Thomas Jefferson Papers

Dudley Leavitt to Thomas Jefferson, 10 June 1814

From Dudley Leavitt

Centre-Harbor, N.H. June 10th 1814.


I have taken the liberty to send You the enclosed Table, which, after You have inspected to Your satisfaction, I would thank You to lay before the Am. Philos. Society, of which I am informed You, Sir, are, or have been the President.—May You long live to diffuse that light, both Philosophical and Political, which has, under Providence, been the means of leading the zealous and enterprising Sons of America, from a State of ignorance and oppression to the Temple of Freedom and Science.—If You, Sir, and the Society, may think the Table in any degree useful, (being a genuine American Production,) You are at liberty to publish it among Your Memoirs.—This Table, of which I am the Inventor, will give the true time of the Moon’s Quarters with as much or more accuracy than Ferguson’s will the New and Full Moon, which is frequently of great use to find, and sufficiently accurate for common Almanacks.—The reason which induced me to invent the Table was, having ever made Astronomy my favorite study, and amused myself in making various calculations, I found that Ferguson’s Tables, altho’ they gave the Change and Full tolerably correct, would not give the Quarters by 5 h. + or – !—After employing considerable time in investigating the cause, I discovered it, as hereafter explained. I should esteem it a great favor to receive a line from your Excellency on any Scientific Subject, if such condescension might not be repugnant to your more important Concerns,

With Sentiments of the profoundest respect

I am, Sir, Your most obedient friend and humble Servant,

Dudley Leavitt.

RC (PPAmP: Thomas Jefferson Papers); on sheet folded to form four pages, with enclosure on pp. 2–3 and address on p. 4; addressed: “Hon. Th. Jefferson, Esqr Monticello, Va.—Late President of U.S. of America”; franked; postmarked Center Harbor, 12 June; endorsed by TJ as received 26 June 1814 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to Robert Patterson, 29 June 1814.

Dudley Leavitt (1772–1851), educator, author, and maker of almanacs, was a native of New Hampshire. Beginning with The New England Calendar: or, Almanack, for the year of our Lord 1797 (Concord, N.H., 1796), he issued farmer’s almanacs under a variety of titles, settling eventually on Leavitt’s Farmer’s Almanack and Miscellaneous Year Book. The annual publication became remarkably popular and continued to be issued well after Leavitt’s death, aided by calculations he had prepared in advance. He settled his family by 1806 on a farm in Meredith, New Hampshire, where he kept a school, served occasionally as a local official, compiled the New Hampshire Register annually from 1811 to 1817, and authored or edited widely circulated textbooks on arithmetic, astronomy, geography, grammar, literature, music, pedagogy, and science (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Bruce D. Heald, New Hampshire Learnin’ Days: Dudley Leavitt, “Master” [1772–1851] [1987]: 25–53; Emily Leavitt Noyes, Leavitt: Descendants of John, the Immigrant Through His Son, Moses [1941], 65–9; Amherst, N.H., Farmers’ Cabinet, 24 Sept. 1851).

James ferguson’s work was entitled Astronomical Tables and Precepts, For calculating the true Times of New and Full Moons, And shewing the method of projecting Eclipses, from the Creation of the World to A.D. 7800. To which is prefixed, A Short Theory of the Solar and Lunar Motions (London, 1763).

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; TJ as president of search
  • Astronomical Tables and Precepts, For calculating the true Times of New and Full Moons (J. Ferguson) search
  • astronomy; and lunar calculations search
  • Ferguson, James; Astronomical Tables and Precepts, For calculating the true Times of New and Full Moons search
  • Leavitt, Dudley; identified search
  • Leavitt, Dudley; letters from search
  • Leavitt, Dudley; Table for Determining the Moon’s Quarters search