Thomas Jefferson Papers

Obadiah Rich to Thomas Jefferson, 15 July 1815

From Obadiah Rich

Georgetown Dist. Cola July 15 1815.


The enclosed letter from my worthy friend the Revd Dr Bentley of Salem has been some time in my posession, retained with the hope of delivering it to you personally. I now take the liberty of forwarding it, and of making myself known to you, feeling confident that, having from my youth cultivated the Sciences of Natural history and Botany, Sciences which you have not thought unworthy your attention, you will not consider this as too great an intrusion, nor refuse to accept of the accompanying little work (the production of a few leisure months) and that I may even be permitted to hope you will not consider as impertinent the favor I am about to ask. Having resided several years in Spain and acquired a knowledge of the language, Commerce &c of that Country, I have been induced to offer myself as a candidate for a Consulate there, and understanding, a native citizen with Suitable recommendations would obtain that of Malaga, I have applied to my friends for their aid in this object. While I was in Spain my friends in this country volunteered a Strong recommendation in my favor for the consulate of Valencia (copy of which I take the liberty of enclosing) but owing to the State of the country at that time no consular appointments were made for it; and on my return to this country in 1812 I withdrew the application. I Shall receive the support of all the gentlemen whose Signatures are annexed to that paper, who are Still living, and of many others of equal respectability; but permit me Sir to add, that with none Should I feel So confident of Success, or personally so much gratified, as with the Support your name would give to my application: May I be permitted to Solicit it?

Very respectfully I am Sir Your most obedt—&c

O Rich

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 July 1815 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) William Bentley to TJ, 16 Apr. 1812. (2) Rich, A Synopsis of the Genera of American Plants, According to the Latest Improvements on the Linnæn System: With the new Genera of Michaux and others (Georgetown, 1814). (3) Crowell Hatch and eleven other Boston merchants to James Madison, Sept. 1809, recommending Rich’s appointment as United States consul at Valencia in light of his current residence at that place, his “Talent, Integrity, and Love of Country,” and his recent efforts on behalf of American fisheries (Tr in DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17; endorsed by Secretary of State James Monroe as “Relating to Mr Rich” and by an unidentified State Department clerk, in part, as “Sundry Merchants of Boston recommend Mr Rich to be Consul at Malaga”). Enclosed in TJ to Madison, 23 July 1815.

Obadiah Rich (1783–1850), merchant, diplomat, and bibliophile, was born at Truro, Massachusetts, but later resided in Boston where, as a young man, he was employed by Hatch. By 1809 Rich was an established merchant in Valencia, Spain. After returning to the United States in 1810, he settled two years later in Georgetown, where he was a founder of the Central Bank of Georgetown and Washington and a commissioner for the Georgetown Importing and Exporting Company. Rich served as the United States consul at Valencia from 1816 until his replacement early in Andrew Jackson’s presidency, but he moved to Madrid in 1823 in order to take charge of the archives of the American legation. While there, he collected books and manuscripts relating to the history of Spain and Latin America. Many of his purchases were later sold to American book collectors and libraries, with the bulk of his manuscript collection now housed at the New York Public Library. In 1828 Rich established a home and bookstore in London, where he published a gazetteer, A General View of the United States of America [1833; 2d ed., 1836]. He was the purchasing agent in London for the Library of Congress, 1830–50, and served as the United States consul at Port Mahon, on the Spanish island of Minorca, 1834–45. Rich maintained his London bookstore and continued to buy rare books and manuscripts until his death (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Norman P. Tucker, “Obadiah Rich [1783–1850]: American in Spain,” in Vern G. Williamsen and A. F. Michael Atlee, eds., Studies in Honor of Ruth Lee Kennedy [1977], 133–46; Benjamin Homans to James Monroe, 24 July 1815 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Norwich [Conn.] Courier, 25 Oct. 1809; Georgetown Federal Republican, 10 Mar. 1815; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 15 July 1815; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:29, 34, 4:68, 447, 453, 7:6 [14 Feb., 6 Mar. 1816, 12 Mar. 1830, 10, 30 Dec. 1834, 18 Dec. 1845]; Rich, Bibliotheca Americana Nova; or, A Catalogue of Books in Various Languages, Relating to America, Printed Since the Year 1700 [1835]; Edwin Blake Brownrigg, Colonial Latin American Manuscripts and Transcripts in the Obadiah Rich Collection: An Inventory and Index [1978], vii–xv; William Dawson Johnston, History of the Library of Congress [1904], 1:226, 246, 350–1; Athenæum Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts [1850]: 102).

gentlemen in Boston and men of equal respectability from Georgetown and Washington signed petitions and wrote letters recommending Rich in 1815. He requested a consular appointment to Málaga in his application of 22 July 1815 to Secretary of State James Monroe. Failing to receive a reply, Rich then wrote Monroe on 22 Dec. 1815 and 11 Feb. 1816 asking for an appointment to Valencia instead (all DNA: RG 59, LAR [1809–17]).

Index Entries

  • A Synopsis of the Genera of American Plants (O. Rich) search
  • Bentley, William (of Massachusetts); introduces O. Rich search
  • books; on botany search
  • botany; books on search
  • Hatch, Crowell; recommends O. Rich search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letters of recommendation to search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Rich, Obadiah; A Synopsis of the Genera of American Plants search
  • Rich, Obadiah; identified search
  • Rich, Obadiah; letter from search
  • Rich, Obadiah; letter of introduction for, from W. Bentley search
  • Rich, Obadiah; recommended for appointment search
  • Rich, Obadiah; seeks consular appointment search
  • Spain; U.S. consuls to search