Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jedidiah Morse to Thomas Jefferson, 24 February 1818

From Jedidiah Morse

Charlestown (Massts) Feb. 24th 1818

Respected sir,

In behalf of the Compiler of the enclosed Work, I transmit to you a copy of it for your acceptance, with a request, that you would do him & me the favor, to give your opinion of its merits as a school book. He is a young man of taste, without property, has completed a course of Law studies, & is now a student in Theology. Your patronage of the work, if, on examining it, you shall see fit to afford it, would be highly valued by him. The object of the book is a benevolent one; Every thing sectarian, has been avoided. It was intended that the whole effect of it should be, to stimulate to deeds of beneficence, to enlighten, purify, & harmonize the World. I am not certain, sir, that you will exactly accord in opinion with the eloquent men whose speeches are recorded in this work, as to the means best fitted1 to accomplish this great & good object—but I have confidence in your candor & liberality—& desire to have it effected by any means, whh wise & good men of different opinions, may devise. You will see what the means whh have been put into operation have2 already effected, & judge of their wisdom.—

I was led, sir, to address you on this subject from the perusal of your letter of the 14th ult. on the system of primary schools proposed to be established in your State—addressed to a Member of your Assembly. Without descending to particulars, I can only say, that Your plan, for such I presume it is,3 if it shall be carried into operation, as I hope it will be, cannot fail, I think, to produce the happiest effects on the state of Society, especially if it shall embrace, as I have no doubt it will, what will be essential to its Success,4 a proper (liberal)5 course of instruction in religion & morality

I will trespass no longer on your time, whh I know is occupied to the full—

Believe me, sir, with high Consideration & respect, Your obdt servt

Jedh Morse

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); endorsed by TJ as received 5 Mar. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Patrick Gibson, 13 May 1818, on verso; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson Esq Monticello Va.” FC (CtY: Morse Family Papers); in Morse’s hand; at head of text: “To Mr Jefferson” and “copy”; endorsed by Morse: “Copy of my Letter to Mr Jefferson Feb. 24. 1818 with Chn. Orator.” Enclosure: [Samuel Etheridge], The Christian Orator; or, a collection of speeches, delivered on Public Occasions before religious Benevolent Societies. to which is prefixed An Abridgement of Walker’s Elements of Elocution (Charlestown, Mass., 1818; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 13 [no. 820]).

Jedidiah Morse (1761–1826), clergyman and geographer, was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale College (later Yale University) in 1783. Having held his first pastoral appointment in 1785 in nearby Norwich, he returned to Yale as a tutor, 1786–87. Morse thereafter served as minister of a Congregational church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1789–1819. An ardent Federalist, advocate of orthodox Calvinist views, and opponent of Unitarianism, in 1805 he established and edited the Panoplist, a religious journal. Morse was also a founder of Andover Theological Seminary in 1808, the New England Tract Society in 1814, and the American Bible Society in 1816. After leaving the pulpit he composed a study of the Indians living in western New York and the Great Lakes region for the federal government. Morse is perhaps best known as the “Father of American Geography.” Although essentially a compiler of the work of others, his writings in the field were both influential and popular. Geography Made Easy (New Haven, [1784]), The American Geography (Elizabethtown, N.J., 1789; revised as The American Universal Geography, Boston, 1793, Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3963), and The American Gazetteer (Boston, 1797; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3964) all went through many editions. Morse died in New Haven (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 ; 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 , 26:369; Richard J. Moss, The Life of Jedidiah Morse: A Station of Peculiar Exposure [1995]; Yale Catalogue description begins Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, 1701–1910, 1910 description ends , 22, 74; Dexter, Yale Biographies description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 4:295–304; Sprague, American Pulpit description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857–69, 9 vols. description ends , 2:247–56; Hartford Connecticut Courant, 12 June 1826).

TJ’s letter of the 14th ult. was addressed to Joseph C. Cabell.

1Preceding two words not in FC.

2Reworked from “these means have.”

3Preceding six words interlined.

4Preceding seven words interlined.

5Word and parentheses interlined.

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  • Etheridge, Samuel; The Christian Orator; or, a collection of speeches, delivered on Public Occasions before religious Benevolent Societies search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Morse, Jedidiah; and S. Etheridge’sChristian Orator search
  • Morse, Jedidiah; and TJ’s proposed system of elementary education search
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  • religion; and morality search
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  • The Christian Orator; or, a collection of speeches, delivered on Public Occasions before religious Benevolent Societies (S. Etheridge) search
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