Thomas Jefferson Papers

Caspar Wistar to Thomas Jefferson, 20 May 1817

From Caspar Wistar

Philada May 20th 1817—

My Dear Sir

Since I have understood the oppressive extent of your Correspondence, I have felt the greatest reluctance at addressing a letter to you; but the long interval has become painful to my self, & I am delighted with an opportunity of reviving your recollection of me. Inclosed is an account of the publication of Dr Franklin’s letters & some small specimens of them. I believe this publication will evince that the writer was fairly entitled, not only to all the reputation he enjoyed, but a great deal more; & for the excellence of his heart as well as the clearness of his head. Dr Priestley informed me that he spent with Dr Franklin several hours of the last day which the Doctor passed in England. They were principally occupied in reading news Papers which had just arrived from America, & contained the first accounts of the Battle of Lexington. Franklin Several times shed tears, Said that the contest would be very bloody, & he should not live to See the end of it, but that his Country men would be successful. When this publication is read our great Countryman will be judged by what he really said, & thought, & did, & will need no Vindication. You see there are Subjects not political treated in these letters; I indulge the hope of Seeing you again, & when I have that pleasure Shall certainly not forget to enquire of you respecting some of them. I regret that I did not attempt 20 years ago1 to collect materials for forming a description of the life & manners of Franklin, as they were before the Commencement of the revolution. It could have been done then very easily from the accounts of his associates; but the opportunity has passed away—It ought to be remembered that he embraced every proper occasion of being merry.

I believe that he was fond of the pleasures of the table. An old Lady whose husband was one of his intimate friends, & had a very florid face, enquired of the Doctor how he preserved his face of Such a proper colour—“Madam, when my irons grow too hot, I draw them out of the fire,” was the reply—

When Dr Stewart passed through Philada I took the liberty of Sending by him the New Map of Mellish which I did not then know you had Seen. You can make a very good use of two copies & I beg your acceptance of it—

Please to assure Mrs Randolph & the rest of your family of my grateful recollection of them & believe me with Sincerity & affection

your obliged friend

C. Wistar

P.S. We are about commencing the publication of another volume of the A P. Transactions and hope for a Communication from you.

RC (DLC); dateline adjacent to signature; addressed: “His Excellency Thos Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 25 May 1817 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

William Duane published four volumes (numbered 2–5) of The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals: containing … (Philadelphia, 1808–09; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4931). He published vols. 6 and 1 in 1817 and 1818, respectively, drawing heavily on new examples of franklin’s writings in an edition of his papers recently published in London by William Temple Franklin (Francis S. Philbrick, “Notes on Early Editions and Editors of Franklin,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 97 [1953]: 551–3). The new subtitle for Duane’s 1817 volume emphasized its inclusion of private letters: containing his Diplomatic Correspondence, as minister of the United States, at the court of Versailles; his Private Epistolary Correspondence, miscellaneous, literary, and philosophical subjects, between the years 1753 and 1790, developing the Secret History of his Political Transactions and Negotiations.

The map sent by Wistar and delivered by Josephus B. Stuart (stewart) when the latter visited Monticello in December 1816 was probably John Melish’s Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions (Philadelphia, 1816). a p.: American Philosophical Society.

1Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; Transactions search
  • Duane, William; andThe Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; anecdotes about search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; correspondence of search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals (ed. W. Duane) search
  • Franklin, William Temple; and publication of B. Franklin’s papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; solicitations for search
  • Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions (J. Melish) search
  • Melish, John; Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Stuart, Josephus B. search
  • Priestley, Joseph; on B. Franklin search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); greetings sent to search
  • Revolutionary War; battles of search
  • Stuart, Josephus Bradner; visits Monticello search
  • The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals (ed. W. Duane) search
  • Wistar, Caspar; and American Philosophical Society search
  • Wistar, Caspar; and B. Franklin’s correspondence search
  • Wistar, Caspar; letters from search
  • Wistar, Caspar; proposed visit to Monticello of search