Thomas Jefferson Papers

Isaac Briggs to Thomas Jefferson, 7 May 1816, with Postscript by Mary B. Briggs

From Isaac Briggs, with Postscript by Mary B. Briggs

Wilmington, 5mo–7–1816. (Delaware)

My dear Friend,

Thy kind favor, of Apr 17. 16, had been forwarded from Brookeville to this place, my present residence, during a second journey I have made to Washington City. I returned yesterday.

While in the Metropolis, I conceived an expectation, which1 still exists, of an employment either in the survey of the line between the United States and the British possessions, from the source of St Croix to the river St Lawrence, or in the Survey of the coast—Or if these surveys should be so organised as to place the scientific operations under the special direction of one person to be stationed at some central point, to and from which the communication would be easy; this director to receive the notes and make all the calculations and maps—at my age, I should prefer such a station, leaving to younger men the more active and laborious operations of tracing lines and measuring bases, of taking angles and making astronomical observations. By the time this letter reaches thee, I expect our friend James Madison will be at Montpelier, I should be glad if thou and he could converse on the subject, and what you think best for me, that do—what you think best for our country, I am sure you will do.

I thank thee feelingly for thy wishes to engage me in the survey of Virginia—the circumstance of its bringing me often near to thee in body as I always am in mind, inclines me to it strongly; but whatever thou dost for me, I believe I shall think best.

I wish much for a careful examination of the ground between the nearest waters of James River and of the Cheat River—and between the nearest waters of the Potomak and of the Monongahela, as to its level, with a view to a future navigation across the Alegany mountains. I believe most firmly such a navigation is practicable, and that the consequences of it would be of great national importance.

I will consider with my best attention thy astronomical problem, and in a future communication, state the result.

My whole family join me in salutations of affectionate regard for our friend and benefactor.

Isaac Briggs.

My father has given me permission to add a few lines to his letter by way of Postscript—I joyfully accept it; and with a heart glowing with gratitude & affection I acknowledge the receipt of thy kind & highly-valued favor of 17th Inst. I wish it were possible to express to thee, the gratification,—the happiness it afforded me;—I shall ever prize it, as one of my dearest treasures. For the good wishes it contains—so flattering to my heart,—I feel something which I cannot describe,—a something more than gratitude—and my feelings, for the writer, claim a higher appellation than common esteem & love.

With all the energy of which my warm and grateful heart is capable, I shall ever offer prayers to Heaven for thee!—and with Sentiments of affectionate, regard I am thy friend,

Mary B Briggs

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as separate letters from Isaac Briggs and Mary B. Briggs received 16 May 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Ashur Ware, 22 Aug. 1816, on verso; addressed by Isaac Briggs: “Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, Virginia”; franked; postmarked Wilmington, Del., 8 May.

Isaac Briggs apparently hoped for federal employment, either to work on the survey of the line between Maine and British territory in Canada as mandated in Article 5 of the Treaty of Ghent, or to assist with the survey of the coast of the eastern United States as required by “An Act to provide for surveying the coasts of the United States,” 10 Feb. 1807 (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:577–8; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:413–4).

1Isaac Briggs here canceled “is not.”

Index Entries

  • Briggs, Isaac; letters from search
  • Briggs, Isaac; petitions Congress search
  • Briggs, Isaac; proposed as surveyor of Va. search
  • Briggs, Isaac; seeks employment search
  • Briggs, Isaac; surveyor of federal lands search
  • Briggs, Mary Brooke; expresses gratitude search
  • Briggs, Mary Brooke; letter from search
  • Canada; survey of border of search
  • canals; proposed search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); visits Montpellier (Madison family estate) search
  • Maine; survey of border of with Canada search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); J. Madison plans to visit search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • surveying; and new map of Va. search
  • surveying; Maine-Canada border survey search
  • surveying; U.S. Coast Survey search
  • United States; surveys of search
  • Virginia; maps of search