Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jason Chamberlain to Thomas Jefferson, 4 February 1814

From Jason Chamberlain

University of Vermont Burlington Vt. 4 of Feb. 1814.

Dear Sir,

Though I have not the honour of an acquaintance with you, I take the liberty to send you some Indian Pamphlets. From the excellent works which you have published, I learn that you have paid some attention to the Aborigines of this country. I thought you might have the curiosity to see a specimen of the Iroquois Language. There are many among the Iroquois who can read. They use the French Alphabet, and sounds of the Letters.

Among the thousands who follow you to your retirement with benedictions for your publick services, there is not one, whose good wishes are more

Sincere than those of your humble servant,

Jason Chamberlain.

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “Hon. Th. Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 18 Feb. 1814 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Eleazer Williams, Good News to the Iroquois Nation: a Tract, on Man’s Primitive Rectitude, his Fall, and his Recovery Through Jesus Christ (Burlington, 1813; with copy at APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends inscribed in an unidentified hand: “Specimen of the Iroquois Language 15 April 1814” and “Sent by Mr Jefferson Prest of APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends From Jason Chamberlayne Burlington Vermt”).

Jason Chamberlain (1783–1820), Congregational minister, educator, and attorney, was a native of Holliston, Massachusetts, who graduated from the College of Rhode Island (later Brown University) in 1804. During service in 1806 as a supply minister at Thomaston, Maine, he officiated at the funeral of Henry Knox. Chamberlain was ordained in 1808 at the Congregational church in Guilford, Vermont, and remained there until 1811. In the latter year he became a professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Vermont, a position he held until the university suspended classes in 1814 in order to accommodate United States soldiers during the War of 1812. Chamberlain saw military service himself in the autumn of 1814. He had become an attorney in 1813 and pursued this profession in Vermont until at least 1816. Chamberlain subsequently practiced law in the town of Jackson in the Missouri Territory, and later at Arkansas Post in the Arkansas Territory. He briefly served as clerk to the Arkansas Territory House of Representatives before he drowned trying to cross a creek in that territory (Pliny H. White, “History of the Congregational Church in Guilford, Vt.,” Congregational Quarterly 8 [1866]: 286; Historical Catalogue of Brown University, 1764–1904 [1905], 95; Cyrus Eaton, History of Thomaston, Rockland, and South Thomaston, Maine [1865], 1:266–7; Chamberlain to TJ, 30 Nov. 1814; The Vermont Register and Almanac, for the Year of Our Lord 1816 [Burlington, 1815], 69; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 17:321–4; DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17 and 1817–25; Dallas T. Herndon, ed., Centennial History of Arkansas [1922; repr. 1970], 1:412; Arkansas Gazette, 12 Feb., 12 Aug. 1820; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 6 Sept. 1820).

With this letter or that of 10 May 1814, Chamberlain sent TJ another work by Williams, Gaiatonsera Ionteweienstakwa Ongwe Onwe Gawennontakon: A Spelling-Book in the Language of the Seven Iroquois Nations (Plattsburgh, N.Y., 1813; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 14 [no. 912]).

Index Entries

  • Chamberlain, Jason; and Iroquois language search
  • Chamberlain, Jason; identified search
  • Chamberlain, Jason; letters from search
  • Gaiatonsera Ionteweienstakwa Ongwe Onwe Gawennontakon: A Spelling-Book in the Language of the Seven Iroquois Nations (E. Williams) search
  • Good News to the Iroquois Nation (E. Williams) search
  • Indians; Iroquois search
  • Indians; languages search
  • Iroquois Indians search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • language; Indian search
  • Williams, Eleazer; Gaiatonsera Ionteweienstakwa Ongwe Onwe Gawennontakon: A Spelling-Book in the Language of the Seven Iroquois Nations search
  • Williams, Eleazer; Good News to the Iroquois Nation search