Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hugh Steel to Thomas Jefferson, 12 April 1818

From Hugh Steel

Bellville, St. Clair County, Illinois Territory, April 12th 1818

Respected Sir,

I fear the impertinent intrusion of a stranger will not be verry acceptable to one, who no doubt, is too often pestered with similar communications: But considering you as president of the Philosophical Society, I could not resist the desire I had of communicating the enclosed sheet, through you, to that body.

It is intended as the commencement of a series of essays, on the Geography, climate, soil, production, future views, &c &c of the western country. In undertaking this I cannot but feel that diffidence, which might be looked for at the age of twenty-five, & when I consider how limited have been my means of acquiring information, & how few lights I have to guide me on this head. Several Nos of descriptions of particular parts, especially of Louisiana, I have had printed in the eastern papers last Summer; (in the N. Intelligencer & Alex. Gaz.) This gave me some encouragement to proceed in a more lengthy manner; but considering the little attention that is paid to newspaper essays of this description, I have concluded to adopt a different plan, as to most of them:—therefore,

If the enclosed No. should chance to meet with your approbation, I hope you may present it to the society over which you preside. But should this not be the case, which I fear is the most likely conclusion, prey destroy it, that I may not, in future, have to blush for my past weakness.

My avocations, as a physician, afford me sufficient leisure to go on with a work of the proposed kind, had I the necessary qualifications. But should you not deem the enclosed specimen of sufficient merit for public notice, I can appropriate that leisure otherwise, to as much profit, tho’ not with as much pleasure, as in communicating to the Philosophical Society.

I fear I will be asking too much, by requesting a few lines, to know of your approbation or disapprobation of my undertaking.

I am, Respected Sir, With great esteem, Your Very Humble Servt

Hugh Steel.

RC (PPAmP: APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends Archives); between dateline and salutation: “Thos Jefferson, Esq.”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 May 1818 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to John Vaughan, 28 May 1818.

Hugh Steel (ca. 1792–ca. 1826), physician and public official, lived from at least 1818 in southern Illinois near Saint Louis. After residing for a time in Jackson County, he relocated to Cahokia, where he served as postmaster in 1822 and opposed the extension of slavery into Illinois. Following up on a recess appointment, in 1823 President James Monroe nominated Steel as United States consul on the island of Saint-Barthélemy in the West Indies. Although the Senate rejected the appointment the following year, Steel was evidently acting in this capacity at the time of his death (Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 5 Nov. 1819; Edwardsville [Ill.] Spectator, 30 May 1820, 26 Oct. 1822, 19 July 1823; Newton Bateman, Paul Selby, and others, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois [1909], 2:483; Steel to John Quincy Adams, 2 July 1823 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25] and 18 Sept. 1823 [DNA: RG 59, CD, St. Bartholomew]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:343, 364, 573 [8 Dec. 1823, 24 Feb. 1824, 3 Mar. 1827]).

philosophical society: American Philosophical Society. Steel’s six earlier newspaper essays, five of which were entitled “Sketches of Louisiana,” were published anonymously in the Alexandria Gazette & Daily Advertiser between 30 July and 25 Aug. 1817. The Washington Daily National Intelligencer reprinted the series, 31 July–26 Aug. 1817.

Index Entries

  • Alexandria Gazette search
  • American Philosophical Society; TJ as president of search
  • American Philosophical Society; works given to search
  • geography; of western country search
  • geology; of western country search
  • Louisiana (state); works on search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); prints H. Steel’sSketches of Louisiana search
  • newspapers; Alexandria Gazette search
  • Sketches of Louisiana (H. Steel) search
  • Steel, Hugh; identified search
  • Steel, Hugh; letter from search
  • Steel, Hugh; on western country search
  • Steel, Hugh; Sketches of Louisiana search