Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Melish to Thomas Jefferson, 12 November 1814

From John Melish

Philadelphia 12 Nov 1814

Dear Sir

Considering the late pretensions set up by the British at Ghent, to be of such a nature as to set aside all the ordinary principles of reasoning, I was of opinion that the best mode of exhibiting their nature and tendency was to publish a map representing the proposed Boundary, which I have the honour to enclose accompanied by the Documents relative to the negotiation, and remarks on the extent of the British pretensions, and the effect they would produce if acceded to.—

Mr Monroes instructions to the Plenipotentiaries, N 1, is an admirable production; and the whole of the Documents are an excellent Commentary on the State of the relations between this Country and Britain,—too valuable to be laid aside Among the mass of matter in the newspapers. The remarks will I hope meet your approbation

The Juvenile Atlas would have been Sent long ago, but being in folio I could not get it forwarded through the medium of the post office. It is now forwarded to my friend mr Thomas Richie of Richmond, who will send it to you.—

Some time ago I published a description of the Roads in the United States, of which I would have Sent you a Copy; but I am preparing a short Geographical description of the United States with some local maps to Accompany it1 when it will be published Anew under the title of “A Travelling Directory” As soon as it is ready I shall forward it.

Having devoted my time almost exclusively to the study of American Geography, and of promulgating Valuable matter regarding it, I am very desirous of seeing Authentic maps & Descriptions of the Various States. I had in connection with some of the principal Artists here made preparations for publishing a General American Atlas, upon the plan exhibited in the enclosed prospectus, and Circular; but in consequence of the general pressure of the times we have suspended the publication; but not abandoned it. A number of the General maps are nearly engraved, and we will resume the subject as soon as it appears there will be a sufficient demand for the Work to defray the expence. In the meantime I would wish to promote the promulgation of the Geography of the Country by States—keeping in view that any maps to be delineated for that purpose shall in size & execution comport with the plan of the General Atlas, of which they may eventually form a part. In turning this subject in my mind it has occurred to me that A new Edition of Your notes on Virginia accompanied by A map of the kind alluded to would be an excellent subject to begin with. The estimation in which I hold this work is well known, and it would give me real pleasure to Contribute my aid in bringing forward a new Edition of it embracing a view of the present State of Virginia. I hope I will not be deemed presumtuous in suggesting this subject for consideration. In doing so I am solely Actuated by a desire to see a work reissued in a new dress, which I think would be honourable to the State of Virginia, and valuable to the American Community. In case you should think favourably of the suggestion my own services are offered because I think that my Arrangements are such that I can do more justice in the editorial department of a Geographical & Statistical work than Any other publisher in this Country.

