Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Humphreys to Thomas Jefferson, [ca. 23] January 1817

From Thomas Humphreys

Lynchburg 2 [ca. 23] January 1817


The unbounded expansion of your mind, leaves me no doubt, of an excuse being extended, for the unpresidented Liberty, I have here taken, in addressing to you, the subject matter embraced in the Envelope.

In submitting to a gentleman of your eminently high, & Commanding Station, in the literary world, together with your vast, & extensive experience in life; the enclosed plan; having for its object; the Libration from chains of slavery, (& permit me to add too,) and the princely settlement, of upwards of a million of the Human Race: I derive a satisfaction, far beyond the power of language to express.

The plan is vast, it is worthy of such a great free, and magnanimous People, as constitute the great American republic;

The enjoyment of 20 years peace, & prosperity, would completely repay, & refund the Government; the money expended; in the purchasing, transportation, & settling of the Coloured People.

The principle number of the Male slaves; Understand Farming, & Planting; Or are well versant, in the various mechanical branches of business.

Many also of the females; having been brought up in genteel families, would prove greatly instrumental, in producing industry, Taste, & neatness; & in manufacturing, & making, a vast deal of their necessary clothing.

This republic of coloured people; would be greatly instrumental, in civilizing & planting the christian religion, as also the principles of Liberty, & independence; in that degraded Country of Africa: and Again, If they exercised the principles; that would be put within their grasp; they would with the advantages, & experience they possess; in 50 years, be in as high a national state of advancment; as many of the nations of the Earth, have arrived at, in the space of 200 years.

Whether you will approve of the principle, embraced in the enclosed statement: Or out of the vast & inexaustible store, of your own expanded mind; produced a plan; vastly superior: nothing would have so great a tendency to ensure its adoption, as your personal recommendation of it, to Congress; & to the assemblies of the several slave states. At the request of Mr John Kerr, member of congress from this district, I lately forwarded him a copy of the Enclosed: & also one to Mr William J Lewis, & Christopher Anthony, the present delagates, from the County of Campbell to the General Assembly of Virginia.

A few lines embracing your sentiments, of this momentuous subject, when your convenience will admit, will be considered a very great favor confered on me.

With Sentiments of Respect & Esteem I Remain

Thomas Humphreys—

RC (DLC: TJ Papers, 209:37223); misdated, with correct date conjectured from second date on enclosure; composed in two sittings, with some revisions and signature in a different ink; between dateline and salutation: “The Honble Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 2 Jan. 1817 received 5 Feb. 1817 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Humphreys, 8 Feb. 1817, on verso; addressed (torn): “The Honble [. . .]”; postmarked Lynchburg, 1 Feb.

Thomas Humphreys (ca. 1748–1825), druggist and physician, opened his Lynchburg shop in 1789. He served variously thereafter as a justice of the peace, magistrate, and sheriff for Campbell County (Campbell Co. Order Book, 3:206, 10:1, and in vol. 7 preceding p. 1; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1340; Margaret Anthony Cabell, Sketches and Recollections of Lynchburg by the Oldest Inhabitant (Mrs. Cabell) 1858 [1858; repr. with additional material by Louise A. Blunt, 1974], 298–301; Samuel J. Harrison’s Answer to Bill of Complaint in Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison, [by 1 Aug. 1812]; Lynchburg Press, 4 Apr. 1817; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1823–24 sess.], 99 [1 Jan. 1824]; Lynchburg Hustings and Corporation Court Will Book, A:179–80, B:235–8; Lynchburg Virginian, 2 Jan. 1826).

Index Entries

  • Africa; colonization of blacks to search
  • Anthony, Christopher; as Va. legislator search
  • Humphreys, Thomas; identified search
  • Humphreys, Thomas; letters from search
  • Humphreys, Thomas; on emancipation of slaves search
  • Kerr, John; as U.S. representative from Va. search
  • Lewis, William J.; as Va. legislator search
  • slavery; and African colonization search
  • slavery; and emancipation proposals search
  • slaves; T. Humphreys’s plan for emancipation of search