Thomas Jefferson Papers

Horatio G. Spafford to Thomas Jefferson, 27 August 1813

From Horatio G. Spafford

Albany, 8 Mo. 27, 1813.

My Hond & much esteemed Friend—

Thy favor of the 15. inst., is duly received, & I hasten to send the book, by the Mail. I hope it will arrive safe, & find thee enjoying good health, & all the consolations that belong to a liberal benefactor to his country, in the evening of a well spent life. After thou shalt have examined the Gazetteer, I should be glad to hear thy opinion of its merits. The preface tells of the expense & magnitude of the labor; & as the plan of the Work is new, I want thy opinion of its comparative merit. My intention is to pursue the plan of writing, & form Gazetteers of the several States; then separate the parts, & form a Geography, & Gazetteer, of the United States, in separate volumes. An arduous & expensive undertaking; but I am young, ambitious, & formed to habits of industry, adapted to such a Work. The writings of Dr. Morse, are not of the right character for this Nation; & when the Government shall have duly examined & contrasted mine with his, I hope for some patronage from the National Administration. Indeed, wast thou at Washington, I should even now solicit it; for1 a strong prediliction for Washington City, & am waiting for events to call me there. In this state, I have experiencd a very liberal patronage. Could I have the same from the General Government, I should immediately remove to its seat. During the years of my youth, I studied 4 years in Virginia, & I believe they have inclined my mind to an attachment to the habits & manners of that country, rather than to those of the Northern States.

It has always appeared to me that our Government ought to have a Department of Geography, or at least some Secretaryship, with a small salary. I wish I could converse with thee on this subject. But, devoted as I am to the project which I have opened to thee, perhaps my views may be misled by my wishes & interests. During 3 years past, my postage, & every expense of communication by Letter, has incurred an expense of seven hundred dollars—a heavy tax on an individual, neither poor nor rich. And did I not hope for some relief by & by from Government, I should not2 risk so heavy expenses, with such an uncertainty of remuneration. Thy thoughts on these suggestions would be very gratefully received, & perhaps might guide my future destiny. Would it be unjust, or impolitic, or in any way improper, for the Nation to grant me a right of frankage? This would be a noble patronage;—& I am vain enough to believe I merit the distinction: Is it solely interest, or does my reason justly conclude that the Post Master General’s Department could profitably patronise my Works?—The Dead Letters returned to Washington from this State, lost for the want of more correct & extensive information, as I am informed by several Post-Masters, amount to a large Sum every year. And these Post-Masters assure me that they believe it would be profitable to distribute a copy to each office.

In a Letter from President Madison,3 some time since, he intimates the propriety of forming [Gazet]teers of all the States, & seems to express a friend[ly good] will toward my efforts. This Mail also bears a copy of my Gazetteer to him. I regret that motives of delicacy seem to forbid my communicating as freely with him, as with thee, an intermediate friend, in private life. In this State, the best men, of all parties, are my friends & Correspondents, the latter description of which embrace a large majority of the intelligence4 of this State. Their initials are printed in the Gazetteer, subjoined to the articles which they furnished. With the highest sentiments of esteem & respect, thy friend,

Horatio Gates Spafford.

RC (MHi); torn at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr, Monticello, Virginia. with a packet”; franked; postmarked Albany, 28 Aug.; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Sept. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

Spafford sent his book, A Gazetteer of the State of New-York (Albany, 1813; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4172), to TJ separately through the mail. The preface to this work asserts (p. 3) that he spent three years and $7,000 preparing it for publication. In his library TJ had copies of two works by Jedidiah morse, The American Universal Geography (Boston, 1796; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3963) and The American Gazetteer (Boston, 1797; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3964). The United States Congress apparently never awarded Spafford the right of frankage that he requested of President James Madison in July 1810. The latter commended his efforts, wished him success with his gazetteer, and commented that “An extension of it to all the States would proportionally extend the value of the Work.” Spafford’s endorsement indicates that he sent Madison “2 Gazetteers” in a missing letter of 28 Aug. 1813 (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., 2:413–6, 435–6).

1Thus in manuscript. Spafford may have omitted “I have.”

2Word interlined.

3Reworked from “Jefferson.”

4Reworked from what appears to be “best.”

Index Entries

  • A Gazetteer of the State of New-York (H. G. Spafford) search
  • books; on New York search
  • franking privilege; and H. G. Spafford search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Madison, James; and H. G. Spafford search
  • Morse, Jedidiah; writings of search
  • New York (state); works on search
  • Post Office, U.S.; and H. G. Spafford’s Gazeteer search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; A Gazetteer of the State of New-York search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; and franking privilege search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; and J. Madison search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; and proposed geographical department search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; education of search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; letters from search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; proposed U.S. gazetteer by search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; seeks government patronage search