Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Sampson to Thomas Jefferson, 26 November 1816

From William Sampson

New York 26. Novr 1816


An antient colleague and fellow student of mine has, in sending me as an authors gift several Copies of his political works, made it a request that I should present one of them to you; entitled “On National Government.” I have so recently received these donations that I have not had time yet to peruse them, nor should I willingly presume to forestall your better judgement upon the merit of the work which he has dedicated to you If the author had no other merit it would be enough for me that he is zealous in the Cause of my unfortunate Country, that I have known him in my former days for a Gentleman and a scholar, and that he evinces his Respect for the character of one esteemed Respected and admired by us all. I therefore pray you, Sir, to accept the volume transmitted as a token of that Respect and to Receive the assurances of my sincere veneration as its accompanyment

William Sampson

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 24 Dec. 1816 and so recorded in SJL, which has the additional notation that it was delivered “by Dr J. Bradner Stuart of N. York.” Enclosure: George Ensor, On National Government, 2 vols. (London, 1810; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 10 [no. 627]).

William Sampson (1764–1836), attorney and author, was born in Londonderry and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and later at the Inns of Court in London. In 1790 he returned to Ireland, where he established a successful legal practice, played a role in the Irish nationalist movement, and published numerous literary, political, and satirical pieces. Sampson was arrested and charged with treason in 1798. Although he was never tried, he agreed to go into exile late that year. After spending the following seven years on the continent of Europe, Sampson returned to Great Britain in 1806, but he was immediately arrested and deported, at government expense, to New York City. He quickly rose to the top of the American legal profession and published his memoirs, a copy of which he sent to TJ in 1807. In his later writings and at the bar, Sampson denounced British policy toward Ireland; advocated common-law reform, personal rights, and the codification of law in the United States; and supported the interests of his fellow Irish expatriates. He died in New York City (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 ; ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Sampson to TJ, 12 Dec. [1807] [DLC]; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 441; New York Evening Post, 29 Dec. 1836; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 2, 7 Jan. 1837).

One of the enclosed volumes became separated from the other and may never have reached TJ. In addition, at this time or shortly thereafter, Sampson decided to send TJ a copy of Ensor’s Defects of the English Laws and Tribunals (London, 1812). This work also apparently did not find its way to Monticello (Sampson to TJ, 30 Nov. 1816; TJ to Sampson, 30 Dec. 1816).

Index Entries

  • books; on government search
  • Defects of the English Laws and Tribunals (G. Ensor) search
  • Ensor, George; Defects of the English Laws and Tribunals search
  • Ensor, George; On National Government search
  • Great Britain; laws of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • law; books on search
  • law; British search
  • On National Government (G. Ensor) search
  • politics; books on government search
  • Sampson, William; and books for TJ search
  • Sampson, William; identified search
  • Sampson, William; letters from search
  • Stuart, Josephus Bradner; delivers letters search