Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Pintard, 9 January 1814

To John Pintard

Monticello Jan. 9. 14.


I have duly recieved your favor of Dec. 22. informing me that the New York Historical society had been pleased to elect me an honorary member of that institution. I am entirely sensible of the honor done me by this election; and I pray you to become the channel of my grateful acknolegements to the society. at this distance, and at my time of life, I cannot but be conscious how little it will be in my power to further their views: but I shall certainly, and with great pleasure, embrace any occasion which shall occur of rendering them any services in my power. with these assurances be so good as to accept for them and for yourself those of my high respect and consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NHi: New-York Historical Society Archive); at foot of text: “John Pintard Rec. Secy of the N. Y. Historical society.” PoC (DLC).

John Pintard (1759–1844), merchant, insurance executive, and philanthropist, was a native of New York City who received an A.B. degree from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1776. After several brief stints in the militia he spent three years with his uncle and guardian Louis (Lewis) Pintard trying to improve conditions for American prisoners of war held in New York City during the Revolutionary War. The receipt of a sizable inheritance in 1784 provided him with the financial wherewithal to become a merchant, but his interests extended far beyond buying and selling. Pintard worked as a United States government translator under John Jay and TJ, 1786–90. Although initially successful in business, his decision to countersign notes for William Duer in 1791 ruined him, and he eventually spent more than a year in debtors’ prison, 1797–98. Only the passage of a national bankruptcy law in 1800 allowed Pintard to resume his normal activities. Despite support from Vice President Aaron Burr, he failed in an 1801 attempt to become United States consul at New Orleans. Pintard was a founder of the New-York Historical Society in 1804, and in the years prior to 1827 he was, at various times, its secretary, librarian, and treasurer. He was also a city alderman, a state legislator in 1791, a city inspector, 1804–09, sometime clerk of the corporation council, secretary of the New York chamber of commerce, 1817–27, and secretary of the Mutual Insurance Company, 1809–29. Pintard supported his friend DeWitt Clinton for president in 1812, was a founder and longtime officer of the American Bible Society, helped to organize New York’s first savings bank in 1819, and was its president, 1828–41 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1776–1783, pp. 89–99; “Walter Barrett” [Joseph Alfred Scoville], The Old Merchants of New York City [1863–69; repr. 1968], 2:217–44; 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 , 10:523, 17:352–3n, 23:447–9; Mary-Jo Kline and others, eds., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr [1983], 2:609–11; Dorothy C. Barck, ed., Letters from John Pintard to his daughter, Eliza Noel Pintard Davidson, 1816–1833, 4 vols. [1940–41]; New York Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, 26 June 1844).

Pintard’s favor of dec. 22, which he signed as recording secretary “in behalf of Samuel Miller. D.D. Correspond. Secretary,” stated that “I have the honour to inform you, that at a Meeting of the New-York Historical Society, held on the twelfth day of October, last you were elected an honorary member of that Institution. By Order of the Society” (RC in MHi; printed form with words filled in by Pintard rendered in italics; at head of text: “New-York Historical Society”; at foot of text in Pintard’s hand: “The Honourable Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 23 Dec. 1813 received 31 Dec. 1813 from Pintard writing for the “Historical Society of N. York” and so recorded in SJL).

The new york historical society was founded on 10 Dec. 1804 in order “to discover, procure, and preserve whatever may relate to the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of the United States in general, and of this State in particular.” It was to consist of resident and honorary members, with “the former to be persons residing in the State of New-York; the latter persons residing elsewhere.” Resident members were expected to pay $10 upon admission and $2 a year thereafter. Honorary members were not required to contribute, and TJ apparently did not do so (The Constitution and Bye-Laws of the New-York Historical Society [New York, 1805], 3, 4; Robert W. G. Vail, Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of the New-York Historical Society, 1804–1954 [1954]).

Index Entries

  • Miller, Samuel (of New York); as corresponding secretary of New-York Historical Society search
  • New-York Historical Society; identified search
  • New-York Historical Society; TJ elected an honorary member search
  • Pintard, John; as recording secretary of New-York Historical Society search
  • Pintard, John; identified search
  • Pintard, John; letters from search
  • Pintard, John; letters to search