Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hosea Humphrey to Thomas Jefferson, 31 December 1815

From Hosea Humphrey

Johnston near Providence R.I. Decr 31st 1815

Respected sir

Although you enjoy in retirement the warmest approbation and esteem of every honest American yet it is not to be supposed that your mind is not occupied with carefull attention to the concerns of our country and if notwithstanding the abilities and integrity of our cheif Magistrate and the administration in general occasion requires your usefull advice is not with held yet sir it cannot be doubted but you find leasure to attend to those Philosophical investigations which have Occupied your mind from childhood which is incontestably evident from those comprehensive views of human concerns that you have so freequently exhibited and which could not be disconnected with a knowledge of almost all attainable1 natural causes and effects

Having published many new Ideas concerning natural opperations and novelty being considered by a great part of mankind as conclusive evidence of error and being sensible of the probability thereof from prejudice in favour of my own productions—but still having confidence in the correctness of what I have advanced and wishing the work to be perused by the ablest Philosophers not doubting they will do strict justice in the premises I have taken the liberty to present you a volume which tho small in extent may be much Smaller in consequence and permit me sir earnestly to request that if upon perusal you Shall find it unworthy of attention you will consider yourself under not the least obligation to read it through—and if at any future time when at Leasure you Shall consider it So far worthy attention as to induce you to write me any observations concerning it, you will be at least as candid in notifying me of its errors as any matters you may approve of therein

The accompanying pamphlet is worth your reading no further than to discover my political Sentiments as respects parties

The hand Bill contains an attempted appology for the want of systematic arrangement in the work a part of which ought to have been bound with the Sheets

Accept sir the assurance of my Cordial respects for your merit and unfeigned wishes for your happiness

Hosea Humphrey

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr late Presiden of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 June 1816 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Humphrey, A Dissertation on Fire, or Miscellaneous Inquiries and Reflections concerning the Operations of the Laws of Nature; with An Appendix, containing Thoughts on Memory, Reflection, Decision, Muscular Motion, &c. (Providence, 1814; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 7 [no. 302]). (2) Humphrey, Long Talk, spoken at Seekhonk, on the Fourth of July, 1812; before the Tammany Society, Panther Tribe, Number 1—Massachusetts (Newport, R.I., 1813; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 13 [no. 826]; TJ’s copy in ViU). (3) Advertisement for Humphrey’s Dissertation on Fire, indicating that Humphrey began the work for his own entertainment when illness and severe weather prevented him from working; describing his lifelong interest in observing and considering natural phenomena; expressing his surprise that what he had originally planned as a short, anonymous pamphlet had swollen to double its intended length plus an appendix; attributing any errors in the book to the limited time he could devote to writing, owing to his need to work to pay off the debt he incurred when his cotton mill burned; and asserting that the work is entirely the product of “his own reflection and reasoning” (broadside in ViU, bound with TJ’s copy of Humphrey’s Long Talk). Probably enclosed in Hugh Nelson to TJ, 7 June 1816.

Hosea Humphrey (1757–1816), physician and textile manufacturer, was a native of Norfolk, Connecticut. Early in his career he worked as a saddle and harness maker in Providence, Rhode Island. Humphrey represented Norfolk in Connecticut’s House of Representatives in 1787, and he served in the state’s 1788 ratification convention, where he voted against adopting the new United States Constitution. By 1800 he was living in Rhode Island, where he served as justice of the peace for North Providence, 1801–06. Humphrey was running a wool-carding business by 1805, and he opened a cotton mill in North Providence the following year. He died in Johnston, Rhode Island (Frederick Humphreys, The Humphreys Family in America [1883], 144–5; Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution [1976– ], 3:343, 436–7, 539, 547; DNA: RG 29, CS, R.I., Providence, 1800; Joseph Jencks Smith, comp., Civil and Military List of Rhode Island. 1800–1850 [1901], 19, 33, 50, 65, 79, 92; Providence Phœnix, 21 Sept. 1805, 14 Feb. 1807; Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, transmitting a Report, in Part, on the Subject of American Manufactures [Washington, 1810]; John Warner Barber, Historical Collections, being a general collection of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, &c., relating to the History and Antiquities of Every Town in Massachusetts [1839], 138; Boston Weekly Messenger, 11 July 1816).

On this date Humphrey sent a similar letter and set of enclosures to President James Madison (DLC: Madison Papers).

1Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • A Dissertation on Fire (H. Humphrey) search
  • books; on natural history search
  • Humphrey, Hosea; A Dissertation on Fire search
  • Humphrey, Hosea; identified search
  • Humphrey, Hosea; letter from search
  • Humphrey, Hosea; Long Talk, spoken at Seekhonk, on the Fourth of July, 1812 search
  • Humphrey, Hosea; sends works to TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Long Talk, spoken at Seekhonk, on the Fourth of July, 1812 (H. Humphrey) search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search