Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Nicholas Biddle to William Tilghman, 6 April 1818


Nicholas Biddle to William Tilghman

Philada April 6 1818

Dear Sir

I have the pleasure of depositing with the Historical committee, the papers & books which accompany this letter, in compliance with the request of Governor Clark1 in his letter to me of the 10th of Oct 1816, transmitted by Mr Jefferson—

It may perhaps be usefull to add such notices of other objects connected with them, as may enable the committee to extend its researches—   It was in the spring of 1810 that I recieved from Governor Clark in Virginia & brought to Philadelphia the papers & documents deemed necessary for the publication of the travels. They consisted of

1, A large map of the country between the Mississipi & the Pacific illustrating the course of the journey

2. A map for Mr Hassler who was in the state of New York, & engaged in some astronomical calculations for the work—

3 Some documents for Dr Barton

4 The manuscript journal of Sergeant Ordway one of the party—

5 The pocket journals of the expedition

Of these—

1: The map after the draft was made from it, for the engraver, was deliverd by the draftsman, Mr Lewis, to Governor Clark, when last in Philada, about the year 18132

2: The other map, was forwarded, by Mr Vaughan to Mr Hassler, who in his letter dated Augt 12th 1810 at Schenectady mentions the reciept of it—

3 The documents for Dr Barton, were delivered to him immediately after my arrival in Phila, Not having recieved any list of them from Govr Clark I of course took none from Dr Barton & as I was merely the bearer of them; my recollection is not as accurate as it would have been had they fallen more immediately under my examination, My impression however is that the packet for Dr Barton consisted of small3 manuscript books & some papers, The books were chiefly extracts relative to objects of natural history taken from the original Journal now deposited with the Committee—The papers were Indian Vocabularies, collected during the Journey, They formed I think a bundle of loose sheets each sheet containing a printed vocabulary in English with the corresponding Indian name in manuscript there was also4 another collection of Indian Vocabularies which If I am not mistaken,5 was in the handwriting of Mr Jefferson—

I have turned to My letter to Governor Clark dated July 7 1810, the first to him after my arrival in Phila, in hopes of finding some further particulars, but the letter merely states in general terms “I need not say that I arrived safe at this place, that the map was immediately forwarded to Mr Hassler & that Dr Barton recieved all his papers”

In the preface to the printed travels which, being published in Philada Whilst Dr Barton was there, must6 be presumed to have been correct, it is stated that “those parts of the work which relate to the various objects of natural history observed or collected during the journey as well as the alphabets7 of the Indian languages are in the hands of professor Barton & will it is understood, shortly appear,” This was in 1814,8

I have mentioned9 these particulars so minutely, because10 the description may perhaps11 enable some of the Committee to recognize the vocabularies which I incline to think were the only things delivered by me to Dr Barton not included in the volumes now deposited—

4. The journal of Sergeant Ordway was I believe a private purchase from that person. Governor Clark in his letter to me of the 24th January 1818 desires me to send it to him—

5 The journals of Mess Lewis & Clark from the beginning to the end of the journey are contained in the 14 volumes all of which are now deposited;—There is besides one volume of Astronomical observations, & other matter by Captn Lewis; a small copy book containing, some notes by Capn Lewis;—the12 rough draft of his letter to the President from St Louis announcing his return;13 & two Statistical tables of the various tribes of Indians west of the Mississipi made by Governor Clark—14

These are all the observations which occur to me as promising to be useful to the Committee—

Very Respectfully Yours.

signed Nicholas Biddle15

Tr (DLC: TJ Papers, 212:37928–9); with some faint text enhanced and other words underscored, probably by John Vaughan; adjacent to signature: “Honble Willm Tilghman Chairman of the Historical Committee of the Philos: Socy”; endorsed as “Recieved & read to the Historical Committee April 8; 1818 See minutes” (before “April,” Vaughan added “8th,” apparently for clarity); with notes at foot of text by Vaughan, the first being signed: “NB. J V. as Secy gave receipt (for the Documents) in which was included an engagement to give free access to Capt Clarke, should he want to issue another edition of the Travels or Expedition” and “It would be very desireable to procure the Journal of Sergeant Orday from Capt Clark to be Deposited in like manner, subject to his inspection or even future order—M Biddle has it yet in his possession.” RC (PPAmP: Thomas Jefferson Papers); without underscoring; endorsed by Vaughan. Dft (DLC: Biddle Papers); endorsed by Biddle.

For William Clark’s brief letter to Biddle of the 10th of oct and its transmission by TJ to the American Philosophical Society in November 1817, see notes to Clark to TJ, 10 Oct. 1816.The printed travels were Biddle, History of the Expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1814; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4168; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 7 [no. 370]).

Biddle neither returned the journal of sergeant ordway to Clark, who had purchased it with Meriwether Lewis for $300, nor passed it along to the APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends . Discovered among his papers in 1913, it was placed on deposit at the society two years later and donated to it in 1949 (Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition [1983–2001], 9:xvi–xvii).

Lewis’s letter to TJ from st louis announcing his return is dated 23 Sept. 1806 (DLC).

1Reworked in Dft from “all the papers in my possession mentioned in the letter of Governor Clark.”

2Reworked in Dft from “when in Phila in the year 1813.”

3Word interlined in Dft in place of “some.”

4In Dft Biddle here canceled “I think.”

5Preceding three words interlined in Dft in place of “recollect aright.”

6Dft: “may.”

7Dft here adds “vocabularies” in brackets.

8Preceding four words not in Dft.

9Word interlined in Dft in place of “stated.”

10Word interlined in Dft in place of “in hopes that.”

11Word interlined in Dft.

12Dft: “a.”

13Reworked in Dft from “the President on his return.”

14Preceding eight words interlined in Dft in place of “in North America.” In Dft Biddle then canceled “I have added to the collection a small volume of notes containing a variety of explanations & additional matter collected from <Genl> Govr Clark, when we read over the Journals together.”

15Preceding three words in Vaughan’s hand, with a signed attestation by him directly above signature line.

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society, Historical and Literary Committee; works given to search
  • American Philosophical Society; and papers of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • astronomy; and observations of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; and journals of M. Lewis search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; and American Philosophical Society search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; and Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; History of the Expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; letter from, to W. Tilghman search
  • books; on Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Clark (Clarke), William; and papers of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; and map of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • History of the Expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark (N. Biddle) search
  • Indians, American; historical manuscript concerning search
  • Indians, American; M. Lewis’s vocabularies of search
  • Indians, American; TJ’s vocabularies of search
  • language; Indian (American) search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; and Indian dialects search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; papers of search
  • Lewis, Samuel; draftsman search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; and Indian vocabularies search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; astronomical observations of search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; J. Ordway’s journal search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; journals of search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; maps of search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; publication of journals search
  • maps; of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Mississippi River; as geographical boundary search
  • Ordway, John; journal of search
  • Tilghman, William; and American Philosophical Society search
  • Tilghman, William; letter to, from N. Biddle search
  • Vaughan, John; and American Philosophical Society search
  • Vaughan, John; and Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society search