With perfect respect & esteem I am Dear Sir Your obd—

John Melish

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Nov. 1814 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Melish, The Sine Qua Non: A Map of the United States, shewing the boundary line proposed by the British commissioners at Ghent, with the documents relative to the negotiations (Philadelphia, 1814), including Secretary of State James Monroe’s instructions of 15 Apr. 1813 to the American treaty commissioners (pp. 3–21) and Melish’s 8 Nov. 1814 “Remarks on the extent of the British pretensions, and the Effect they would produce if acceded to,” which concluded that the British were demanding American territory totaling “Above 165 millions of acres,” worth “Nearly 125 millions of dollars,” and peopled by “128 thousand inhabitants” (pp. 57–63, quotations on p. 63). (2) Melish’s “Prospectus of an American General Atlas,” criticizing previously published atlases; hailing “the improved state of geographical science in the United States”; listing the work’s projected thirty-six maps (two in two sheets and one in four sheets), to consist of the earth as a whole, the five most heavily populated continents, Canada, Mexico, the West Indies, the United States, and all twenty-three of its states and territories; vowing that the maps will be detailed and accurate; announcing his business arrangement with three noted engravers, George Murray, Henry Schenck Tanner, and John Vallance; stating that the publication will consist of forty-one 22-by-20-inch sheets, on “paper of the best quality” and “handsomely coloured,” and be published in ten numbers at two-month intervals at a total cost of fifty dollars; and offering a free copy to those who obtain seven subscriptions and collect the money (DLC: TJ Papers, 201:36041–2; printed text with handwritten correction by Melish of his Philadelphia address from 209 Chesnut Street to 330 Market Street; undated). (3) Circular letter by Melish, Philadelphia, 18 July 1814, declaring his intention to publish henceforth “maps, charts, and geographical works generally”; explaining that under his new arrangement, he will be in charge of the “geographical department,” Tanner and Vallance will oversee the engraving of the maps, and Murray will be in charge of “vignette and ornamental engraving”; remarking that his earlier publications have been received favorably; hoping that he will secure “public patronage”; advertising the American General Atlas and indicating that “specimens of the work so far as executed, are to be seen at the Map Store” at 330 Market Street; commenting on the difficulty and high cost of producing state and local “maps from actual survey,” but promising to execute works of that nature “free of such expence, and with a degree of celerity hitherto unknown”; with an annexed “List of Works Lately Published,” consisting of fifteen numbered items, including Melish’s “Travels in the United States,” a “Description of Florida,” a “Plan of Quebec,” documents relating to the British takeover of Canada in 1759–60, a “Statistical Account of the United States,” the New Juvenile Atlas described below, and maps of “the Seat of War in North America,” the United States, the coastline from Norfolk, Virginia, to Newport, Rhode Island, the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, New York Harbor, Long Island Sound, the Detroit River, Ohio, “the Seat of War in Europe,” and Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania; and also announcing that Melish, “A Description of the Roads in the United States,” and Miguel Ramos Arizpe, “Memorial on the Natural, Political, and Civil State of the Provinces of Cohauila [Coahuila], Texas, &c. in the Kingdom of Mexico,” are both “In the press and will speedily be published” (DLC: TJ Papers, 201:36043; printed text with handwritten correction by Melish of his address as in preceding enclosure; with “List of Works” on verso).

The juvenile atlas was the first American edition of Robert Laurie and James Whittle’s A New Juvenile Atlas, and familiar introduction to the use of maps (Philadelphia, 1814). On this date Melish wrote President James Madison a very similar letter enclosing a copy of The Sine Qua Non (DLC: Madison Papers).

1Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • A New Juvenile Atlas, and familiar introduction to the use of maps (R. Laurie and J. Whittle) search
  • Canada; maps of search
  • Coahuila, Mexico (now part of Tex.); works on search
  • Europe; maps of search
  • Florida; description of search
  • Ghent; peace negotiations at search
  • Great Britain; peace with search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Laurie, Robert; A New Juvenile Atlas, and familiar introduction to the use of maps search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letter to, from J. Melish search
  • maps; of Canada search
  • maps; of Coahuila, Mexico (now part of Tex.) search
  • maps; of Europe search
  • maps; of Mexico search
  • maps; of Ohio search
  • maps; of Pennsylvania search
  • maps; of U.S. search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • maps; of West Indies search
  • Melish, John; and revised edition of TJ’s Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Melish, John; as cartographer search
  • Melish, John; circular letter of search
  • Melish, John; engravers hired by search
  • Melish, John; letters from search
  • Melish, John; letters to J. Madison from search
  • Melish, John; List of Works Lately Published search
  • Melish, John; proposal for printing a general atlas search
  • Melish, John; proposal for printing an American atlas search
  • Melish, John; store of search
  • Melish, John; The Sine Qua Non: A Map of the United States search
  • Melish, John; Travels in the United States of America search
  • Melish, John; works of search
  • Memorial on the Natural, Political, and Civil State of the Province of Cohauila (M. Ramos Arizpe) search
  • Mexico; M. Ramos Arizpe’s work on search
  • Mexico; maps of search
  • Monroe, James; and peace negotiations with Great Britain search
  • Murray, George; engraver for J. Melish search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); revised edition proposed search
  • Ohio; maps of search
  • Pennsylvania; maps of search
  • Quebec; plan of search
  • Ramos Arizpe, Miguel; work on Coahuila, Mexico (now part of Tex.) search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; agent for J. Melish search
  • roads; in U.S. search
  • Tanner, Henry Schenck; as engraver search
  • Texas (Spanish colony); map of Coahuila search
  • The Sine Qua Non: A Map of the United States (J. Melish) search
  • Travels in the United States of America (J. Melish) search
  • United States; maps of search
  • United States; roads in search
  • Vallance, John; as engraver search
  • Virginia; maps of search
  • War of1812; and peace negotiations search
  • West Indies; maps of search
  • Whittle, Robert; A New Juvenile Atlas, and familiar introduction to the use of maps search