Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel M. Burnside, 8 August 1814

To Samuel M. Burnside

Monticello Aug. 8. 14.


I have recently recieved your favor of July 12. informing me that the American Antiquarian society had done me the honor of electing me a member of their body. duly sensible of this honor, and thankful for such a mark of their favor, I pray you to be the channel of communicating to them these sentiments. from the circumstances of age and distance, I fear I shall be able to carry into their service little more than sincere dispositions to be useful to them whenever it shall be in my power.

I avail myself of this occasion of placing a paper, which has long been in my possession, in a deposit where, if it has any value, it may at sometime be called into use. it is a compilation of historical facts relating, some of them to other states, but the most to Massachusets, and especially to the Indian affairs of that quarter, during the first century of our settlement. this being the department of our history in which materials are most defective, it may perhaps offer something not elsewhere preserved. it seems to have been the work of a careful hand, and manifests an exactitude which commands confidence. it was given to me about 50. years ago by William Burnet Brown who removed to Virginia, from Massachusets I believe. he told me he had found it among the archives of his family. I understood he was a descendant of your Governor1 Burnet, son of the bishop of that name. the writer speaks of himself in one place only (pa. 11. column 1.) and I should have conjectured him to have been Governor Burnet himself but that in pa. 7. col. 3. the Govr is spoken of in the 3d person. all this however is much more within the scope of your conjecture, & I pray you to accept the paper for the use of the society, & to be assured of the sentiments of my high respect and consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (MWA: American Antiquarian Society Archives); at foot of text: “Samuel M. Burnside Secy of the Amer. Antiq. Society at Worcester”; endorsed by Burnside. PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosure: chronological description of English discoveries and settlements in North America, French discoveries and settlements in North America, and the “State of the Indian Tribes in North America,” with entries from 1620 through 1691 (MS in MWA: Indians of North America, Miscellaneous Papers; in an unidentified hand; undated, but compiled after 1703 and probably before 1727; containing twenty-five pages of text organized in three columns and additional blank sheets randomly interleaved; docketed on page 1: “Presented to the American Antiquarian Society by the Hon. Thomas Jefferson, late President of the United States. Augt 1814”; with similar information appearing on a separate cover sheet, but there mistakenly recording date of receipt as “1815”; cover sheet also notes that “This MS. was presented to Mr Jefferson by a Gentleman, Mr Burnet, from New England, about the year 1763”).

Burnside’s favor of july 12. consisted of or enclosed a certificate, signed and dated by Burnside as recording secretary, informing TJ that at its recent meeting the American Antiquarian Society had elected him to membership, asking that he communicate his acceptance of that status, and including a postscript: “N. B. Each member pays annually to the Treasurer Two Dollars,” with handwritten addition by Burnside: “if he belong to Massachusetts” (MS in MHi, printed form with dateline, signature, and final five words of postscript filled in by Burnside; either this document or a missing covering letter from Burnside is recorded in SJL as received 25 July 1814). A later membership diploma gave TJ’s date of election as 1 June 1814 (note to TJ to Rejoice Newton, 8 Dec. 1821).

The enclosed compilation of historical facts is based in part on records of the New York Commissioners for Indian Affairs that are no longer extant, and in some instances provides unique evidence of treaty proceedings between English, Iroquois, and Mohican negotiators (Daniel K. Richter, “Rediscovered Links in the Covenant Chain: Previously Unpublished Transcripts of New York Indian Treaty Minutes, 1677–1691,” American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, new ser., 92 [1982]: 45–85).

On pa. 11. column 1, the enclosure’s author begins his notes on 26 Dec. 1677 by describing “The Transactions of the Commissioners at Albany Which I have by me.” On pa. 7. col. 3, under the date 1664, the author notes that “Govr Burnets Manuscript Extracted from french author says …”

1TJ here canceled “Brown, son.”

Index Entries

  • American Antiquarian Society; S. Burnside as recording secretary of search
  • American Antiquarian Society; TJ elected a member search
  • American Antiquarian Society; TJ sends historical manuscript to search
  • Brown, William Burnet; family of search
  • Brown, William Burnet; gives historical manuscript to TJ search
  • Burnet, William; family of search
  • Burnet, William; royal governor search
  • Burnside, Samuel McGregore; as recording secretary of American Antiquarian Society search
  • Burnside, Samuel McGregore; letters from accounted for search
  • Burnside, Samuel McGregore; letters to search
  • history; TJ donates historical manuscripts search
  • Indians; historical manuscript concerning search
  • Indians; Iroquois search
  • Indians; Mohican search
  • Iroquois Indians search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; sends manuscripts search
  • Massachusetts; governor of search
  • Massachusetts; historical manuscript concerning search
  • Mohican Indians search