Thomas Jefferson Papers

Isaac Briggs to Thomas Jefferson, 15 May 1817

From Isaac Briggs

New York, 5 mo 15–1817

My dear Friend,

I arrived here the day before yesterday—and I have this day received the appointment of surveyor for the contemplated grand Canal. My friend Thomas Eddy of this City, has generally been in the first rank amongst his fellow citizens as an active and efficient promoter of useful and benevolent works, has long been one of the commissioners for this particular object, and, though he is not now one, still retains all his wishes for its success, and the energies of his mind are still in full activity for its accomplishment. He has mentioned in conversation with me his views that the task of the ascertainment of lines, and the superintendence of the work of making the Canal would be too burdensome for one man—that the magnitude of the object would not only render expedient but necessary the employment of two Superintendents, an Engineer and a Mathematician, each in his appropriate department. I perfectly accord with him in these views—I mentioned to him Thomas Moore, a man whom I knew to be eminently qualified for such an undertaking, of a sound and discriminating mind, a judicious and practical civil Engineer, and one with whom I should be glad to act—I remarked that thou wast well acquainted with his qualifications and talents, and suggested the propriety1 of his addressing thee on the subject and requesting thy opinion. He alleged he had no acquaintance with thee, but if I would write he would enclose my letter in a few lines from himself.

I know not whether Thomas Moore would accept such an appointment, but I am induced to believe the Commissioners would be liberal in their offers, and I also believe his correctness and economy to be such in the application of public money, that more would be saved by giving him a salary of $10,000 a year than by employing one less qualified for nothing.

Accept, dear friend, my love and affectionate salutations.

Isaac Briggs.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 May 1817 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in Thomas Eddy to TJ, 16 May 1817.

Soon after his appointment as surveyor of a section of the Erie Canal, Briggs began work between Rome and Utica, New York (Report of the Commissioners of the State of New-York, on the Canals from Lake Erie to the Hudson River, and from Lake Champlain to the same [Albany, 1818], 7). In 1811 Thomas Eddy had been appointed one of nine commissioners to oversee the improvement of internal navigation in the state of New York. Although he was active in the effort to get the Erie and Champlain canal projects started, Eddy was not one of the commissioners chosen in 1817 (Laws of the State of New-York, 34th sess. [1811]: 334–5 [8 Apr. 1811]; 39th–41st sess. [1818]: 295, 301–2 [17 Apr. 1816, 15 Apr. 1817]; David Hosack, Memoir of De Witt Clinton [1829], 374–8).

In the spring of 1817 Benjamin Wright was appointed engineer for the Erie Canal while James Geddes was appointed for the Champlain Canal (Noble E. Whitford, History of the Canal System of the State of New York [1906], 1:86). Briggs’s brother-in-law thomas moore became principal engineer of Virginia’s Board of Public Works the following year (Alexandria Gazette & Daily Advertiser, 28 Nov. 1818; Anna Briggs Bentley, American Grit: A Woman’s Letters from the Ohio Frontier, ed. Emily Foster [2002], 13).

1Manuscript: “propropriety.”

Index Entries

  • Briggs, Isaac; and Erie Canal search
  • Briggs, Isaac; family of search
  • Briggs, Isaac; letters from search
  • Briggs, Isaac; recommends T. Moore search
  • canals; Champlain search
  • canals; Erie search
  • Champlain Canal search
  • Eddy, Thomas; and canals search
  • Erie Canal search
  • Geddes, James; and Champlain Canal search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Lake Erie; proposed canal to search
  • Moore, Thomas (of Montgomery Co., Md.); as engineer search
  • New York (state); and canals search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Wright, Benjamin; and Erie Canal search