survey to chart the Atlantic coast. He left West Point in 1809 and taught for the next two years at Union College in Schenectady, New York. In 1811 Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin sent Hassler to Europe to gather equipment for the coastal survey, which had not yet begun work, but he was detained there by the outbreak of the War of 1812 and did not return until 1815. The following year he was formally appointed superintendent of the United States Coast Survey. Highly able but tactless and politically unskilled, Hassler introduced new scientific instruments and precise techniques in America but was forced out of the survey in 1818 by a law restricting its work to naval and military officers. He spent much of the next twelve years farming in New York state and writing mathematics textbooks. Hassler unsuccessfully sought a teaching position at the University of Virginia on several occasions and taught briefly in Richmond at Burke’s Seminary late in the 1820s. In 1830 Andrew Jackson appointed him superintendent of the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Hassler returned to head the Coast Survey in 1832 and held that post until his death (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 ; DSB description begins Charles C. Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 1970–80, 16 vols. description ends ; Florian Cajori, The Chequered Career of Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, First Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey [1929]; Robert Patterson to TJ, 3 Mar. 1806 [DLC]; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 17 Apr. 1807 [MS in PPAmP]; Hassler to TJ, 14 June 1824; TJ to Hassler, 22 June 1824; Baltimore Niles’ National Register, 25 Nov. 1843).

David Bailie Warden charged Hassler with delivering to TJ a work by François Emmanuel, vicomte de Toulongeon, the Histoire De France, depuis La Révolution De 1789; Écrite d’après les mémoires et manuscrits contemporains, recueillis dans les dépôts civils et militaires (Paris, 1801–03; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 240), after his first effort to convey it to TJ failed (Warden to TJ, 1 Apr. 1813). The other book he sent via Hassler has not been identified. Neither has the rapport of the London vaccine institution, which was founded in 1806 and merged with the Jennerian Society after the establishment of a national vaccine board in 1813 (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1901, 22 vols. description ends , 20:533).

Index Entries

  • books; on history search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; identified search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; letters from search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; sends works to TJ search
  • Histoire de France (F. E. Toulongeon) search
  • history; books on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • London; London Vaccine Institution search
  • Toulongeon, François Emmanuel, vicomte de; Histoire de France search
  • Warden, David Bailie; sends publications to TJ search