Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jesse Torrey to Thomas Jefferson, 6 April 1816

From Jesse Torrey

Washington April 6, 1816.

Dear Sir,

In compliance with an intention* which I have many years entertained, and also with the advice of one of the Editors of the National Intelligencer, I now use the freedom of presenting for your consideration, my proposed scheme of a universal and economical system for the general dissemination of knowledge and moral improvement in the United States, through the medium of free Libraries.

The expression of your sentiments, when convenient, on the suggestions1 relative to this subject, contained in the accompanying publication, would be received as a particular favor, by your most obedient servant and friend,

Jesse Torrey Jnr

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 May 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (Mrs. T. Wilber Chelf, Mrs. Virginius Dabney, and Mrs. Alexander W. Parker, Richmond, 1944; photocopy in ViU: TJP); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Patrick Gibson, 15 May 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virg—.”

The enclosed work, written by Torrey under the pseudonym “Discipulus Libertatis atque Humanitatis (Pupil of Liberty and Humanity.),” was The Intellectual Flambeau, demonstrating that National Happiness, Virtue & Temperance exist, in a Collateral Ratio, with the Dissemination of Philosophy, Science & Intelligence, with an Appendix, containing several Splendid Poems on the Advantages of Mental Improvement, and on Charity (Washington, 1816; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 [no. 489]). It argued that a public system of Lancasterian schools and free libraries should be underwritten by taxes on strong alcoholic beverages, thereby “extracting the greatest Good from the worst Evil” (p. 100).

1Word interlined in place of “propositions.”

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* *The object of carrying this intention into effect, by communicating with you personally on the subject, formed a great share of the inducements which led me to visit your residence at Monticello, in August last. But from your having declined an investigation of the physiological problems, which I proposed to suggest, and from your being under an engagement to ride from home soon, I conceived it to be improper to introduce the subject at that moment, or to obtrude a proposal for a second call; and therefore concluded to defer the execution of my purpose to a future period.

 †Mr Seaton.

Index Entries

  • alcohol; taxation of search
  • education; Lancasterian model search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • libraries; free search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Torrey, Jesse search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); editors of search
  • physiology; study of search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visit to search
  • Seaton, William Winston; editor of WashingtonNational Intelligencer search
  • taxes; on alcohol search
  • The Intellectual Flambeau (“Discipulus Libertatis atque Humanitatis” [J. Torrey]) search
  • Torrey, Jesse; letters from search
  • Torrey, Jesse; physiological studies by search
  • Torrey, Jesse; The Intellectual Flambeau (written under pseudonym of “Discipulus Libertatis atque Humanitatis”) search
  • Torrey, Jesse; visits Monticello search
  • “Discipulus Libertatis atque Humanitatis” (J. Torrey); The Intellectual Flambeau search