Thomas Jefferson Papers

Gulian C. Verplanck to Thomas Jefferson, 7 January 1819

From Gulian C. Verplanck

New York Jan. 7th 1819


I take the liberty of sending you a copy of an anniversary discourse which I lately delivered before the Historical Society of this state. Whatever errors or faults it may have, I trust that the general purpose is such as you will approve. It is the inculcation of those great principles of freedom and toleration to the service of which your own talents have been so long, so gloriously and so efficiently devoted.

I am with great respect
Your obdt servant

G. C. Verplanck

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 14 Jan. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Fontaine Maury, 21 Feb. 1819, on verso; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked New York, 7 Jan.

Gulian Crommelin Verplanck (1786–1870), public official and author, was a native of New York City who graduated from Columbia College (later Columbia University) in 1801. He read law and was admitted to the bar in 1807, although he never practiced. Beginning as a Federalist, over a long political career he was successively a Republican, a Jacksonian, and a Whig. Early on he ran afoul of DeWitt Clinton, who as New York City mayor presided over the trial of Verplanck and his fellow participants in the Columbia College commencement riot of 1811. Verplanck was a New York state assemblyman, 1820–23, and served in the United States House of Representatives for four terms beginning in 1825, chairing the Ways and Means Committee, 1831–33. He was a New York state senator, 1838–41. For four years beginning in 1821 Verplanck taught a course on evidences for the authenticity of Christianity at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York. Throughout his career he published satirical verse and numerous essays, and after his retirement from politics he produced a three-volume edition of William Shakespeare’s plays that included a biography of the playwright. Verplanck died in New York City (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 ; N: Verplanck Papers; William Cullen Bryant, A Discourse on the Life, Character and Writings of Gulian Crommelin Verplanck [1870]; Robert W. July, The Essential New Yorker: Gulian Crommelin Verplanck [1951]; Milton Halsey Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni 1754–1857 [1936], 119; New York Herald, 19 Mar. 1870; gravestone inscription in Trinity Church Cemetery, Fishkill, N.Y.).

The general purpose of the enclosed essay by Verplanck, An Anniversary Discourse, delivered before The New-York Historical Society, December 7, 1818 (New York, 1818; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 [no. 165]; TJ’s copy in ViCMRL, on deposit ViU), is “the commemoration of some of those virtuous and enlightened men of Europe, who, long ago, looking with a prophetic eye towards the destinies of this new world, and regarding it as the chosen refuge of freedom and truth, were moved by a holy ambition to become the ministers of the most High, in bestowing upon it the blessings of religion, morals, letters, and liberty” (pp. 7–8). The figures Verplanck profiled included Bartolomé de Las Casas; Roger Williams; George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore; William Penn; James Oglethorpe; Sir William Berkeley; Thomas Hollis; and Jean Luzac. His oration concludes with a defense of American contributions to the improvement of humanity, asserting that “the intellectual power of this people has exerted itself in conformity to the general system of our institutions and manners; and therefore, that for the proof of its existence and the measure of its force, we must look not so much to the works of prominent individuals, as to great aggregate results; and if Europe has hitherto been wilfully blind to the value of our examples and the exploits of our sagacity, courage, invention and freedom, the blame must rest with her and not America” (p. 81).

Early in 1819 Verplanck also sent copies of his pamphlet to John Adams, James Madison, and John Marshall (Verplanck to Adams, 7 Jan. 1819 [MHi: Adams Papers]; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:403; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 8:254).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; works sent to search
  • An Anniversary Discourse, delivered before The New-York Historical Society, December 7, 1818 (G. C. Verplanck) search
  • books; on history search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • Marshall, John; works sent to search
  • New-York Historical Society; addresses to search
  • Verplanck, Gulian Crommelin; An Anniversary Discourse, delivered before The New-York Historical Society, December 7, 1818 search
  • Verplanck, Gulian Crommelin; identified search
  • Verplanck, Gulian Crommelin; letter from search