Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Eddy to Thomas Jefferson, 16 May 1817

From Thomas Eddy

New york 5th mo. 16th 1817

Respected Friend

The Commissioners to connect the Navigable Waters of Lake Erie and the Hudson River have not yet appointed an Engineer, and it is very1 difficult to select a person for so important and responsible a situation—The appointment will be a very honorable one, and it is desirable it should be conferred on a Man fully competent, and deserving intire confidence—To direct the manner in which the various parts of the work should be executed, to make contracts with the workmen &c &c requires a combination of talents, industry, and intelligence, that is rarely to be found in an individual—

I have been long acquainted with the general character of Thomas Moore of Maryland, and it occured to me, that he would answer the views of the Commissioners, but having no personal acquaintance with him, and not being possessed of a sufficient knowledge of his abilities, to justify me in recommending him to the Commissioners, I am induced by the recommendation of my Friend Isaac Briggs,2 to take the liberty of making application to thee for information.—

Not having the pleasure of an acquaintance, I must confide in thy well known public character, and disposition to aid every improvement interesting to our common country, to excuse the liberty of addressing thee on the above subject, and am with sentiments of3 great Respect and Esteem

Thy Assured Friend

Thomas Eddy

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 22 May 1817 and so recorded in SJL. Printed in Samuel L. Knapp, The Life of Thomas Eddy (1834), 268. Enclosure: Isaac Briggs to TJ, 15 May 1817.

Thomas Eddy (1758–1827), merchant and reformer, was a native of Philadelphia. Apprenticed about 1771–73 to a tanner in Burlington, New Jersey, by 1777 he had taken up mercantile pursuits in Philadelphia. Eddy was a Quaker and a Loyalist who moved in 1779 to New York City, where he partnered for a time with his brother Charles Eddy and later with him and Benjamin Sykes as Eddy, Sykes, & Company. Between 1784 and 1790 he ran a mercantile firm with another brother, George Eddy, in Philadelphia, leaving that city for an interval to run a store in Fredericksburg on behalf of the partnership. Eddy went bankrupt in 1790 and settled permanently in New York City about 1791, prospering as an insurance broker and underwriter and speculating in the public debt. He was appointed in 1810 to a New York state canal commission. Becoming involved in numerous areas of reform, Eddy sought to improve the city’s schools, hospitals, and insane asylums, and he promoted the abolition of slavery and the colonization abroad of former slaves. He had a particular interest in prison reform, working to build penitentiaries and end imprisonment for debt. Eddy 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 ; Knapp, Thomas Eddy; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 40 vols. description ends , 36:553–4; Scoville, New York Merchants description begins “Walter Barrett” [Joseph Alfred Scoville], The Old Merchants of New York City, 1863–69, repr. 1968, 5 vols. description ends , 2:342–6; Pennsylvania Ledger: or the Philadelphia Market-Day Advertiser, 13 Dec. 1777; New York Royal Gazette, 30 June 1781, 25 May 1782; Philadelphia Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, 22 Sept. 1784; Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 29 Apr. 1790; New-York Daily Gazette, 9 Oct. 1790; The New-York Directory, and Register, for the year 1791 [New York, 1791], 39; Delaplaine’s Repository description begins Joseph Delaplaine, Delaplaine’s Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans, Philadelphia, 1816–18, 2 vols.; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 4 (no. 139) description ends , 1:195; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 3:480–1; New-York Evening Post, 17 Sept. 1827).

1Word not in Knapp, Thomas Eddy.

2Instead of preceding two words, Knapp, Thomas Eddy, reads “J. B., who has just been appointed to the mathematical department, as surveyor.”

3Instead of preceding four words, Knapp, Thomas Eddy, reads “beg thee to believe me, with.”

Index Entries

  • Briggs, Isaac; recommends T. Moore search
  • canals; Erie search
  • Eddy, Thomas; and canals search
  • Eddy, Thomas; identified search
  • Eddy, Thomas; letter from search
  • Eddy, Thomas; recommends T. Moore search
  • Erie 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