Thomas Jefferson Papers

George H. Richards to Thomas Jefferson, 15 December 1818

From George H. Richards

New London Connecticut Decr 15th AD 1818.


It has long1 been a favourite object of my literary ambition to become the biographer of yourself and a few other the great and eminent men of our country. The varied scenes which have passed in review since you came upon the stage of action, and the part you have acted in that novel & splendid drama which has been exhibited in the theatre of the new world, have created a public interest in your private memoirs, whilst but little leisure can have been afforded you for their compilation. This task should not be left unexecuted. Our national is so interwoven with your personal history as, in a degree, to be inseperable. The present & future ages have claims which should not be refused; & justice to the merits of your own fame & to the veracity of History enforces the demand.

Under these circumstances, as well from a sense of public duty as from an admiration of the virtues & talents of the subject of the memoir, I venture to offer my services to execute the task, if it be not already confided to abler hands.

Of the delicacy & responsibility of such a work, I am not unaware, and that it may not be entrusted to any man without satisfactory testimonials of character, education, and ability. Such testimonials shall be produced, the moment it is ascertained that the services here offered will be acceptable.

To render these services, it would be necessary to have access to all those papers, whether of a public or private nature, which you might think calculated to reflect light upon any events of your life; and to improve these papers, I should be ready, either to examine them at your residence, or to have them transmitted to me at this place.

From the conditions on which the offer of my services on this subject is made, I trust, Sir, you will not deem it presumptuous; but accept, as an apology, the assurance of those sentiments of profound respect

with which I have the honour to be Your Ob. Sert.

Geo. H. Richards.

RC (ViW: TC-JP); endorsed by TJ as received 28 Dec. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Peter S. Du Ponceau, 14 Mar. [1819], on verso; addressed: “To His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, Late President of the United States, Monticello, Virginia.”

George Hallam Richards (1791–1843), attorney and public official, was born in New London, Connecticut, graduated from Brown University in 1809, and subsequently studied law at Tapping Reeve’s Litchfield Law School. He qualified for the bar immediately prior to the War of 1812 but enlisted in the United States Army at the outbreak of hostilities and served from 1812 to 1815, rising from first lieutenant to captain in the artillery. After three years’ wartime absence, Richards had difficulty resuming his legal career and sought a government position, becoming a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington by 1823. He proposed to produce biographical works on prominent Americans and in 1833 published one on General Alexander Macomb. Richards also patented improvements to carriages, tanning, and waterproofing. In the 1830s and 1840s he lived in New York City, where he was working as a deputy revenue inspector at the time of his death (Historical Catalogue of Brown University, 1764–1904 [1905], 105; Marian C. McKenna, Tapping Reeve and The Litchfield Law School [1986], 194; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, repr. 1994, 2 vols. description ends , 1:828; “A Federal Republican” [Richards], The Politics of Connecticut [Hartford, 1817]; Richards, An Oration, delivered before Union Lodge, No. 31, at St. James’ Church, in the City of New-London [New York, 1819]; List of Patents for Inventions and Designs, issued by the United States, from 1790 to 1847 [1847], 101, 209, 302; DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25; Peter Force, The National Calendar, and Annals of the United States for MDCCCXXIII [Washington, 1823], 22; Easton, Md., General Advertiser, 30 Dec. 1828; Richards, Memoir of Alexander Macomb, the Major General commanding the Army of the United States [1833]; Longworth’s New York Directory description begins Longworth’s American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory, New York, 1796–1842 (title varies; cited by year of publication) description ends [1835]: 552; [1842]: 516; [1843]: 284; DNA: RG 29, CS, N.Y., New York, 1840; New York Evening Post, 23 Dec. 1843; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 5 Jan. 1844).

On this date Richards sent a similar letter to John Adams (MHi: Adams Papers).

1Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; proposed biography of search
  • biography; proposed national search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; biographies of search
  • Richards, George Hallam; identified search
  • Richards, George Hallam; letter from search
  • Richards, George Hallam; proposes biographical work search