Thomas Jefferson Papers

Aaron Ely to Thomas Jefferson, 10 February 1819

From Aaron Ely

New York Feb. 10, 1819. Frankfort st. No. 9.

Honoured sir,

Whilst we see the Fathers of our independence dropping one by one into the Eternal world, and ourselves left, to enjoy the rich inheritance of their labours.—our minds are involuntarily drawn into a contemplative view of the mighty struggles for our Freedom. When we retrace step by step, the progress of the great drama, in which you acted so conspicuous a part, who cannot see the hand of an Alwise and Overruling Providence,1 which led our Armies & directed our councils in those days of trial, and darkness? It is the province of the Almighty, to bring light out of darkness; and order out of confusion.

Whilst your name shines in the annals of our nation and it will descend to posterity, with the benedictions of all good men,2 permit me as the organ of our Society, to express to you one tender wish, one humble prayer.


That you will set apart one hour in each day to study that rich treasure of knowledge, left us by the great Capt. of our Salvation.

If we believe the bible to be the word of God, then bear with our prayers, that you will read it for yourself.—And may that Holy Spirit which dictated the scriptures, seal their truths upon your heart, and give that happiness which none but the true Christian can enjoy.

This holy religion robs the grave of its sting, and lights the soul to immortal bliss.

That your happiness3 may be immortal, is the prayer of the Society of Teachers of the city of New York

Accept, dear Sir, the salutations of our Society, through me their corresponding Secretary.
Aaron Ely,
Treasurer. &c.

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Oby Aaron” received 1 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to John W. Webster, 28 Jan. 1820, on verso; addressed: “Thos. Jefferson Esq. Ex-Presedent U.S.”; franked; postmarked New York, 22 Feb.

Aaron Ely (ca. 1779–1829), educator, taught young women in New York City from at least 1801. He later took on male students as well. Ely aimed to qualify the young men “for the counting-house, the college, or any other pursuit in life” and prepare his female charges to be “useful and ornamental members of society.” He became a member of the Society of Associated Teachers of New York in 1801 and was its steward in 1803 and its secretary, 1804–05. Ely joined the Society of Teachers of the City of New-York for Benevolent and Literary Purposes following its incorporation by the New York legislature in 1811 and later served as its treasurer and corresponding secretary. Late in life he assisted Noah Webster in the preparation of an elementary spelling book. Ely died in New York City (New York Commercial Advertiser, 3 Dec. 1801; 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 [1805]: 243; [1816]: 203; [1829]: 215; New-York Evening Post, 25 Aug. 1821; Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York [1891], 2:318–9, 323, 337, 341; Laws of the State of New-York [1811 sess.]: 263–6 [4 Apr. 1811]; A Review of the Elementary Spelling Book, compiled by Aaron Ely, and published under the name of Noah Webster, LL.D. [1844]; New-York Spectator, 2 Oct. 1829).

The great capt. of our salvation was Jesus.

1Manuscript: “Proidence.”

2Word interlined, with caret mistakenly placed after the comma.

3Manuscript: “happines.”

Index Entries

  • American Revolution; role of divine providence in search
  • Bible; study of search
  • Christianity; A. Ely on search
  • Ely, Aaron; and Society of Teachers of the City of New-York for Benevolent and Literary Purposes search
  • Ely, Aaron; identified search
  • Ely, Aaron; letter from search
  • Ely, Aaron; urges TJ to read the Bible search
  • Jesus; doctrines of search
  • New York (city); Society of Teachers of the City of New-York for Benevolent and Literary Purposes search
  • religion; exhortations to TJ search
  • Society of Teachers of the City of New-York for Benevolent and Literary Purposes search