Thomas Jefferson Papers

Simeon DeWitt to Thomas Jefferson, 13 January 1819

From Simeon DeWitt

Albany Jany 13. 1819


I have had the temerity to advance a novel project for the consideration of our Legislature, now in session, and as it is of general concern I am induced to take the liberty of presenting you with the pamphlet which contains it. The pamphlet has only this moment come from the press and I have as Yet had no opportunity of learning opinions about it, except from a few friends of high standing in public life to whom I have shewn it in manuscript, who think well of the object and advised me to the publication. As every parent is partial to his child, so I think this offspring of mine, if adopted by the State, whose prosperity it is my duty to study, is calculated to do some good

You, Sir, are now considered as the chief of the surviving fathers of our beloved country, who as occasions offer do not cease to manifest Your paternal anxieties1 for its welfare, and no where can there exist a greater deference for Your opinion on matters relating to the public good than in the State of New York.

An expression of your opinion therefore on the project now submitted would probably be decisive of its fate.

I would not have presumed to trouble You on this Occasion, if I did not think the subject of some importance and that You probably might feel some interest in it—

In reading the pamphlet you will of course bear in mind how different the condition and habits of our northern citizens are from those of the Citizens of the Southern States—

I am with the greatest regard Your most Obedient Humble servant

Simeon DeWitt

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 22 Jan. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Charles K. Mallory, 27 Jan. 1819, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Albany, 13 Jan. Enclosure: DeWitt, Considerations on the Necessity of Establishing an Agricultural College, and having more of the Children of Wealthy Citizens educated for the Profession of Farming (Albany, 1819).

Simeon DeWitt (1756–1834), surveyor, was born in Wawarsing, Ulster County, New York, and studied in Schenectady before attending Queen’s College (later Rutgers University), which awarded him a B.A. in 1776. At the outbreak of the American Revolution he enlisted as an adjutant in a local militia battalion and became a private when this unit was absorbed into another regiment. In 1778 DeWitt was appointed as assistant to the army’s geographer-in-chief, and he took over leadership of that department two years later. From December 1780 he was attached to the main encampment of the Continental army making surveys and maps in aid of military operations, and after hostilities ceased he stayed on at George Washington’s request, creating a cartographic history of the Revolutionary War based on field maps. DeWitt was named surveyor-general of the state of New York in 1784 and held the position for the remainder of his life, living for most of his career in Albany. He was active in various scholarly and educational organizations, including service to the University of the State of New York as regent from 1798, vice chancellor beginning in 1817, and chancellor from 1829 until his death. DeWitt was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1787. He was a founder of the New York Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures in 1793 and became its president in 1813. DeWitt also developed the settlement that eventually became Ithaca, New York, where he relocated permanently in 1831 (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 ; Theodoric Romeyn Beck, Eulogium of the Life and Services of Simeon De Witt [1835]; Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 [1904–37], 18:1118 [4 Dec. 1780]; Heitman, Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, rev. ed., 1914, repr. 1967 description ends , 196; Washington, Papers, Confederation Ser., 1:34–6; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 19 Jan. 1787 [MS in PPAmP]; DeWitt to TJ, 28 Aug. 1804 [MHi]; New-York Spectator, 11 Dec. 1834).

1Manuscript: “axieties.”

Index Entries

  • agriculture; education in search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Considerations on the Necessity of Establishing an Agricultural College (S. DeWitt) search
  • DeWitt, Simeon; Considerations on the Necessity of Establishing an Agricultural College search
  • DeWitt, Simeon; identified search
  • DeWitt, Simeon; letter from search
  • education; agricultural search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search