Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Peter S. Du Ponceau, 6 November 1817

To Peter S. Du Ponceau

Monticello Nov. 6. 17.

Dear Sir

The long delay of the MS. of Colo Byrd which you were so kind as to send me, needs apology. on the 26th of June I wrote to mr Benjamin Harrison of Berkley1 from whom the other had been borrowed, to ask permission to send it to the Philosophical society with a view to it’s publication. the following is an extract from his answer of July 11. ‘I shall approve entirely of any use which you may think proper to make of it, but would recommend it’s not being published immediately, as I have every reason to hope that I shall be able to obtain a copy of a MS. on the same subject & by the same author, which is in the possession of mrs Harrison of Brandon. from what I have heard of this book, it is much fuller on the subject of the Carolina boundary than either of those which you have seen, and contains a great variety of anecdotes illustrative of the manners of the period at which it was written. should I not be disappointed you may expect the copy by the first safe conveyance afforded me after it’s completion.’ mrs Harrison was then under an attack of dropsy, of which she is lately dead. this may account for mr Harrison’s not having been able to let me hear further from him, and her death postpones, if it does not close my further expectations. I observe too that he speaks of the 3d MS. from hearsay only, which makes me give some faith to other information that this 3d MS. is only a collection of Colo Byrd’s letters to correspondents of distinction in England. I therefor no longer suspend the sending you the two first.   While I resided in Paris I learnd that a company of capitalists was formed there,2 to associate with others in Spain to undertake a navigable passage thro’ the Isthmus of Darien, and that for this purpose they had presented a memorial to the Spanish government. the subject being interesting, I availed myself of my acquaintance with the Chevalier3 Bourgoyne, (author of the Travels in Spain) then resident at Madrid as Chargé des affaires for France, to endeavor to get a copy of the Memorial. he procured and sent me that which I now inclose. I think it best to deposit it with the Historical commee for any future use which can be made of it. should any early use be made of it, I beg that the Chevalier Bourgoyne’s name may be suppressed, if he be still living. of that fact I am uninformed, but suppose it could be known in Philadelphia, but certainly from M. de Correa. I pray you to accept the assurance of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PPAmP: Thomas Jefferson Papers); at foot of first page: “Mr DuPonçeau”; endorsed by Du Ponceau. PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosures: (1) enclosure to Du Ponceau to TJ, 17 Feb. 1817. (2) William Byrd, “The Secret History of the Line” (MS in PPAmP; printed in Wright, Prose Works of William Byrd description begins Louis B. Wright, ed., The Prose Works of William Byrd of Westover: Narratives of a Colonial Virginian, 1966 description ends , 39–154). (3) “Mémoire Sur la possibilité, les avantages, et les moyens d’ouvrir un canal dans l’Amerique Septentrionale, pour Communiquer de la mer Atlantique, ou du Nord, á la mer pacifique, ou du Sud” (MS in PPAmP; in an unidentified hand; dateline at foot of text: “A Paris le 30 Juin 1785”; endorsed by TJ: “Isthmus of Darien. on a passage through it”; with signed note by TJ beneath endorsement: “This memoir was procured for me by the Chevalier Bourgoyne, author of the travels into Spain, while he was Chargé des affaires of France at Madrid”; with additional notation in an unidentified hand that it had been “read by the Historical Commee of the amn Phil. Socy from T.J. Nov. 19th 1817”; printed as Martin de la Bastide, Mémoire sur un nouveau passage de la mer du nord à la mer du sud [Paris, 1791]).

For TJ’s efforts to obtain a copy of the memorial on the Isthmus of Panama from Baron Jean François de Bourgoing, see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 41 vols. description ends , 12:178–9n, 13:229–35.

1Preceding two words interlined separately in RC and PoC. PoC: “of Barkely.”

2Word interlined.

3Manuscript: “Chevalir.”

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society, Historical and Literary Committee; and W. Byrd manuscripts search
  • American Philosophical Society, Historical and Literary Committee; TJ sends works to search
  • Bourgoing, Jean François, baron de; as French chargé d’affaires search
  • Bourgoing, Jean François, baron de; Travels in Spain search
  • Byrd, William (1674–1744); The History of the Dividing Line search
  • Byrd, William (1674–1744); The Secret History of the Line search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; mentioned search
  • Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen; and Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society search
  • Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen; letters to search
  • Harrison, Benjamin (1787–1842); and W. Byrd manuscripts search
  • Harrison, Evelyn Taylor Byrd; and W. Byrd manuscripts search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; sends manuscripts search
  • Martin de la Bastide, Mr.; Mémoire sur un nouveau passage de la mer du nord à la mer du sud search
  • Mémoire sur un nouveau passage de la mer du nord à la mer du sud (Martin de la Bastide) search
  • North Carolina; boundary with Va. search
  • Panama, Isthmus of search
  • Spain; and Isthmus of Panama search
  • The History of the Dividing Line (W. Byrd [1674–1744]); manuscript of search
  • The Secret History of the Line (W. Byrd [1674–1744]) search
  • Travels in Spain (J. F. de Bourgoing) search
  • Virginia; boundary of with N.C. search