Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Thornton, 24 December 1814

To William Thornton

Monticello Dec. 24. 14.

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 11th is duly recieved, and the two drawings you desire shall be immediately packed. the difficulty of finding a conveyance may occasion delay. that which you propose with the books is uncertain; but I will be on the watch for a passenger in the stage to Washington, who will take care of the box to give it an inside passage.1 the painting of Hector & Andromache had been made by West for his own purposes, & was given by him to Genl Kosciuzko when he was in London recieving the compliments, addresses, services of plate Etc which he had so well merited. on his leaving this country he gave it to me. Clopper exhibited his loom at the court of our county, and might on that day have contracted for 20 or 30. single looms at the Connecticut or Baltimore prices; but asking 100.D. for a loom, and 50.D. for the patent right of a single one, he contracted for not a single one, and never will here. for the people on reflection asked why give 100.D. to let the left hand & both feet be idle? if I could employ them on some thing else while the right hand is doing their work, it might be worth while. mr Cooper too in his last Emporium has brought the originality of the invention into doubt. he supposes the machinery taken from that of the water, steam & horse looms which have been many years introduced into England & France, & some here. the price of a loom in Connecticut is 40.D. in Baltimore 50.D. the patent price of a single one 20.D. the patentee at Baltimore very kindly wrote to me in consequence of your letter to him, and offered to make me one for 50.D. but as I dare not use it here without paying 50.D. more for a patent right, I have deferred answering him until I could negociate with the patentee here. the law I think should not permit sales by geographical districts. every man should be free to use any where what he can lawfully buy any where. this abuse with the plagiarisms committed & imposed on us renders the advantage of the patent law problematical. I wish it were a rule for you to report to Congress annually the titles of the patents granted in the year. I have your report of 1811. if there have been any others, one of the supernumerary copies would be very acceptable.—your trials in Washington have been severe. but they have done us double good by rousing our people and loading our enemies with eternal disgrace. I hope the public buildings will be repaired, without regard to expence. that of their library will be more than repaired should they conclude to take mine. the rarity of many of the books and choice of editions of the greater part render the collection really valuable. present my respects to the ladies & accept the assurance of my great esteem

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Thornton Papers); addressed: “Doctr William Thornton Washington. Col.”; franked; postmarked Milton, 28 Dec. PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ.

After mentioning Walter Janes’s patent, Thomas Cooper commented in his emporium that “It seems to me a kind of speculation in the Eastern states … to take out patents for English inventions, and sell the patent rights to the more careless and credulous manufacturers in the Southern states. But I wish it were recollected, that by the laws of the United States, no patent can be legally obtained for an invention already invented: no man can legally obtain a patent under our federal laws, for merely introducing a process or machine invented elsewhere” (Emporium of Arts & Sciences, new ser., 3 [1814]: 458–9). The patentee at baltimore of Janes’s loom, George Greer, had written TJ on 9 Aug. 1814. The patentee here in Virginia was Francis C. Clopper.

1Reworked from “package.”

Index Entries

  • Clopper, Francis C.; patent agent search
  • Cooper, Thomas; and Emporium of Arts & Sciences search
  • Cooper, Thomas; and W. Janes’s patent search
  • Emporium of Arts & Sciences; mentioned search
  • Greer, George; as patent agent search
  • Janes, Walter; loom of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; British destruction in Washington search
  • Kosciuszko, Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura; and B. West’s The Fright of Astyanax search
  • Library of Congress; TJ sells personal library to search
  • looms search
  • machines; loom search
  • paintings; by B. West search
  • paintings; lent by TJ search
  • patents; lists of search
  • patents; of W. Janes search
  • patents; TJ on patent rights search
  • The Fright of Astyanax (B. West) search
  • Thornton, William; and W. Janes’s loom search
  • Thornton, William; as patent office superintendent search
  • Thornton, William; borrows paintings from TJ search
  • Thornton, William; letters to search
  • War of1812; British destruction in Washington search
  • Washington, D.C.; British destruction in search
  • West, Benjamin; The Fright of Astyanax search